“Valenki” – Not Grandma’s boots any longer


Felt boots are boots made of wool fleece. The origin of felt boots were the traditional felt boots of the nomads of the Great Steppe, whose history counts more than 1500 thousand years. Felt boots became widespread only in the first half of the 19th century, when they began to produce them industrially.

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Felt footwear (boots) have been made in Kalyazin area (Tver region) for 200 years already. After the Revolution, the hand made production was replaced by industrial production, at the collective cooperative factory “Red October”. In 2004, it was merged with the Moscow factory “Bitsa”. And there was a production that exists till the moment.

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As already mentioned, the boots are made of sheep’s wool. But Yaroslavl Romanov sheep are not suitable for industrial production, so white wool is imported from Mongolia, and a gray one – from the Caucasus and Central Asia.

Photo by: Andrey Shapran


First the coat is prepared for production. It is run through a special machine, oiled and gathered in a large container. And after it enters the carding department. Everything here is in steam and smoke, knocks, roars and rumbles. The wool is put manually in the carding machine from behind, where it is combed with prickly rollers and wounded up on the front of a special coil.

Photo by: Andrey Shapran


After combing the wool the base of the future boot is wounded, which runs on these grinding machines with steam. After grinding the head of felt boot head is made by hand – toe, heel and sole. Then again, the fluffy coat is lapped with steam.

Photo by: Andrey Shapran


Now the semi-manufactures are to collect in a batch and send them to natal car. Skating, squeezing, pressing – the wool becomes inseparable.
The mold is then stretched and attached to form boots. Yet, it is 2 times larger than the size that will be in the end.

Photo by: Andrey Shapran


Next – a fulling workshop. The semi-manufactures are thrown into water-filled wooden drum, where the first roll or felting of wool goes. That is why the boots are called ‘felt boots’!
After that the boots need to be beaten … with wooden shoes of fulling machines. In this workshop everything is in steam and makes noise.

Photo by: Andrey Shapran


And then the semi-manufactures are stretched over a car that is called “crocodile” in the factory. Factory workers are striking with their synchronized action doing this job.
Despite that the production looks very primitive and really uses ancient technology, no one complains about work here. There are also young people.

Photo by: Andrey Shapran


And the boots are going on … Now they need to be moisten, shaped and sized on specific stocks. And to the oven for drying

Photo by: Andrey Shapran


The final form of felt boots is given by tapping block. After giving shape and size the blocks are no longer needed, they are warehoused until the next line is produced.

Photo by: Andrey Shapran


Now, all that remains is, to grind off the excess hair, to measure the resulting boots and to choose a mate for each of them. Do not forget to glue a factory label and a label with the size.

Photo by: Andrey Shapran


Some felt boots are especially lucky: they additionally get a rubber sole in the shop of vulcanization. Here’s how it works: a sole is made from rubber, then it is superimposed on a boot, and then it gets heated under pressure and dried, the excess is cut off.

Photo by: Andrey Shapran


All that remains is to sew jewelry in the sewing area and the boots ready. From wool to this stage it took about 5 days. By the way the workers are sitting here in the local boots. Said to be very comfortable.

Photo by: Andrey Shapran


Do you want to know how much money the factory workers earn? The salary in the first two workshops is 24-25 thousand rubles a month (it is a little more than 800 dollars or 600 euros). The seamstresses earn less – 17,000 (about 570 dollars or a little more than 430 euros).

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