If you are old enough you will remember: the prickly and heavy woolen blankets on your bed. This changed in the 1980s when the duvet was introduced. The woolen blanket – woven from Dutch sheep wool – hung on for dear life at your grandparents for a little while longer but soon disappeared completely.
With the disappearance of woolen blankets there was no demand for the warm and sturdy Dutch sheep wool anymore. A entire industry vanished; there are practically no textile mills in the Netherlands anymore.
What happens to the sheep furs now? Some farmers put in the effort to bring the raw wool to central collection points where they get just a few euros for the wool. The fleeces are then shipped to Asia where they are made into isolation material and are probably shipped back to Europe again. By then they have been shipped 1,5 times around the globe.
For most farmers the cost of bringing the raw sheep wool to the central collection points does not weigh up to the few euros they get for the wool. It is with pain in their hearts that they see no alternative but to throw the fleeces away. Fortunately, there is a small but growing social sense that this beautiful natural product, that regrows every year, should be put to use!
I started weaving with Dutch sheep wool a few years ago. It is a beautiful material, pure nature in so many different colours and textures!
Fortunately a lovely Dutch couple started a professional spinning mill again in The Netherlands. ‘Alles Wol’ in Stuifzand, near Hoogeveen spin the fleeces for me. For excess quantities I sometimes use a spinning mill in Denmark as well.
I have come to love this natural material so much that I use it now in practically all my handwoven work. The sturdy, strong nature of Dutch sheep wool makes it particularly well suited for interior textiles such as upholstery fabrics and handwoven rugs. As it is also beautifully warm I handweave plaids with the sheep wool as well. All, preferably, undyed; the natural colours are absolutely gorgeous.
A second life for Dutch sheep wool!