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El Buen Pastor - The Good Shepherd, painted by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617–1682) circa 1660 - one of the earliest depictions of a merino sheep
El Buen Pastor – The Good Shepherd, painted by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617–1682) circa 1660 – one of the earliest depictions of a merino sheep

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The cañadas (traditional rights-of-way for sheep that perhaps date back to prehistoric times) are legally protected "forever" from being built on or blocked. This is the Royal cañada Trail through Old Castile (Segovia, Spain) - photo found on Wiki Commons and attributable to Luis Fernández García
The cañadas (traditional rights-of-way for sheep that perhaps date back to prehistoric times) are legally protected “forever” from being built on or blocked. This is the Royal cañada Trail through Old Castile (Segovia, Spain) – photo found on Wiki Commons and attributable to Luis Fernández García

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Image found here on the Red De Lana website
Image found here on the Red De Lana website

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'The wool production in Spain has suffered a loss of about 30% in recent years. Its market price has dropped so much that the costs are higher than shearing the income generated, so many farmers choose to eliminate it by burning it or giving it away' - photo found here
‘The wool production in Spain has suffered a loss of about 30% in recent years. Its market price has dropped so much that the costs are higher than shearing the income generated, so many farmers choose to eliminate it by burning it or giving it away’ – photo found here

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ovillo-lana-merina-100-autoctona-certificada
Ovillo 100% Lana Merina Gris Claro – dLana

Why focus on yarns made from Spanish merinos?

Because they are of high quality,

Because they are here,

Because production here assures us that complies with European standards in the production and processing of our yarns,

Because we save on fuel,

Because we eliminate middlemen and can provide a yarn of high quality at a great price,

Because the merino breed originates from our country.

marfilgeneral
‘We present a line of yarns produced entirely with Spanish merino wool. From raw materials here in small spinning mills in the country’ – Ivory yarns

We also found this company – a “slow shop” concept, which sells plant dyes, locally produced wool, and many other products designed to make ‘”Responsible Textile Culture” a beautiful reality’.

LANA DE LEÓN EN COLORES NATURALES
LANA DE LEÓN EN COLORES NATURALES

Pure Traceable Virgin Wool

The origins of Mundo Lanar are closely linked to León and other provinces linked to the wool tradition which, despite the onslaught of the Globalization, struggle to keep alive the textile tradition in the true old style.

As well as these small businesses hoping to revive some of the sense of history and tradition bound up with Spanish merino wool, the philosphy of slowness and of retrieving value for wool from indigenous Spanish merino sheep is also appearing at an industry level. Made in Slow seeks to restore a sense of cultural heritage to fashion and according to this article, in 2015 it took the Pitti Immagine Filati trade show* in Florence by storm.

Made in Slow is a Spanish platform born from the need to preserve and restore heritage and traditional values... Made in Slow wanted to be a vehicle to transmit knowledge of our culture, origin, people and products. A selection of products with soul and added value are placed within the current market through an innovative approach - image and text from the Made in Slow website
Image taken from the Made in Slow website

Pioneered by Alberto Díaz, the Made in Slow mission has found its proof of concept in a project called Transhumance.

Transhumance by Made in Slow
Transhumance by Made in Slow

Drawing on the amazing history of Merino migrations with which we began this post, Transhumance celebrates the migratory history of Spanish merino sheep, and seeks to keep it alive by creating new markets for the wool that is grown in this way:

Transhumance activity represents one of the last great migrations of herbivores across Europe and is in danger of extinction. This loss would not only affect pastoralism; also at serious risk are more than 800 years of history preserved in the transhumance paths in the form of tradition, culture, gastronomy, folklore and even a common language… Based on an innovative and sustainable approach using the fine wool [from these sheep] will contribute actively and directly to improving the living conditions of pastoralists, thus helping to preserve this activity.

