Saturday, 29 January 2011

Working with our wool

A lovely hand made felt bag from our Xalda wool

We have had our flock of sheep for fifteen years now and when it comes to shearing time we always end up with a big pile of lovely wool. For many years it got put in sacks, stored for a while, but eventually ended up in the rubbish bin. What a crime I always thought, but there is no market for sheep’s wool, synthetic fibres have done away with that.

Sheep shearing; the start of the process.

So over the last three years we started looking more seriously as to what we could do with our wool. One of the easier options was to use it for insulation, but this always seemed a shame, there must be a better way to use such lovely coloured wool.

So we contacted different artisans who work with wool and sent them samples of our Xalda wool. (Frances Baker from East Anglia was one.)After talking with them and receiving samples of their work using our wool we came to the conclusion felting would be the best choice for us to start with.

However we soon realised if we wanted this project to work the major problem was going to be trying to find someone local who wanted to work with the wool and could actually make a reasonable income from it. Then last November I got the chance to go on a day course in Cantabria with fifteen rural women from Eastern Asturias to look at preparing and spinning wool. Some of these women showed interest in working with our wool and there are now three local women who have started working with our wool to make different items to sell.

Washing wool in the village "lavadero"

Some of the fifteen women "picking" wool on the course in Cantabria

Our local women are working the wool in the traditional way and it’s a very labour intensive process. First the fleeces are hand washed either in a “lavadero” the old village communal washing points, or even in the river. After the wool has been dried it has to be “picked” or "teased" which is the process of opening up the locks of wool and removing any small seeds or bits. Once picked the wool is carded which is like combing the wool, before the felting process starts. We originally were carding the wool with hand held carders (which look like wire brushes) but this was very labour intensive and hand wound mechanical drum carders are available which can save a lot of time. So at the hotel we decided to buy a mechanical carder for use by any of the local women who wanted to so as to help reduce the time needed to prepare the wool.

Samathana using the drum carder at the hotel.

Jenny with samples of carded wool ready for felting

We are now slowly starting to see the results of all this work. One of the women, Jenny has made various felt bags and tried with other articles such as slippers, purses and hot water bottle holders. Its early days but with luck we will soon have a range of lovely hand made articles for sale at the hotel all made from our own organic sheep wool.

A variety of felted bags made by Jenny from our wool


La Pasera said...

What a great result. Well done.This is just the beginning.

Feltmaker said...

I am really pleased for you - congratulations and good luck in your enterprise


Anonymous said...

Thats really good news Nigel_ I expect to see you using some of it from now on to make lots of cushion covers for your hotel furniture LoL!


Hotel Posada del Valle is a small hotel in Asturias Northern Spain surrounded by its own organic farm and where we are passionate about organic farming, food, and sustainable livelihoods. In this Blog those of us who live and work at Hotel Posada del Valle open a door to share with all of you who are interested in what we are doing.