When the process is as important as the final product.
At the beginning of the summer we finally got a long awaited call from our artisan friend Santiago, “Marta, they are shearing tomorrow”. The weather had been very inconsistent and no one knew when it would be best to shear the sheep this year. They really wanted to do it before the real heat of summer kicked in but it would not be good for the sheep if all of a sudden it got cold again and they had no wool left on them. So, despite the rain, that Tuesday in late May was the day.
We took the kids out of school, shut the studio for a day and drove to the North of Spain very early in the morning. The rain had been so strong for the previous week that the shepherds had decided to do the shearing indoors.
It is always amazing to be in front of so many sheep. Fran has 800 of them and they all pasture nearby. He is well known for the great care with which he tends his flock. He has a lot of land in the area and treats his sheep in the most precious way, they are his treasure after all.
Four men arrived ready with their shearing gear. Shearing is now done with electrical shears (as supposed to scissors) which are less dangerous for the animals, as it is not so easy for them to get bad cuts, and also way faster. This is not only more convenient for the shepherds but also for all the stressed sheep who don’t enjoy being held very much, even if only for a few minutes, and for good reason.
The shearers aimed to get the whole flock of 800 sheep sheared in the next day and a half. One by one they separated each sheep from the flock. Then they bound their legs gently with a cord and sheared the wool in a precise way, starting on one side, then the neck, then the other side, and finally the belly. When the job was done the sheep were quickly released into a separate pen with their other sheared friends.
Ten minutes before we arrived a little lamb had been born. Its mother had been heavily pregnant and was the first to be sheared, very gently to avoid any stress. The lamb came minutes later and they were both doing fine, separated from the other sheep until they both recovered.
Shearing is hard, it takes a good bit of skill to do it well and not damage the sheep and it also takes a lot of strength. It is non-stop physical labour.
It was wonderful to be part of this process with our artisan friends. This is where the wool that we love so much for our babaà knits comes from. These are the sheep that we walked with in the little bits of transhumance (trashumancia) that we did last winter. These are the artisans we have been working with for the past 4 years and now we also have got to know the shepherds. It was like a little party and it was wonderful.
We then went to meet Pepe at his workshop. Pepe was the last traditional shearer in the area and also a blacksmith who made all his own shearing scissors himself.
He told us how in the past the shearing season had been a real party. There were only 3 or 4 expert shearers who would shear all the sheep of the area. Every summer they would travel from village to village for 3 months doing the shearing. It was hard work but it was also a time full of celebrations. They would get fed at the different villages and share conversations and traditions with all the locals. Summer time is Fiesta time in most Spanish towns but for the shearers it was not just about having fun. One look at Pepe’s gnarled hands was enough to let you know the life of hard work he had had. Hard work was what was required and they knew how to perform in the limited time given.
We are so proud to be able to share these traditions with our local shepherds and artisans and so grateful that they want to share with us and with our children. For many more years to come!
We hope you enjoy your winter babaà knits and get to smell and feel all the local stories behind them.
Our Autumn/Winter collection will be launched next Thursday August 18th at babaa.es