Chapter 04: Felt

Felt played a vital role in the living and basic bartering economy of the people around the valley. Since the space for crops and farmland was so limited, there was no way to control organized harvesting of the fabric, and it was used for clothing, insulation, and general material. With the extremes of the seasons, it provided a necessary way for keeping the population alive, and the intensity of the process made it a commodity that most people bartered for, rather than try to make themselves.

Though Sartoris was an expert hunter, there were other relatively modern conveniences that he required, and being a hermit outside the settlement, he had few contacts or any other means of acquiring. With the isolation of the ridge communities, and lack of manufacturing, common place items became luxuries, and felt could stay preserved, and provided enough utility that it was a de facto currency. It also provided raw materials for the upkeep and maintenance of his own shack.

Sartoris was not from a long line of felt makers, and he certainly had not found any magic formula for it. He had heard of the process in his earlier days, and the amount of time he spent learning it was almost negligable. He had learned it from an exile who had made his way to the south ridge in the early days of the consolidation, as the settlers chose basic society for its basic support over complete isolation on outer ridges. The hermit was an old timer, who had lived when there were trading posts and a road back to the civilization. He had come from a textile industry and had been an earlier proponent of a natural material with so many uses.

While not a smart man (and I don’t believe that he was), Sartoris did understand the basic process, and having been shown the small scale equipment that the old hermit had used to make simple patching fabrics for his own trailer on the ridge, he figured out how to make a larger scale mat, and the how to properly beat the fur into submission. The onions were his idea, something about keeping away insects. It had never been demonstrated, but Sartoris was cool with living by his gut.

The main problem in his early developments was a lack of wool, the raw material. Sheep are domesticated, fat little animals that grow too much fur, so harvesters naturally shear them in order to cultivate the most they can. A natural fabric of wool is that as it is mashed together, the soapy water and agitation forces the fibers into 90 angles with each other, and as the fabrics is pressed into the mat, it dries and creates the fabric.

Sartoris had been so focused on the felt making process that it was haunting his dreams, his mind wandered past the seasons, into a  perverse montage of him smashing animal fur and onions into pieces of woods and earth. He thought back across his years, and could hardly remember anything other than his basic subsistence, of living in the shack, and of the long tired years, and halted there, repeating images of bashing fur, shaving animals, and climbing through the woods. He made infrequent trips to the south ridge, but only to the trading post, rarely in to socialize or see what the life was like. His memories involved loading up his prepared felt on his back like a packhorse and trawling along the ridge to get to there. As the night wore on, the endless looping of his machinations dwindled and faded into the morning light.