Materials Spotlight: Burel Wool

The quality and history of the textiles I use is very important to me. When I started Maragold Designs, I promised myself that quality is something I would never compromise. The story of the materials with which I design become naturally infused into the design itself and that is in turn shared with you. The story of Burel wool is empowering and from it emerges a larger message - where there is a will, there’s a way and doing things the right way will prevail in the end.

I could use any wool from anywhere in the world and it would still be wool. However, it’s the story of Burel wool from Portugal that makes it special, and one that I hope you’ll help me continue sharing.

Burel wool array of colors

I recently received an email from the company chronicling its history and I can’t help but pass it on. It's incredible to me that it’s only been thirteen years since the wool industry in the Serra da Estrela mountains of Portugal was revived; and it continues being rebuilt today. In the 1960's, the rise of synthetic materials caused decay of an industry that was the heart and soul of the region; the livelihood of many of its inhabitants.

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In 2006, mountain explorers Isabel Costa and João Tomás discovered an old sanatorium in the Serra da Estrela mountains which they restored into a hotel. This restoration began "a long process of heritage recovery that continues today." In the building of that hotel, the two sought out local elements to incorporate into the design and that is when they uncovered the longstanding history of wool in the region.

Finding that the wool factory "was in the process of being insolvent and unable to meet the needs of time, of a world that was beginning to spin too fast," they decided to intervene and embark on its restoration. They felt it imperative to "continue the narrative that it brought from the last century and bring back the local population that depended on it. To show her your art to the world."

The factory today uses original machines from the 19th century and recycled patterns to maintain tradition while introducing new colors and techniques that would appeal to and inspire designers and creatives.

"We put the old loom masters to teach the younger ones, so as to increase the passage of testimony and not let the art of their hands die, let the ancient sound of the looming no longer echo through the valleys of those mountains. This holds true to this day."

And with that, “an industrial heritage was saved, a tradition rooted in the life of those factories and jobs were secured and the knowledge of wool crafts passed on to new generations. The social, ecological sustainability and conservation of the mountain that is our home, of the people who inhabit it, has increased.

From the nature that continues to inspire us. From the grandeur of the landscape that welcomes us. From the sheep that run through them and lend us the wool twice a year, from the shepherds who lead them. We seek to attract skilled labor to the region, spread the talent and affection that is woven in each piece. We promote a story that belongs to many and today we are the biggest employers in Vila de Manteigas."

Today, the factory employs more than 100 people, the village has been revived, and it continues to "promote a culture that we thought was forgotten by time.”

...Now let that sink in for a minute.

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Everything quoted above is directly from the Burel Factory and in the company's own words (via Google translate so please excuse any translation errors).