The process of making a blanket on a Mapuche or Witral loom is a long story that begins with shearing. The process and its different stages is what Elba, one of our artisans from the Los Lagos region, reveals to us:
“I shear my sheep myself. Then I wash the wool in a trough with warm water that I heat over the fire. I air dry it for a week or so, turning it every day. Once dry, I shake it to remove all the dirt and choose the best one to spin by hand. In a week, by working hard, I can spin a kilo of wool. A blanket fits 10 to 11 kilos, so - more or less - it is 2 months of spinning. Then you have to twist the wool, double it to give it firmness and make the skeins. Then you have to wash it again and finally make the balls. From there, a day of warping and assembling the lines and drawings of the blanket, to just start weaving, with the coming and going of the ñireo - the piece with which the fabric is tightened - for eight days to be able to finish the blanket. ”
You see, that is the invisible spirit of handmade. Unique objects are unrepeatable, because their material is stories and time is what gives them shape.
“I don't have my own sheep, so during shearing time, I walk around all my acquaintances around my house, collecting the wool that sometimes they give me and other times I have to pay for. Then I take the wool to the Rehue (the river), where I wash it with running water, which is much cleaner. Hence the drying in the wind for almost eight days, beating it from time to time so that the grasses that remain stuck come out. All this washing and cleaning reduces wool by half; If I had 50 kilos of wool, after all this I now have 25 left. Then comes the trimming , necessary to be able to start the spinning process. I like to spin with a spindle, although it takes twice as long, and I only achieve a kilo of wool a week, but the final work is firmer. Then there are two times that the wool must be twisted and skeined to wash again, so it is even. If the work is dyed, this is the time to boil the roots and leaves to give the desired tone. The skeins are immersed and boiled with firestone or copper sulfate to set the color. Only now do you begin to weave the blanket, as long as you have the help of a couple of neighbors, two huge balls of yarn, and then the work is just beginning. "It takes twenty days of weaving itself to finish a blanket that, well cared for, lasts for the rest of your life."
We have always said, this is made by hand, not by machine. Slow making as they call it now, despacito as Fonsi says 😉