There is a movement taking place in Spain to draw attention to the native breed sheep of the region. Small holders are raising the animals and processing their wool, encouraging others to work with the wool of the animals that have evolved to live in their local area. In this two part series, Teresa Cabellos interviews two Spanish wool growers to learn more about their efforts and their heritage breed sheep. The interviews were conducted in Spanish and translated into English by Cabellos.
Wovember is a great forum to help promote the use of local wool and it is with this spirit that I would like to introduce you to two local yarn producers who use the wool of local breeds to create unique yarns. In this first interview you will meet Marina from La Flor Cerval. I hope you enjoy the interviews and that they spark your interest in those endangered breeds.
1. Can you tell me a little about your project?
A few years ago, my partner and I started a flock of Xalda sheep. While we built a family and a home, we wanted to inhabit a territory in a similar way as our ancestors, in a relationship of interdependence with the landscape and nature. In this vision, it was important to take advantage of the resources that we have at our disposal and the contact with wool and its processes became more familiar to me every day. I knitted for my babies and learned from my countrywomen uses and processes unknown to me.
In 2022, thanks to a rural entrepreneurship program focused on women, my idea materialized little by little. I gathered the necessary amount of raw wool to be sent to a small mill. The farmers around me faced a problem for those who have sheep today: wool has less value and usefulness even than dung. So, we gathered, selected and sent this material with great enthusiasm. And so, at the end of the year we had the first sample of a totally natural 100% wool yarn from our native breed. A yarn of sheep from Asturia, Spain, now helps us achieve success in our work as shepherds. People can once again dress and shelter themselves with the wool of the animals from our environment.
A year later, and after a lot of work in shearing and sorting, we managed to send four times more wool than the first time. And little by little we are trying to open ways to market our product, as until now we only market through direct sales.
2. What breed of sheep do you work with?
We work with wool from a native sheep breed, the Xalda, because it is the wool of our animals and because of its value in terms of conservation and heritage.
3. Can you describe the characteristics of your yarn?
The word Xalda, that gives its name to the breed, describes one quality of the animals that is transferred to their wool. Rusticity, it is wild like the very landscape that houses it.
The predominant color is a particularly dark brown, which, according to the written evidence left by the Romans, was the characteristic color of the clothes that the tribes that inhabited these lands wore. There are also white animals and, to a lesser extent, a light-gray color of great beauty.
Until now we have manufactured a fingering weight 1-ply yarn and a 2-ply DK weight. This year we plan to explore new possibilities to expand the uses of our yarn.
4. What process do you follow in the production of your wool?
Our wool comes from small local shepherds. It is selected at origin during the shearing and sent for processing to a small wool wash and spinning mill in Castilla la Mancha, run by Wooldreamers. The process is carried out entirely within Spanish territory.
5. What challenges have you faced in the development of your project?
The biggest challenge is to get people to knit with this wool, to market it to people who seek local products and value originality and diversity.
6. How do you see the current state of the world of wool in Spain? And the future?
I look with hope and enthusiasm at the future of wool in Spain, and I believe that the path will be taken to value the wool that we have. I think that this will happen, not by depending on foreign trade or industry, but by being able to put it to use at its origin.
Enabling communication between the parties involved in this process is essential. We need to rehumanize the processes of the materials that feed, shelter and sustain us.
7. How would you like your project to evolve in the long term?
My project is a small project and we hope to keep it that way, maintaining a human scale and remaining a family project. A livelihood for a family of shepherds. We hope that the essence of this project and way of life is not diluted by commercial expectations or a passing success.
We also look to contribute to the economic viability of the small livestock farms in Asturias. We hope that a sector that is very affected in these times would achieve more solvency (at a general level and not just at a family level), and this is perhaps more ambitious.
Thank you to Marina Perez for sharing her work with us, and thank you to Anne Frost for creating a space where these voices can be heard.
The photos in the article were provided by Marina Perez.
To learn more about Marina’s work to promote the use of locally raised wool, follow @la.flor.cerval on Instagram. To try knitting with Xalda breed wool, visit the La Flor Cerval Etsy store.
The interview was conducted by Teresa Cabellos, a wool advocate and artist in multiple fiber crafts. She can be found on instagram as @TeresalaLaLana and @Spanishwool_by_teresalalana. Or, visit her website, teresalalana.com.
November 17, 3:30 pm — The article updated to correct Marina’s last name from Suarez to Perez. We apologize for the mistake.