On last September the 24th I returned to Serralves for the Autumn Festival. Last year I went there by myself with the purpose of learning how to spin wool on a spinning wheel. This year I came back accompanied by a friend and, not only because of her presence, but also because of what I’ve learned, I can say it was so much better than last year!
For those of you with an interest in wool and for those who would like to know more about it, I would say there’s nothing better to do than checking Alice Bernardo’s project Saber Fazer blog and social media pages. Alice is doing a great deal of research and writing on several trades, including the ones related to textile fibres (linen, silk and wool). And that’s why I follow her work so closely.
Wool, like other textile fibres, has been used by men for centuries. However, in Portugal, this knowledge of how to work it has been passed from generation to generation mainly orally, so there’s a lack of written records about it. Because of this need, Alice has been working in cataloguing the several Portuguese sheep breeds.
Alice’s work provided the tools for a small exhibition she presented in Serralves, where she showed the sheep’s fleeces . In all, there are 16 autochthonous breeds in Portugal and the exhibition displayed the general characteristics of each one, including, other than a fleece sample, the name and origin of the breed and the average price of the wool per kilo.
During the guided visit, Alice showed us how to card and spin wool. And, trust me: in spite of all my previous knowledge (everything I know is the result of autonomous research and experience) I was able to learn about a lot of particularities of this process and that made all the difference! Learning from someone who really knows about the matter is the best thing ever since there are some details we can only learn from someone who truly knows and understands the whole subject. I realized I still have a long way to know everything there is to know about wool…
Lucky for us, we also had the pleasure to talk with the representative engineer of the Association of the Barrosã Bovine Breeders (AMIBA) who offered us a super important background contextualization on the need to preserve our sheep – especially the Bordaleira breed of the Entre Douro e Minho region, which is on the verge of extinction and that was, in my opinion, the queen of the Autumn Festival at Serralves. Their wool is extremely soft and it really deserves all the possible preservation!
I came back from Serralves marvelled by what I’ve learned there and, once more, I plea – especially to those who make tricot pieces or buy them made by measure – that, please, always try to maximize the value of Portuguese wool. Fortunately there’s already a large offer at affordable prices. When we buy Portuguese wool we are contributing to the preservation of autochthonous breeds of sheep, treasuring the work of the shepherds and of all the people involved in the wool work, protecting the environment (reducing the transportation needs from raw material to the final product purchased by the consumer) and preserving millenarian arts.
This post was originally written in Portuguese. Click here for the original text.