Comfort in the Herd
Comfort in the Herd addresses the topics of the devaluation of wool in the Netherlands and its potential.
Sheep are kept in the Netherlands for meat, milk or grazing. The massive amount of wool they produce annually, however, is not used. Historically low wool prices have turned it into a burden rather than a resource for Dutch farmers. It therefore often ends up in landfills or in an incinerator. ‘Comfort in the Herd’ looks at the quality and potential of the disregarded wool.
By collecting wool from farmers who would otherwise discard it, Alma Lomholt Breun analyses the wool from local breeds - Drents Heideschaap, Nederlands Bonte Schaap and Blue and White Texelaar. As she goes through the processing steps herself - sorting, washing, carding, spinning, felting, knitting and weaving - it leaves her the space to examine and extract each breed’s specific quality and suggest a specific application for each.
The Drents Heideschaap is a landscape sheep. By grazing the land, it maintains the heather-lands ecosystem. The lack of nutrients in this dry environment partly contributes to the coarseness of its fibres - some of them are as thick as hair. Another quality of their fleece is the length of the fibre. The average fibre being around 15-20cm long makes it very nice to spin. However, its felting qualities are not as good as the White or Blue Texelaar, which is a shorter and fluffier fibre.
Therefore, the Drents Heideschaap wool was spun and handwoven into a rug, and the White Texelaar was hand-knitted and hand-felted into a pouf. The Blue Texelaar and Nederlands Bonte Schaap were spun together and machine-knitted into a shawl.
The collection of items was developed in order to have the finest fibres closest to the body and the rougher ones at a distance.
By this, Lomholt Breun wants to show that regardless of the thickness of the fibre, locally devalued wool has tactile qualities and the potential to be reintroduced into our system.
Raw wool is first sorted in order to get rid of all the remaining hay and vegetable matter. In parts, it is then washed in two or three baths (depending on how dirty it is) of hot soapy water in order to get rid of the dirt and lanolin.
Once dried the fibres get brushed in the carding machine. By doing so, all the fibres are stretched in one direction making it easier to spin or felt.
After carding, the material is ready to be transformed in whichever way is preferred (felting or spinning - then woven or knitted).
Text submitted by the maker
Alma Lomholt Breun