Wool artisan, Carla de Ruiter.
Tejedora e hiladora
Tejedora e hiladora

About wool craft

    Trades and tasks in the wool world...
  • Speaking of crafts in the wool process is starting to take care of the sheep and that means the soul of the job. The same grazing, which is the beginning of all the craft of wool, is an activity where the pastor himself comes to live in such a way involved with the sheep ,that he can call each sheep by its name. Transhumance involved and involves the pastor, because they are twenty four hours a day caring for and protecting livestock. They are therefore trades with soul.
  • It all starts in the cold winter months in search of pastures in warmer southern regions. A homecoming is the shearing of the sheep so that their new cooling jacket suits them in the summer.
  • It’s important to mention that, historically, merino wool is closely linked to the economy and history of Spain. This has worked exclusively in Spain until the late eighteenth century when the export of animals of this breed to other countries was allowed. Today it is marketed on five continents. The merino stands out mainly for the production of fine wool. It is highly prized for artisan use in the wool crafts. Currently the production of merino wool, has lost much value in Spain.


Special footwear of felt and jute (or esparto) used to shear.

Fiesta de la esquila
comienza Esquilado


Sheep need a change of "suit" before the new spring stage. This is done in their favor by rural people. The wool is carefully cut and saved for washing once, the whole herd has been shorn.

The shearer has a special affinity with the sheep. First, this connection with them is by their working clothes and shoes. The shearer tries to take care of his contact with the sheep to prevent wearing clothes in contact with the animal. When this task is well done this wear is limited to the maximum due to a perfect harmony between the shearer and the sheep.

It is noteworthy that not all wool is the same or has the same quality; only in Spain there are more than thirty different races, all with their different qualities. A shearer, for being in touch with the wool especially learns to appreciate all the nuances that there are in the wool of different races and even depending on the part of the sheep. Not all wool fleece is the same; the back is the most appreciated for handicrafts, while other parts of the fleece are used for stuffing cushions, mattresses...

Fiesta de la esquila


comienza Lavado y secado de la lana

Washing and drying of wool

In washing it comes to remove all traces that the sheep has been adhering to its cover. It must be done with caution to prevent that the thin film of lanolin disappears and with it one of the qualities that makes a wool coat particular and beneficial for people. It used to be done in rivers and streams since the soaps were absolutely natural and did not harm the ecosystem of shore. Today this activity is unthinkable because we have saturated all the waterways with contamination and can no longer add more pollution for how small the quantities are.

Drying the wool also requires caution because wool has a great capacity to absorb moisture and drying cost its time.

Lavado de la lana


comienza Carda y peinado de la lana

Carding and combing wool

To facilitate the process of spinning or felting, we need carding the clean and dry wool. It is about opening the fibers and giving them an order, direction. At the same time there are eliminated traces of soil and dirt that has remained despite the washing process. It is an essential task in the process of the transformation of wool.

The rasps are tools that, in its most primitive form were natural (thistles and other plants scraping fibers) and did not need any equipment, they were manual. With small amounts of wool these give excellent results. To process larger amounts of wool we can use a drum carder.

Carding fibers also allows us to mix colors and different fibres in order to create a creatively handspun thread or a personalized felt.

Cardado de la lana
Cardado de la lana


comienza Hilado

Spinning wool

When we are spinning wool, we sort, align and maintain the fibre in position and it can be transformed into a strong thread and at any thickness we want.

A simple way to do this is twisting the fibre by hand.

Another system and what was said to be the first tool to facilitate the spinning process is a simple twig branch with another crossing at 45 degrees. Pastors, taking care of the herd, shepherds did spin with branches they found in the way. It is called a spinning stick.

Later it was discovered that the same branch, instead of being in a horizontal position could be placed upright and helped with weight it twirls in the air; It is what is called the spindle, a big step forward in the spinning process. Even today it is used in many countries as a common tool for thread and cloth making, although it is very difficult to imagine it in the times we live in.

During the Middle Ages, in different parts of the world the wheel was discovered to assist in various tasks, including spinning, facilitating the process in such a way that it allowed to develop a continuous thread. It was more agile and faster to get thread, but the wheels or spinning wheels never replaced the spindles used at home tasks to obtain thread from fibre.

