I’m really happy to introduce you to a French yarn brand and beautiful local initiative called Laines Paysannes. I had the pleasure to knit their yarn via A Pleines Mains, who uses it for her Ariégeoise base with which I knitted the Pieris Shawl.
Alice dyes her yarn with natural dyes, and at Laines Paysannes they sell them in their beautiful natural colors. And that’s not all they do! They also make hand-knit clothes, rugs and other accessories from their wool, creating a local and ecological way of promoting natural wool.
Can you introduce yourself briefly, tell us how Laines Paysannes was born and tell us more about how your initiative to promote local natural yarn?
Laines Paysannes was born out of a will to promote local yarns, from the resource available in a region which wasn’t promoted but had a big potential to be developed and a real cohesion! We all know that the textile industry has turned into a catastrophy at all levels (especially social and environmental), so this initiative, which carries our values, was self-evident.
I’ve been interested in wool for the past 10 years, through plant dyeing first, then through weaving, always with an artisanal approach. I was also interested in the sheep and pastoral world. It’s when I met Paul, who is a shepherd and became my life partner since, that this project was born. Paul had structured a network to sell directly his products in organic farming. The idea was to promote the wool from his herd, then to diversify little by little the partnerships with farmers to be able to work with different sheep breeds and different wools.
Can you tell us a bit about the sheep breeds in Ariège [the region of the Pyrenees where Laines Paysannes is based], what are their characteristics?
The main breed, which is a prime example of a transhumant breed, is the Tarrasconnaise. This sheep has long legs, it’s rustic and a good walker, perfect for the moutain life. Its yarn is semi-fine, sometimes with a bit of guard hair, and quite short. Its characteristic is that it swells a lot, which is perfect for bedding products. Well it’s very versatile, and with goog breeding and sorting conditions, it’s perfect for clothing.
We also work with the Rouge du Roussillon breed, also transhumant. It’s a beautiful sheep with red head and legs. Its wool has a lovely creme color. Its pretty coarse, but we use it for hand-knit and its color is very successful.
We also promote, through a rug collection that is coming out in the Fall 2019, coarse wools from Basco-Béarnaise sheeps and Manche Tête Noire sheeps. They are dairy sheeps with long hair. More hair than fleece, this fiber doesn’t work for clothing but is perfect for rugs because it’s long and strong. The yarn has a very raw and elegant aspect that we love. To make sure that these long fibers work in the spinning process, we mix it with Romane sheep fleeces which is quite long and more swelling.
Of course, we also work with a bit of Merinos, but I don’t need to introduce it! This sheep with fine wool allows us to make softer and lighter accessories, perfect for the mid-season and to diversify our range.
Finally, we collect yarn from the Scotch Mule breed in the Gers region. It’s a British sheep, made from crossbreeding, with a pretty coarse but long and glossy yarn that gives a lot of personnality to our blankets.
You managed to create a whole local industry of wool by having all the production steps done between Ariège and Tarn in the Pyrenees. Can you tell us a bit about these different production steps?
The partnerships grow bits by bits as the project moves forward.
We have to start with washing the wool, done partly at the Niaux spinning mill which is in Ariège. The bigger quantities and the Merinos (which is particularly greasy) are done at the Géveaudan wash in Saugues.
Then we work with 2 spinning mills. The Dreuilhe mill, in Ariège, specializes in big yarn and spins all our rug yarns. The other yarns, destined to be knitted or woven, are spinned at the Parc mill in the Tarn region.
From the beginning, we’ve worked with the Missègle workshops in the Tarn. It’s a real collaboration and we are delighted to move forward with them. They make all our ready to wear knitted garments and accessories.
More recently, we built a collaboration with Teixidors, a workshop of professional integration for disabled people in Terrassa, in the north of Barcelona. This artisanal weaving workshops mixes a social approach and a perfect technical mastery. We are very proud to create our blankets with them!
You offer a great variety of products from your wool, knitted or woven (clothes, accessories, blankets…) on top of the yarn itself. Where does this idea to use wool in all shape and form come from?
We didn’t really have a guideline at the beginning, nore the collection idea. The more we discover the potential of our partners, the more we are eager to explore new things!
We started with small pieces like socks, the idea of developing a range of “eco fashion” is really exciting to us. For weaving, it’s a bit different, it’s the idea at the foundation of the project. But since it’s more difficult to sell (we made the choice of hand-woven), we develop the woven range little by little as we build the viability of the project . We have to find the right outlets.
I knitted your yarn through A Pleines Mains who dyes it with natural dyes. Are there many professionnal in the knitting industry that use your yarns? What’s the place of these collaborations in your project?
More and more yarn artisans, in the knitting, weaving, or natural dyeing industries are eager to work with local French, tracable yarns. So it’s an outlet that is growing for Laines Paysannes, although it stays small.
For now, we simply sell our yarn, but we would love to work on some collaborations!
Finally, what projects are you working on these days at Laines Paysannes?
There are many projects. On the developîng our range side, we are preparing the Fall 2019 with 2 new pullovers, a collaboration with a fashion brand and knitting kits. A small collection of woven rugs will also be ready ;)
We will set up a pop up store in Paris from November 25th to December 8th to be more present there.
Another important project for us: Our premises. We currently use an old house for our offices, stocks and workshop. The space is too small and hard to heat. So we are working with an architect, looking for fundings etc to get set up in new premises in the Spring 2020.