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Bringing back the wool industry crafts in Portugal

Mara shares her passion about working with wool.

In the past years I have been working with local wool. Moving countries to me, meant not only learning a new language, adapting to a new climate and swimming in different rivers. It meant discovering a new world of wool! In the east of the Netherlands I had plenty addresses of shepherds and small scale farmers providing me a steady good wool flow.

 

Moving to Portugal 4 years ago, I first totally immersed myself  in the Quinta life; renovating, planting trees, keeping bees, starting a organic garden and a weekly veg box scheme. Aiming towards self sufficiency, whilst getting totally absorbed in the Portuguese countryside. Always something to do, it never stops.

Finding space, this year my outdoor workshop is more or less set up. So once again I could pick up one of my favourite crafts, felting woolen rugs. I kind of mimic the look of sheepskin. But it’s 100% wool!
The only thing I need is warm water and plant based biodegradable soap. And a lot of time. I am using different kinds of wool. Some fluffy, some curly. Only natural colours; but that gives me white, créme, brown, black and multicoloured.

There is a lot of wool in this world that doesn’t  get used. Farmers throw it or burn it just to get rid of it.
Especially in Portugal there used to be a flourishing wool industry; nowadays it’s more of a leftover product. In my eyes wool is a fantastic renewable resource. It can be used for clothes, insulation and carpets. Sheep left to graze outside, maintain traditional landscapes and decrease fire risk. Whilst overgrazing is a problem in many parts of the world, our region, the Serra do Açor, is basically under grazed. Vegetation grows uncontrolled in the wet season and dries out -becoming fuel for bushfires-
in the dry season.

A holistic approach to the environmental and economical challenges this region faces could be reintegrating herds of goats and sheep, managed grazing, reviving the artisan handicrafts and having small scale sustainable dairy and wool industry initiatives. There are sustainable and valid ways of making life in the rural areas of Portugal, whilst taking care of the land.

We started with baby steps. We let three sheep graze around the hamlet we live in. I fell in love with the sound of the bells ringing.  At the moment I get wool from small farmers all around the Serra, but I also went south to the Ribatejo to pick up a load. What I love about my work is that I get in touch with different farmers, meet all kinds of sheep, and can work with my hands.

If you are interested in my work, it’s now offered in the off grid section of Pure Portugal. Click here. 

 

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