At first the yarn is made. After this first spinning, 2, 3, 4 or more yarns are twisted. It is done with a simple tool, similar to the spindle. This twister rotates in the opposite direction to the rotation that had the yarn itself when it was spun. With this operation, a stronger, more homogeneous and more balanced thread is obtained due to its twisting.


Spinning fibres means twisting the fibres.

Rueca de hilar


comienza Tintoreo

Dyeing wool

Dyeing is the process to give colour to wool.The wool fleece can be dyed before spinning for creating felt or to make the spinning process more creative, allowing that colours can be mixed with carders and later on we spin our yarn.

When obtained a certain amount of yarn, that is, when the spindle or coil hanks are filled we are ready to start dyeing wool. The winder is the tool that facilitates the formation of skeins. Wire terminations must always be with loose knots; skeins with very tight knots prevent the dyeing plants to impregnate the thread.

The natural dye colours give certain life achieved by the fact that it never gives homogeneous colour, it has shades.

Since ancient times, in the process of preparing wool for dyeing the skeins are trated with mordant to set the colors, making them resistent to light exposure. It also makes possible that different colours of the same dye bath can be obtained. Often people know the dyes used in their region; well known are the dyer blonde, nut shell, the dye isatis...

Subsequently, the dyed skeins can be given, a bath under acidic or basic -chemically speaking-, respectively to lighten or darken the color.

Today more and more we relativize the need for light-resistant threads or dyed fabrics as they can once again be dyed knowing all the fascinating process of obtaining colors based or related to nature.

Finally, it is noteworthy that there are many and varied possibilities for coloring wool. Prominent among the most important, ecoprint, batik, knotted dye, etc...



comienza Tejido


Dyed skeins or hanks are threads ready to weave with in an infinite way. The most common way are knitting needles or crochet needles. In the weaving craft, working with looms or frames dependent on the function that the fabric will have in everyday life, for example, if it will be rather decorative or a fabric for home, even for personal clothing.

The base is always warp and a weft. The warp threads form a perfect position in a parallel way, and the weft is formed by the comings and goings of the shuttles with thread often guided by hand. This action unifies warp and weft.

The rhythmic and repetitive nature of weaving is soothing, comforting, contemplative. It is hard to imagine that knitting is like a practice of mindfulness, or perhaps a form of meditation. Research in neuroscience show that knitting and other textile crafts such as sewing, knitting and crochet, have much in common with mindfulness and meditation; It recognizes that all have a positive impact on mental health and well-being.

Tejido de la lana
Tejido de la lana


comienza Enfieltrado


This type of wool processing doesn’t need warp and weft simply it units wool fibers by the peculiar characteristics of wool, certain movements in a medium of soap and water come together, arises felt. The felt has not been discovered, they say it arises...

The oldest remains of found felt in Asian countries are about 2,500 years old. Probably the technique of arising felt started in these nations and is the oldest form of textile processing.

The combination of water, soap together with a rhythmical motion (for example, rubbing or rollers) makes wool felt; it says hooking the fibres together. Remember how washing a woolen sweater in the washing machine at a high temperature or too much soap make shrink the woolen fabric and it becomes very stiff.

Each wool fiber has scales. By using hot water, soap and movement it facilitates fibers engaging and shaping a compact fabric; then it becomes a whole new fabric.

Felt is a natural process in which we never can predetermine the whole outcome. There are several factors which influence the process. The speed and strength in the movement have their influence on creating felt in flexibility, size and even in the whole blending of colors together. Other fibers could be included perhaps but don’t have the same characteristics as wool and don’t felt on its own.

There are different techniques to create felt. The outcome will depend on the technique used, soap, water, felting needles and nunofelt. The possibilities of creating with felt are unlimited and we can make a felt like the pastors made (shephard layer) or we can make the most sophisticated contemporary pieces. It's good to know that felt is a fabric that insulates for both the cold to heat and is also a fabric that breathes.

Finally, creating felt like other work with wool, can be meditative for its repetitive and simply movements. On the one hand they are therapeutic in themselves given their own dynamics of transformation and, moreover, very easily can be pretty accessible to all kind of population allowing achieving personal creativity.



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