History of wool blankets from Grazalema, Spain
No one knows the exact date of the beginning of the textile industry in Grazalema, some historians based on ancient writings or their own intuition point to the sixteenth or seventeenth century. Interestingly, the similarity between the wooden looms used in North Africa and those used, until recently, in Grazalema has been noted, so it may have developed under the Arabs, when Grazalema as known as Ben - Zulema.
In the C18 and C19 Grazalema was a good purveyor of wool blankets. Given that it has one of the highest rainfalls in Spain this must has been an advantage in the development of the industry as most of the mills of this epoc were water powered. The present, and last remaining mill, in Grazalema is now powered by electricity but many of the old skills and technical processes are preserved. For instance , teasels are still collected which are made by hand.
For decades the most cherished wedding gift for the newly betrothed was a Grazalema wool Blanket. However, in the early days transport through these rugged sierras was a constant problem. Goods have to be delivered by mule train, and the muleteers had to contend with not only the weather, but highway robbery. No doubt the famous bandit , Jose María el Tempranillo (whose exploits are currently re-enacted in the village in early October) had a good selection of Grazalema blankets long before his wedding night.
The range of good has expanded but the family, now counting the 4 th generation, are justifiable proud of the quality of their products which visitors now buy and take to the four corners of the Earth.
The process of manufacturing maintains the stages observed in the past and which today constitute a true tradition of craftsmanship.
A brief description of the complete process is given below.
The manufacturing process
Treatment of the Wool
This is a manual process whereby the wool is sorted according to quality and to colour
Washing of the wool by hand in hot water and then rinsing. The wool is then hung out
to dry in the sun.
3. Opening the wool
Separation of the wool fibres.
4. Treatment the wool
The wool is manually treated with oil, water and other chemical products.
5. Teasling / Carding
The carding machine comprises two parts, one with rigid teeth and the other with flexible teeth. The wool is then put on another machine which both continues the carding process and eliminates most other material in the wool, thus enabling its weight to be established. The wool is then put on another machine which cuts it producing the raw fibres.
6. Continuation machine
Traditional machine which twists the fibres and gives us the spindles of wool.
Machine which produces huge spools of yarn (up to 3 kgs) which it takes from the spindles.
The Weaving Process
Placing the number of threads on the warper in the correct order to form the warp of the cloth.
Placing of the warper on the loom.
or tying of threads as necessary.
Weaving of the cloth.
12. Fringes and Removal of Knots
Making of the fringes and removal of knots and loose ends.
Machine which prepares the cloth by ‘fulling’ or ‘beetling’.
14. Anti Moth treatment
Application of an anti-moth treatment to protect the article.
Stretch drying of the blankets to the prerequisite size.
Gives the fabric a soft outer surface of variable orientation.
Hand carding to remove any imperfections left by the previous process.
18. Folding and labelling.