Friday, February 25, 2011

Valenki / The Last Winter Post


Finally the winter is almost over and we can say good-bye to nasty weather and a grey mood. But before let me tell you something. While I was in Russia I was lucky to get inside Valenki Museum and even make a video .
Evidently they appeared in Russia long time ago, because it's the warmest footwear you can imagine and get cold wearing them is almost impossible. But the thing is they are not only perfect “warmth keepers” they are healthy as well. Even Russian queens and kings used to wear them.
There is an old Russian proverb:
Сan’t find the end can’t see the start
No stitch, no upturn and no jag.

How the process runs? We talked to a museum director Elvira about the making of our favorite traditional shoes.

1.After shearing the sheep the wool has to be teased out.
It goes from sheep through all the little needles and teased in the end in a special machine (on the left). First, from the wool appears stocking. In fact, it’s a future Valenok and the sample.
2. Then workers start felting it. Masters dip Valenok into the hot water in BANYA, and the water has to be 80 degree С.
3. They start doing folding and polishing on the table, some workers use special instruments for doing this. And in the end after 1,5 - 2 hours of felting we have this small size of Valenok. And this is 3-4 times smaller that we had in the beginning!!
Attention. To get Valenok of 38 women's size we would need a sample of more than one meter!! (exactly like on the picture).
The production process is a hard work and a felting master has to be very strong physically to make wool flat till the required condition.
4. And in the end they put the last inside the wooden last and let Valenki dry for the whole night.

Some facts about Valenki production:
-Even very experienced master spent about 5-6 hours just for one pair from specially prepared wool. And for being master you have to study about 5 years.
- There is an average pattern for women’s, men's and children's Valenki. And It’s only the last that provides a final size and a form.
- The majority of Valenki are grey, because it's a typical sheep's coloration. Grey, white, brown, and black are usual colors as well, other colours are obtained by dyeing with aniline dyes.
- Valenki can be produced from camel's wool too, but of course this is much more expensive!
- There are many production places around the country: Chuvashiya, Mordoviya, Tatarstan. There is almost nothing being produced in Moscow region, because there is no sheep left and therefore no raw material.

We hope that next winter will be warmer and we don’t need them. Anyway you can always wear Valenki at home or on fashion parties if you like to.

And if you want something unusual you can find here

Faithfully yours,

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