by Renice Jones February 10, 2016
“Zooties®.” Is it just me or is the word almost as fun to say as these cute baby booties must be to wear? Artisans and craftspeople in Kyrgyzstan have a talent for producing felt from wool and turning it into much-coveted carpets – why not make something else that takes up the space between one’s foot and the floor, even if it’s a tiny little foot? Each time I think there can’t be another animal, vegetable, or mineral turned into a baby bootie, there it is! Zootie lasagna!
Kyrgyz women hand cut, dye, and sew each pair of Zooties®. It is the tradition of felt-working that brings the skill to create the quality booties. Available in one size for infants, the booties are made entirely of soft felt, with no buttons, snaps, or Velcro to scratch little feet.
The artisan project was started by a Russian artist in 1996, who focused on the design of felt products and providing Kyrgyz women with an outlet for their talents. Equipping Kyrgyz women with business skills including design, quality control, computing, and an understanding of the market was the project of a Peace Corps volunteer, who now, six years after his service, presents the Zooties to a worldwide audience through Silk Road Bazaar.
Not only do the women have amazing skill turning the felt into booties, they also make stunning scarves, adorable animal baby hats, ornaments, mobiles, rugs, and new for 2016, sleeping masks, all from felt. It is a true example where tradition meets design.
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