While looking for french local natural yarns for the Terroir collection, I stumbled upon the beautiful initiative Laines à l’Ouest. This collective made of sheperdess and fiber passionates is creating a local yarn sector in Normandy, around the sheep breeds Avranchin, Cotentin, and the sheeps that grow on the salted fields.
I knitted their yarn Accroche-Cœur to create Aigrette Cowl and I was really happy with the result! The yarn is of excellent quality, very soft for a natural yarn, round to knit and warm to wear. And it keeps the lovely smell of the sheep.
Today, I’m happy to introduce your to Stéphanie and Marion, the two founders of Laines à l’Ouest, who agreed to answer a few questions to tell us about their beautiful initiative.
Can you introduce yourselves in a few words, tell us about your initiative and how Laines à l’Ouest was born?
Laines à l'Ouest is an ethical brand that gathers the skills of a few yarn passionnates! Breeder or textile creator, what gather us is the belief that the sheep is a beautiful way of creating a thread between us on a territory.
Can you tell us a bit about the sheeps from Normandy, their specificities and why it’s important, for you, to preserve them?
Normandy is the historic home to 3 breeds: Avranchin, Cotentin and Roussin de la Hague. All three are safeguarded and they represent a precious collective patrimony. The Avranchin is officially recognized as the best wool in France after Mérino wool.
We are the only initiative promoting the fleeces of these breeds from Normandy!
What are the steps to produce your yarn?
We collect and sort out the fleeces in May-June, then send them to the washer (Laurent Laine) and spinning mill (Terrade).
For Aigrette Cowl, I used a skein in a natural color, and a skein hand-dyed by a natural dyer. How was this collaboration born? Will you keep on offering dyed yarn and maybe extend your color palette?
In the Manche department, there is a botanist of turkish origins who is passionnate about wool and tinctorial plants, it appeared obvious that we had to collaborate. Her name is Beste Bonnard.
We will develop colors, but not only with vegetal dyes because the technical process is very expensive and not really homogeneous, which makes it impossible to create a big piece. We are doing trials with conventional eco-friendly dyes.
You also started a documentation library around normand wool and its history, what lead you to start this unique project? Have you had interesting contributions so far?
This initiative was created because we noticed that Normandy suffers from a lack of memory on the “wool” subject (contrary to Brittany for example, where this craft was passed down from generation to generation).
In the rural world, the notion of intangible cultural heritage is rarely seen as a wealth. There are treasures that end up at the waste site (old agronomical books, old sheering equipment…)
We also thought that to lay the foundations of a new generation, we had to offer them a local library in which they can find inspiration and legitimacy.
Finally, what are your projects at Laines à l’Ouest?
In July, we represent the 3 normand breeds at the World Sheep Sheering Championship in France.
All summer, we will be doing cultural animations in Normandy around the heritage, land-art, historical reconstructions… all the dimensions linking us to our territory passionnate us!
And in september, we will start a monthly crochet for beginners class.