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.