Is this traditional Siberian felt boot maker one of the last in Russia?


As winter temperatures begin to drop across Russia, suitable footwear may be in order in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk.

A felt boot maker, considered the last of its kind in town, is determined to demanding manual trades will remain, long after her last boot was rolled.

Felt shoemaker Ivan Lapin is known far beyond the borders of the Siberian city of Novosibirsk.

The craftsman graduated from the private breeding department of the Agrarian University of Novosibirsk, specializing in sheep breeding and is writing his diploma thesis on the processing of sheep wool.

12 years ago, he began to learn the techniques of making felt boots, chatting with sheep masters and breeders. He attended felt boot making courses in Biysk, and in 2010 he opened his own felt boot workshop.

How are felt boots made?

The manufacturing process begins with sorting and combing the wool, then making a blank or base for future boots. He often looks much bigger than the final product.

The boot – traditionally known as the Valenki – is then soaked in hot water and manually rolled using special tools, such as a shredder.

Rabbit says it can take a whole day to make a pair of felt boots this way.

Rabbit is one of the few masters to keep the tradition of hand-made felt boots alive, compared to modern factories which – he says – cannot achieve the same level of quality.

The manufacturer of felt boots says that there are only nine such masters in Siberia, he is the only one in the Novosibirsk region.

He says that by not using chemicals, manual production preserves the quality of the wool.

What can you find in Rabbit’s felt boot store?

Besides the traditional felt boots and felt ankle boots, the Lapin store also offers modern shoes with felt inserts.

The decorations are made by hand by assistants, about 40 people in total.

The Rabbit store also acts as a kind of museum. Visitors can see, among other things, a 19th century wool combing machine.

The felt boot maker hopes to preserve the craft and pass it on to future generations.

Watch the video to see how Ivan makes his felt boots.


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