Monday, June 17, 2013

Sweet things

I have finished the workshop I told you about awhile back. The workshop was in the town of Maçainhas and aimed to teach how to make the "Papa" blanket a popular blanket in the region of Serra da Estrela made from sheep wool. The last factory making these blankets by hand closed last year and now in an attempt to preserve this tradition this workshop was organized. It was very useful, a lot of fun and hard work. Even though it was not exhaustive in the sense that we had the opportunity to try all the parts of the process involved in making these blankets we at least got to have a go at weaving. The loom is massive and old and has a brilliant system to work the shuttles that are propelled using a rope. It is a very physical job and extremely hard work. I got tired weaving a small section that was basically getting through a loaded shuttle, but a normal day in the factory implied that 7 blankets be made, each blanket measuring a little over 2 meters. After the blankets are woven they go into a machine that washes and felts and then another that cards, which is what basically makes the blankets have that hairy fluffy look. The blankets are then taken outside, (a process done only in Summer, the weaving normally reserved for winter), to dry in the sun, stretched on metal structures called "râmbolas". The felting and carding these days are made using machines but there was a time when these processes were also done by hand. The carding was done using the dried head of the wild Teasel. You can see Teasels pictured above. We also got to weave using smaller table looms, but for me this part of the workshop was not particularly interesting.

Yesterday´s project was fixing an old chair. My friend Chagas had already sanded the chair back and given it a good clean and I varnished it. Awhile back I noticed that Sra. Maria da Gloria had some chairs at home she had fixed by making cork seats. I thought this was a brilliant idea and asked her if she had some cork to spare. Last week she finally gave me the cork and clear instructions on how to proceed. The cork has to be soaked in water for a few days if the water is cold, or the process can be sped up a little if you soak the cork in hot water, so that the cork can be more easily cut. I just left the cork in the tank for a few days and turned it occasionally to make the process even. Then it is just a matter of cutting the cork straight and line it with the back of the chair, I made a few extra cuts so the cork sits nicely into the shape of the back, nailed this part secure, then proceeded to cut the other 3 sides and nailed them in place. The result, I hope you agree, is fantastic on many levels, and super comfortable.

My small veggie patch is finally growing, you can see various beetroots, sunflower, lettuce...

To end the week, a small expedition to find wild strawberries. We found very few berries, but the extra sweet taste made up for the lack in quantity and the naturally smaller size.