These images celebrate the long heritage and the bright future of Portuguese wool, reaching back to Neolithic times for inspiration for tools, and forward into a moment of collective rediscovery of the pleasures and possibilities of native wool.
It is this last detail which is the most exciting thing for us in reading Rosar’s blog and following her work; she studies the best applications for the different sorts of wool grown by Portuguese sheep in a truly methodical way. Writing of Cobertor yarn, she says:
Cobertor [which means Blanket] is the yarn used for manufacturing the traditional Portuguese papa blankets. It’s spun from the fleece of native long wool sheep breeds. Papa blankets are documented since the mid 16th century and they are used to this day by many shepherds of Guarda. These blankets have a distinctive faux fur look, which is obtained through fulling and teaseling. The dense nap raised on both sides creates an exceptionally warm blanket. This same look and feel can be achieved on knitted garments made with Cobertor yarn by gently teaseling them with a flick carder or a dog brush.
It is thick and does not feel smooth when you touch it in the ball; the texture and twist are reminiscent of the Icelandic yarns used to make Lopi sweaters. Now I dream to see it transformed into coats and other good things to wear in winter…
We are totally inspired by the density of information that Rosa Pomar includes in her products and on her blog about the history of Portuguese sheep and shepherding garments and traditions, and we have only touched the tip of the iceberg here. We have not been sponsored in any way by Rosa Pomar but we really feel that her yarns deserve celebration here for making wool from Portuguese sheep breeds both appealing and accessible to contemporary knitters. In short, we at Wovember feel that the future of Portuguese wool is in very safe hands and that this approach to wool – thorough, specific, detailed, methodical, thoughtful – offers a hopeful model for the ways in which all wool grown around the world might eventually find its purpose, whether that be as a plastic-free dish-scrubber; a glorious soft sweater; or for creating the fuzziest of blankets.
Retrosaria produces and sells yarn made exclusively from Portuguese wool. The yarns are manufactured in collaboration with small factories and breeders associations and small batches of handspun yarns are also commissioned, which are scoured, teased, carded and spun by hand in small villages around Portugal. Since the Retrosaria haberdashery opened in 2008, Rosa Pomar has sought to find and make available to the public yarns produced from Portuguese sheep wool, thus publicising and enhancing a natural and cultural heritage that is not very well known. For the love of wool. You can read Rosa’s blog here, you can follow her on instagram here, and you can see her photos documenting the different sheep breeds of Portugal here.