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The Wool Journey From Sheep to Yarn

Updated: Jun 6, 2023

The tradition of raising sheep in Romania has a long history, and spinning wool has a long history too. The South of the country experienced all these stories that we are going now to share with you.

You know our colourful wool Romanian carpets, right? But how did the sheared wool get from the shepherds' barns to the housewives' spindles?

The wool is sheared from the sheeps and then carefuly washed. Washing and preparing wool are important chores left to housewives. I remember, as a child, how I helped my mother and grandmother to wash the wool and clean it of herbs and thistles. Then I lay it out in the sun to dry, turning it from time to time. White wool sometimes requires 2-3 successive washings, the whole process takes several weeks.

Here are few examples of sweaters made by my mother and carpets in wool in its natural color.

Then the wool is shredded. The combing is done by hand, or with special tools such as a "darac" (a wool comb). The combing is also called "dărăcire".

The scattered wool is then ready to be spunned, which is done in two ways - with a wheel made in wood and by hand (spinning).

Foto: and Muzeul Etnografic Reghin.

If the thread is thinner is suitable for finely crafted clothes or carpets.

The twisted yarn called "druga" is thicker and is used in carpets or stockings.

Right now as I write these lines, I am wearing a pair of woolen socks knitted by my mother. They are the warmest and most durable socks, and the wool, like the one in the carpets, comes from the family's sheepfolds or from the area.

Dyeing the wool

Dyeing wool is not the easiest activity, as making a rug requires many ingredients to achieve the color. Tradionally, ousewives prepare ingredients such as walnut or quinces leaves in advance.The leaves are compacted as they fall from the trees in autumn and are stored well until the wool harvest.

The same goes for the rest of the ingredients, which, since they are natural, must be collected ahead of time for later use.

Put the wool in boiling water with the color-transferring ingredients. In this way, the colors needed to produce the desired carpet are obtained.

The following carpet is an example for wool tinted in quinces leaves, the colours are beautiful and in shades, not that uniform as for industrial tinting, which give to this rug even more beauty and natural feeling.

In the second part of the 20th century, when the chemical dyes became so popular, we can find a mix between those and the natural ones. The chemical dyes are more vibrant and uniform in comparision with the natural ones, more related to the nature colours and in shades. More carpets in magnificent colors here.

Romanian carpet made by hand in wool, hypnotic colors
wool handwoven carpet with hypnotic colors

This is a brief story of preparing the wool, as it was told to us by our mothers and grandmothers and as we remember from our childhood spent in Southern Romania. Of course, the processes are more nuanced depending on the desired result and differ from one region to another, but, in essence, the flow is similar. If you want to enjoy your grandmother knitting and telling TV reporters about how, at almost 90 years old, she doesn't stop working, we invite you to watch her here (in Romanian).

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