The creation of felt objects from nonwoven fabrics (bg: plusti) is a traditional Bulgarian craft. Felt is a non-woven cloth that is produced by matting, condensing and pressing woollen fibres.
The earliest record of felt products was found in old Bulgarian manuscripts from the 10th - 11th century and preserved samples from the 17th - first half of 20th century.
Strandzha is one of the areas where this ancient craft is still practiced. The main material used here is sheep wool. The wool has the natural property to be matted during washing without the help of sophisticated equipment, machinery or technology.
The actual process of feltmaking is called "milling" (bg:valyane). For this purpose, a "bed" of boards was made, which was stood over four posts or stuck on a "sled". This occurred in the yard, most often in late summer when it is sunny and hot, which allows the felt to dry.
Since the felt has exceptional thermal and moisture-resistant qualities, already in ancient times it was used from the Bulgarians for covers, for bareback horse riding, to build tents or for a long journey.
Wool keeps air inside and the water stays on the surface, unable to penetrate in depth. After immersing in water the light wool floats and when wet, due its peculiar structure, it dries very fast.
The wool processing begins with hand washing of the so called "seravata" (covered with animal fat) wool - over the wool is poured warm water to get rid of the organic fat "ser". After the cleaned wool dries it is separated by qualities. Wool from the fleece is dyed in organic dyes and pigments extracted from different plants and roots. This is made in large clay pots, the wool is laid in together with the natural dyes covered with cold water. Then the pots are buried in not burnt manure to stand for several days at constant temperature. To prepare the so calls "fuses" with different thicknesses for "cutting" and "colouring", the dyed wool is carded and then broken down on a "bow" by master "drandar". "Yarnina" and "drebta"(on small pieces) are used for the middle layer of the felt, layed even or made into "kudeli"(small bolls of wool), which are then ranked once in width and once in length on several layers, depending on the desired thickness.
Felt products provide great opportunities for creativity. While the fabrics of spun yarn comply with the direction of the fibres, with felt this is not necessary. Pre-dyed wool layers can be deployed in all directions as the colours can overlap or merge into each other. Distinct details may be combined with abstract looking spots. With the colourful pieces of wool can be "painted", and can even be achieved foreground and background image, perspective or chiaroscuro.
Wool takes and preserves volume. By modelling are made figurines of animals, accessories, objects with an internal cavity, which, undoubtedly, are part of the contemporary applied arts.
Today in the heart of Strandzha mountain, you can see a real workshop for wool. In the village Zvezdets the women from Association "Zlatno Runo"(Golden Fleece) enthusiastically do all kind of activities associated with the processing of wool - boiling, washing, drying, combing, dyeing with natural dyes, spinning, knitting, weaving and feltmaking. The wool they buy from local shepherds and start working.
The women say that the most difficult colour to achieve is deep red and black, so sometimes you have to re-painting. To create red colour they collect roots of red madder or flowers of poppy and for it they need a lot of flowers - seven kilograms of poppy are needed for just a kilogram of wool! In yellow and green the wool can be dyed with tetra, ivy and vine leaves.
Donka Kostadinova is one of the people in charge of the project. She gathers herbs in the woods and dyes the wool. It is clear that the young woman is not a forest fairy but a highly educated lady graduated in English Philology and Indology. The love for her native place and inner belief that the tradition should to be preserved, is what keeps her moving.
The women from Zvezdets - Burza, Kerka, Mara, Maria, Radka and Yana took part in the Autumn Fair 2011 and the Night of Museums 2012. They not only represent the products of the wool workshop and demonstrate their skills and dexterity, but with their folk songs, unique honeydew, dried herbs and good mood transfer a small part of Strandzha in the yard of the Ethnographic museum.
[url=http://www.facebook.com/pages/Работилница-за-вълна-Странджаfleece-workshop-Strandja/126007077491917]You can find further information about the natural wool processing practiced by Association "Zlatno Runo" on their official Facebook page.[/url]
Rosica Topalova curator in department "Ethnography"