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Reinventing Spanish Wool: Meet Wooldreamers

While the textile industry has changed dramatically since Spanish merino ruled, a new company southeast of Madrid aims to put Spanish wool back on top.

Carol J. Sulcoski Jul 5, 2024 - 9 min read

Reinventing Spanish Wool: Meet Wooldreamers Primary Image

Wool for the yarn called Dehesa de Berrera is derived from a flock of pure Spanish merinos that was founded by monks more than a century ago. Photos courtesy of Wooldreamers

Hundreds of years ago, Spain was the world’s hotspot for wool, exporting its merino to buyers willing to pay a premium for its soft hand and fine fiber. These days, Spain doesn’t even crack the top twenty of wool-producing nations. The team behind Wooldreamers has a plan to revive the Spanish wool industry.

An Impossible Dream?

It starts in the Spanish region of Castilla La-Mancha, home of the fictional Don Quixote. Yes, you will find windmills there, along with vineyards, castles, mountains, and lush plains. The region is known for its delicious Manchego, a firm cheese with a slightly sharp flavor made from sheep’s milk. It’s also the home of the Cobo family. Over a century ago, the Cobo family began processing wool: purchasing it from local ranchers, washing it by hand in the local river, then spinning and weaving it into blankets and other items. Over time, the family adapted to changes in the industry, purchasing large-scale scouring and spinning equipment. After processing the wool, they created woolen-spun yarns used to make industrial rugs.

Ramón Cobo began working in the family business when he was fourteen years old; he’s the third generation of the Cobo family to operate the mill. He began by honing his skills in sorting and classifying wool. Later, he learned how to run and troubleshoot the mill’s machinery. Through the years, Cobo noticed troubling trends in the textile industry. Production had largely shifted away from natural wool to synthetic fibers. At the same time, operations were being shifted to overseas mills as a cost-cutting measure. As demand for natural fibers dropped precipitously, farmers and ranchers began to focus on sheep breeds used for meat and dairy products. The number of Spanish mills plummeted. Ramón Cobo wondered how he could maintain his family’s business before the Spanish wool trade died out completely.

The Cobo mill was mainly producing industrial-grade wool used for carpeting when an independent handdyer approached Ramón Cobo, looking to source a handknitting yarn manufactured from Spanish wool. Despite his lack of familiarity with the knitting and crochet industry, Cobo was intrigued. He imagined a future where Spanish wool was once again a desirable and in-demand commodity. Cobo began educating himself about issues such as sustainability, pondering ways to replace synthetic fibers with the very wool now dismissed as a waste product.

Locks of greasy fine wool being pulled open between two hands Wool like this fine, crimpy fleece is transformed into yarns full of character at Wooldreamers’ mill southeast of Madrid.

Living the Dream

When Wooldreamers was founded in 2020, one of its main goals was to support local ranchers and fairly compensate them for their wool. Ramón Cobo began developing relationships with ranchers and shepherds all over Spain, trading knowledge and comparing techniques for producing high-quality wool. As word continued to spread, more farms and ranches contacted Wooldreamers, eager to participate. Cobo became interested not only in reviving interest in Spain’s storied merino wool but also introducing local breeds to a wider audience.

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