Moeke Yarns

How we produce our wool

Producing great eco-friendly yarns is a laborious process involving lots of care, dedication and commitment for quality.

The journey to create great wool yarn starts with finding great sheep! We found our sheep at local Romanian shepherds. We looked carefully how the sheep lived and fed - we wanted to ensure that we only buy fleeces from healthy and happy animals, well taken care off and that enjoy their life outside, on natural pastures. Luckily we found such herds in the vicinity of the village where I grew up! These sheep do not have their tails clipped and no mulesing is practiced on them (mulesing is the removal of strips of wool-bearing skin from around the buttocks of a sheep. Mostly practiced in warm climates with the argument behind that it prevents flystrike. I personally think it is just a barbarian practice). 

 Even if the fleeces were of very good quality, they still needed to be cleaned. Living your life on natural pastures has a downside - more vegetable matter tangled in the wool. We first sort the fleeces and kept only the best wool. Then, we pick out the vegetable matter as good as we can, by hand. Next operation is washing - we use warm water, salt and then mild eco-friendly detergents. It is a laborious process and we invest a lot of time and energy into it. Our aim is to remove the dirt and around 70% of the lanolin on the wool (this is important for the spinning phase). And finally, after all this work, we have a beautiful wool that is ready to be sent to the fiber mill! 

When we were children there were fiber mills everywhere, close to our place also. But after the 1989 revolution the wool industry collapsed and these old-fashion fiber mills closed, one after the other. We found some that still survived. The machines in these fiber mills are hundred years old, still working and in good shape! But make no mistake - these are not modern machines that can be operated with a push of a button! They are in the family for generations and the craft of spinning yarn was transmitted from parents to children and to grandchildren. Despite the difficulties raised by working with these traditional fiber mills, we were determined to carry on with our initial plan. Visiting these fiber mills and watching their process was like a trip back in time! 

 

At the end of such a long and laborious process is the yarn. After we receive the yarn from the fiber mill we wash it again with eco-friendly detergents, sodium bicarbonate and we rinse it in water with vinegar. We do this because we believe it is important to remove dust and impurities that stick to the lanolin. Still, even this additional wash will not remove all the lanolin on the fiber. When you will use the yarn, your hands will feel the difference! Our yarn is a minimally processed yarn, that means that it still has some vegetable matter and lanolin in it. It is the price of not using any harsh chemical agents during the production of the yarns. 

I hope you enjoy using our yarns! And if you like to know more about traditional yarn processing in Romania, here is a collection of short films that I made during my visit to the fiber mills that spin our yarns!

 

Our story

 

Hello! My name is Ioana and I am the co-founder of the Lana Moeke company. I started the company together with my brother Radu and his wife Simina, in the beginning of 2014. I live in The Netherlands where I am about to get a PhD in Sociology and they have their life and business in Romania. You are probably wondering: so how did they come up with the idea of starting a wool company? Well, it is a long story but the short(er) version goes like this…

I was born in 1978 in Romania in a city called Oradea. That was still during the communist dictatorship. My brother is 3 years younger than me. During those times our parents had to work 6 days a week and the childcare facilities were not great, so our grandparents from my mother’s side took care of us. They lived in a small village surrounded by woods. We grow up in this wonderful place, with the purest air, the cleanest waters and the best food in the world. Of course, I am a bit biased but not very far from the truth!

Our grandparents were very special persons – loving, caring and hardworking. Especially our grandmother was a very important figure for both me and my brother – she was the glue that kept the family together. She was also very gifted with all things handmade. Not that she had a lot of choice – those times the shops did not have much to offer.

But life moved on: the revolution in 1989 brought the dawn of the communist era, my grandparents passed away, I grew up and followed my dream of becoming a sociologist and my brother started his own little business in Oradea. Maybe because I live now so far away from Romania and my life is so busy, I started to appreciate more and more those times when I was a child – the free and careless life following the natural rhythm of things. I took crocheting and knitting as hobbies as a way to reconnect to that part of my life and to keep alive the memory of my grandmother.

But then, last year, something happened. I went to visit my parents who now live in my grandparents’ house and looking through the things left from my grandmother I found two big bags with yarn. I remember that yarn: was hand-spun by my grandmother 16 years ago because she wanted to wave some bed spreads for us. But then she ran out of time due to a vicious illness…

The moment when I found that yarn was an inspiration to me. I realized that there is a potential there that is lost... Romania has quite a number of traditional sheep breeds and a long tradition in wool processing. But nowadays, due to bad economic circumstances, shepherds cannot sell their wool anymore so they burn it. Such a waste…

My decision to do something about it was immediate. I told my brother about my plan and he was immediately in. We would make yarns from Romanian wool, produced with traditional methods and no harmful chemicals, spun them in a traditional fiber mill and dye them with plants.

And here we are, a year after my holiday in Romania. It was an absolutely amazing adventure this year, but we managed to do what we aimed for: our first minimally processed traditional Romanian yarns are ready! I hope that you will enjoy them just like we enjoy our small contribution to the preservation of the traditional heritage of Romania!

September 2014

PS: Be sure to check the story of how we produce our yarns and other behind-the-scene stories that I regularly post on our blog!

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