high up in the hills of the catalan pyrenees, a narrow winding road leads to a remote factory on the banks of a stream. the location, close to a waterfall, is important as the factory is operated entirely by hydropower.
we stumbled upon it one summer some years ago, on a family trip exploring the mountains, and couldn’t resist following the signpost to see where the road took us.
founded in 1902 by the great-grandparents of the current owners, this wool factory is still fully operational. it’s a family business that has been passed from father to son, and in its heyday employed about twenty people. it uses an impressive array of original machinery dating from the eighteenth century, including the ‘devil’, a machine that separates wool, and a spectacular mule-jenny, a spinning mule invented by samuel crompton in in 1779, which was used extensively in the mills in britain’s industrial revolution.
production starts with piles of wool delivered in big hessian sacks by local shepherds. fresh off the sheep’s back, it’s smelly and needs combing out, cleaning and weighing before the yarn can be spun. the wool is separated into piles, the white and brown wool are entirely natural (brown is from what we call a ‘black’ sheep), and black and grey wool is achieved through dyeing. one floor of the factory is devoted entirely to spinning, and another to weaving.
the finished products are rustic and honest. thick socks for walking, and blankets which were traditionally made for shepherds who slung them over their shoulder and pulled them up over their heads to huddle in for warmth and shelter when night fell.
the lanolin in the wool makes the blankets naturally water resistant, and we love them for their authentic rustic look and feel. we used them as play rugs on the floor when our children were babies, we always carry one with us for picnics, there’s one in the back of the car for emergencies and we’ve used them for covering straw bales and benches at children’s parties.
truly artisan products made with genuine natural resources.