- children’s and adults’ slippers
- ladies‘ and gentlemen’s hats
- handbags and rucksacks
- travel mats
- felt jewellery
- various decorations
- made-to-measure items and repairs
Amort farm is situated in the 400-strong municipality of Altrei, the only German-speaking municipality in Fleimstal/Val di Fiemme south of Bozen. This mountain village is part of the Trudner Horn natural preserve and, with its altitude of 1,200 metres above sea level and sunny position, it is also known as the ‘balcony of South Tyrol’. About 30 sheep and lambs are kept at Amort-Hof and provide the wool which Rita Wolkan Amort, the farmer, turns into genuine works of art made of felt. The farming family also cultivates ‘Altrei Coffee’ from blue-blooming hairy lupins, a traditional local variety of lupin whose seeds may be used to produce a coffee substitute.
Rita Wolkan Amort carefully pulls out a wisp of wool fleece, which feels soft and warm to the fingertips – a particularly tactile experience. “This is part of the fascination of felt”, explains the talented farmer. She has made a small realm for herself here on the farm: ‘Rita’s Filzstübele’. The high quality preparation of the wool, playing with shapes and experimenting with colour has opened up countless creative possibilities with felt. Whether cosy slippers (‘Patschen’ in local dialect), fancy handbags or pretty hats, “Piece by piece, beautiful things can be created with felt when you put your heart into your work”, is how Frau Amort describes her great passion.
The farmer from Altrei first came across felting in the search for a suitable sideline to the farm. The wool that she processes comes from the farm’s sheep and is of the highest quality. It is carefully washed, dried and finally carded. “The technique of carding produces delicate layers of wool fibre, the raw fleece”, she explains. Then she can really get down to work. The textile artist skillfully lays the fleece first straight and then diagonally, tier for tier. For the next step all she needs is warm water, lye solution and lots of patience. Gently, she soaks the wool fleece and rubs the wool fibres together with increasing force, so that they interlock and densify, resulting in hard-wearing felt. This comes after the fulling process, in which the piece is wrapped in a cloth and rolled with all her strength. “The greater the strength, the firmer the felt”, says Rita Wolkan Amort and smiles. “The oldest textile technique in the world requires stamina and strong upper arms as well as dexterity and the utmost precision”.
While her nimble fingers are at work, the keen felter is thinking up new ideas for imaginative creations: she chooses colours and designs, hones sophisticated details and sometimes combines mountain sheep’s wool with other natural fibres to interesting effect. One special feature of her hand-made products is that they are made from a single piece of felt and are therefore completely seamless. She can rely on years of experience and in-depth knowledge of the material’s properties. “It is always an exciting moment when a new pair of slippers or bag is ready”, enthuses the farmer. In the meantime, the whole family has caught the bug for this traditional handwork from her, and her husband and daughter regularly lend a hand in the ‘Filzstübele’.
Take the Neumarkt-Auer exit from the Brenner motorway, then follow signs to ’Fleimstal/Val di Fiemme‘ and carry on until San Lugano. Shortly after San Lugano, turn right and follow the road for six kilometres to Altrei. As you enter the village, turn left towards ‘Guggal’ and follow signs for Kürbishof. The road up to Amort-Hof is just past Kürbishof.