It is very exciting to read about these ideas being pushed out at the top levels of the Fashion industry, and collaborations so far include projects undertaken with the very interesting IOU fashion project

'Hand knit Spanish merino coat for IOWEYOU made by the amazing transhumancia project Made in slow worn with our 3 piece merino wool suit Hat handmade with love by @analamata. pictures by @travelight Modelled by Amah Ayivi @marchenoir_paris' - photo found here
‘Hand knit Spanish merino coat for IOWEYOU made by the amazing transhumancia project Made in slow worn with our 3 piece merino wool suit Hat handmade with love by @analamata. pictures by @travelight Modelled by Amah Ayivi @marchenoir_paris’ – photo found here

…and collaborating with fashion designer María Lafuente, whose Âme collection highlighted Spanish merino wool at Madrid Fashion Week.

Nomada, wool km 0 made in Spain, shown on the catwalk at Madrid Fashion Week in the collection by María Lafuente - photo taken from this website
Nomada, wool km 0 made in Spain, shown on the catwalk at Madrid Fashion Week in the collection by María Lafuente – photo taken from this website

The yarn used in María Lafuente’s collection – Nomada – has been produced by what seems to be a fairly major International yarn brand: Katia. Nomada yarn is described as “balls of 100% Virgin wool made in Spain from native sheep, conserving and supporting the seasonal migration of local shepherds” and a video on YouTube shows how scanning a QR code with a smartphone will enable the origins of the yarn to be revealed, so that you can see the migrating Spanish merino sheep with which we began this post.

There are many other yarns on the Katia website with low wool content and a less transparent provenance, but Nomada feels like an amazing step in the right direction towards reviving the native wool industry in Spain.

*Pitti Immagine Filati is a massive yarn trade fair

ETA: according to Rosa Pomar, “Katia has discontinued Nomada yarn. They say the reason was “lack of interest” by their retailers. We stocked it at Retrosaria and I was so happy when they first announced they were finally using Spanish wool for a new yarn….”

Rosa also writes:

“Xisqueta is missing from this post and I believe you will find their project *very* worthy of mention. They manufacture yarn and wool garments from the wool of the Xisqueta breed, a long wool breed from Catalonia. They are also involved with a shepherds school (a truly amazing project). Their website seems to be down, but they have an online shop and a facebook page.”

Finally, Rosa speaks to the themes of Transhumance mentioned in this post:

“By the way Transhumance is still a living practice in a small region of Portugal. I had the extraordinary opportunity of accompanying a group of Transhumant shepherds and their flocks some years ago, before the practice was somehow transformed into a touristic attraction (which is a good thing). One of the best days of my life: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rosapomar/albums/72157626933384783

Thanks so much for helping us to keep this website up to date and current, Rosa!
As ever, if we have got anything wrong, please let us know in the comments below!

4 thoughts on “Ovejas y lana en España – sheep and wool in Spain

  1. I had this post “saved for later” since it was published 🙂
    Katia has discontinued Nomada yarn. They say the reason was “lack of interest” by their retailers. We stocked it at Retrosaria and I was so happy when they first announced they were finally using spanish wool for a new yarn. I had been asking them for this since I opened the shop.
    Xisqueta is missing from this post and I believe you will find their project *very* worthy of mention. They manufacture yarn and wool garments from the wool of the Xisqueta breed, a long wool breed from Catalonia. They are also involved with a shepherds school (truly amazing project). Their website seems to be down, but they have an online shop and a facebook page.
    By the way transhumance is still a living practice in a small region of Portugal. I had the extraordinary opportunity of accompanying a group of transhumant shepherds and their flocks some years ago, before the practice was somehow transformed into a touristic attraction (which is a good thing). One of the best days of my life: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rosapomar/albums/72157626933384783
    One of my favourite depictions of spanish sheep from the middle ages (13th century): http://kotlerphotospain.photoshelter.com/gallery-image/Cantigas-de-Santa-Maria-images/G0000q3fqNao6Tg0/I000042HG5FD2dHQ
    💕🐑

    1. Thanks so much for all the amazing updates and extra info – we will definitely be coming back to this in Wovember 2017 and it’s so helpful to have feedback and info from the International community of wool buddies to help us keep our information up to date and correct 🙂 Thank you!

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