Monday, October 1, 2012

Six degrees of surfing

I love this internet thing.

Today I was reading an article in El Progreso, the Lugo newspaper, about a craft shop opening.

Craft and Tea (Rúa Nova, número 75, Lugo) have a blogspot page.  They sell craft materials and hold workshops on crochet, knitting, and sewing as well as providing tea and cookies/biscuits.  It looks charming. 

Although the size of the header on their webpage forces a lot of scrolling down.  They also have a lengthy bloglist.  Which led me to. . .

Las Teje y Maneje, who also have a blogspot page.  They´ve compiled a wide-ranging and interesting list of hip craft projects in knitting, crocheting, illustration.  And they have a lengthy bloglist.  Which led me to. . .

Blackoveja, who have a blogspot page and a shop in Madrid!

They sell supplies and classes in knitting, crochet, patchwork and embroidery.  And in October they´ll be receiving a shipment of wool from a little corner of Leon that I vaguely remember hearing about where they manufacture wool blankets, rugs and outerwear from their own area sheep (mostly Merino and Churra).  All explained in this fabulous entry.

I´ve been wondering about small scale wool processing in Spain for a long time.  And now I know it actually exists.  Unfortunately, like many highly skilled artisan trades, it´s about to disappear due to a combination of the bad economic impact of globalization, unfriendly bureaucracy, and the age of the participants, one started learning the business at six years old.

And further googling I found this blog entry at Blog del Tamboritero Maragato  and a video!

Laurentino de Cabo, the Illustrious Weaver of Val

Val de San Lorenzo is the Leonese Olympus of textile art, but today there remain very few who make a living from it:  this family has managed it.

In 1752 there were 51 weavers in Val de San Lorenzo, a small village located in the middle of the region of Maragatos.  After an inadequate industrial revolution that arrived late, by 1920 that number rose to 112.  In 1968 only 82 dedicated themselves to this occupation.  In 1991 there were 31.  Today, in 2004, there are five.  The merit of these artisans is twofold:  First, they manage to survive, making a living from this ancient art which is increasingly difficult in a globalized economy.  Second, they remain loyal to the traditional techniques and spirit.  And one of these artisans is Laurentino de Cabo Cordero, descendent of a dynasty of Maragato weavers. 

De Cabo describes the process, which goes from the arrival of sacks of wool at his house up to the moment when the thick and warm blanket of pure wool wraps around the purchaser at night:  first, Tino says he always uses ¨local¨ wool, in other words, from the immediate area or Leon region:  Churra sheep, Leonese Merino or entrefina.  Churras from the moors and plains, Merinos from the mountains (excellent examples from the village of Maraña), each wool apt for each piece.  The strong, resiliant churra wool is perfect for rugs, but not blankets since it ¨itches¨; nevertheless, the merina, almost silky, is ideal for the weaving of blankets.  The wool arrives dirty and is washed in a special large tank, then left to dry.  Laurentino de Cabo says he simply ¨imitates nature¨ when making his creations: ¨If you observe a sheep, for example an entrefina - he says -, you will see that it has an interior fleece, springy and soft against the cold, and an outer coat of rough strong wool that protects it from the rain and external elements.¨ These two coats are also present in his creations.  De Cabo, who is a distinguished weaver, knows very well that wool is the best of insulators.  ¨If you observe a strand of wool under a microscope you will see that it is a hollow tube.  The weaving industry - he continues - has spent years looking for a synthetic material to substitute for wool, without finding one.  Wool never overcompensates for changes in temperature, it is fireproof, warms even when wet and protects from cold as well as humidity.  In addition, he says that merino wool from Leon is the second best wool in the world. 

But let´s continue with the process:  scouring serves to degrease the wool, although Tino allows a small amount to remain to serve as protection. The semi-degreased wool is ¨typical of Val de San Lorenzo, as it adds longevity and strength.¨  Once washed, the wool passes through a series of machines, the majority astonishingly old, from the beginnings of the last century.  ¨They´re the best ever invented¨, he says regarding this true ¨museum¨ of textile art.  The wool - if colored - is first dyed in a pot, where it simmers for an hour - it will pass through different machines to card and transform it into yarn:  the diablo creates tufts, afterward it passes through the abridores, a series of rollers with hard, thick teeth, progressively finer and closer together; this is the emborradora carder, from which it goes to the repasadora carder,  producing a kind of ¨veil¨ of wool which is rolled on a large cylinder with a scale that measures the size of the required yarn, according to the needs of the weaver.  A finer, denser roving material comes from the continua carder, from which will emerge the actual yarn.  Tino informs us that what makes the yarn consistent and workable is its twist:  wool roving parts easily, but once spun, tearing becomes much more difficult.  The torcedora is the machine which achieves this.  In ten hours it´s possible to create 80 kilos of yarn.

There is still an intermediate process:  creating a warp of yarn for the loom.  For this a urdidor is used, a complex machine from which emerges a ¨band¨ of yarns of any determined size according to the type of piece to be elaborated.  The buérgano folds in a block (also called a plegador) the amount which will be woven, then inserted into various channels with the goal of inserting them in the lanzaderas.  ¨Weaving¨ comments Tino - is the easiest part of the whole process.¨  To weave a standard blanket takes about two and a half hours with veteran looms (one of them dates to 1786 and uses the ancient system of perforated cards) which he maintains in perfect condition; aided by the use of electricity.  The last phase consists of fulling the piece with a batán, that old fashioned type of riverside mill (as can be seen in the Batán Museum del Val), and now modernized.  In the last process, the percha removes the hairs from the piece.

In addition to blankets, Tino makes socks, carpets, and sackcloth fabric for regional costumes.
Emilio Gancedo / Text 12/12/2004

Unfortunately, their webpage isn´t working.  I found a detailed pdf here that describes the wool carding/spinning processing in English.

In Spanish, but the images are fascinating and easy to follow.

Just the machinery alone is a treasure.  And it´s not too far off the path to the ruin.  Must stop by.

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