The Merino Wool
Merino Wool is a natural fiber that comes from the fleece of the merino sheep. Sheep need to be sheared once per year, usually at springtime. That means once per year we have the wonderful opportunity to transform the fleece of the sheep into a precious merino yarn.
Merino is very comfortable to wear because it is warm, soft, breathable, lightweight and it does not create static electricity. Additionally, it is 100% biodegradable which make it the most environmentally friendly option.
Traceability of our Merino Wool
Our merino wool comes from transhumant merino flock of sheep from Castilla y León and Extremadura (Spain). They migrate twice per year with their shepherds from the grasslands to the summer pastures up in the mountains using the centenarian Cañadas Reales or Royal routes (see a little bit of History below).
We source our merino wool yarn through the Spanish platform Made in Slow and its main project called Transhumance by Made in Slow.
By supporting transhumance, we are ensuring the best quality wool and we are contributing to the protection off our cultural and natural heritage. We are helping to maintain the old professions associated to the wool trade as the entire process from the shearing to the spinning is made in Spain. And we are protecting the countryside that Spanish merino sheep has been grazing year after year for centuries, contributing to its biodiversity and cleaning it and thus protecting it from wildfires.
To know more…
A little bit of History
Merino breed originated in Spain back in the XIII century. It stood out over the other breeds for its fine, long and curly wool, qualities that turned it into a luxury raw material sought-after by the upper classes throughout Europe. Textile based on the merino wool became the first and main means of commerce for Spain from the XIV to XVIII centuries.
The honorable council of the Mesta was created in Castilla y León by the king Alfonso X to give privileges and protect shepherds, thus favoring better wool. Sheep raisers needed to migrate the flock of sheep seasonally from the lowlands to the adjacent mountains (known as transhumance) in order to properly feed the sheep during the whole year and obtain the best quality wool. Cañadas Reales (or Royal migratory routes) were established by the Council of Mesta to give protection to the shepherd and his flock during that long journey (some of them were near 800 km long).
So high was the value of merino wool that the export of Merino sheep was forbidden by the King, so Spain remained the only world producer of Merino wool. However, at the end of the XVIII century, the protection laws were relaxed, and sheep were exported to France, then to the rest of Europe and finally, overseas. Today most of the world’s Merino sheep population is found in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the United States, Argentina and a much lower population is still found in Spain.
Cañadas Reales still exist today and despite they are narrower than they used to be and sometimes they are cut by big cities, shepherds still use them year after year for the migration of their flock.
Today, there are fewer shepherds that make a living out of the wool. There was a time, it was more expensive the cost of shearing the sheep that the price the Merino raisers were receiving for the wool. So, lots of them stopped the activity of transhumance. It lacked the meaning because the market was not demanding high quality wool. Consequently, lots of flocks stopped migrating through those centenary routes. That was stated by the government as a loss for the biodiversity and the cultural heritage of the affected regions.
Fortunately, not all wool raisers gave up. Some of them kept practicing transhumance out of conviction. And wool demand now is resurfacing little by little and so it is wool’s market value.