Wool from the Pyrenees : production and secrets of Maison Lafond

Esquièze-Sère
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Wool from the Pyrenee ...
What better season than winter to immerse yourself in wool - or more exactly to go behind the scenes of wool manufacturing, from sheep to sweater! In Esquièze-Sère, a village in the Hautes-Pyrénées in the heart of the Pays de Toy, the Lafond family factory has been manufacturing blankets, duvets, clothes and accessories since 1891 in genuine wool from the Pyrenees. Nothing beats a visit to the factory to see and understand all the steps necessary to create a sweater or a plaid! Rendezvous with Damien Lafond, descendant of the 5th generation of the founding family of the house Lafond.

carding card blankets

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Embark in the heart of a wonderful family history

In the resplendent valley of the Gave de Gavarnie, at the outlet of the Luz-Saint-Sauveur gorges, at its confluence with the Bastan, the Manufacture Lafond is now the only workshop in the Pyrenees to work with traditional local wool. Using this abundant resource, the manufacturing workshop has the particularity of carrying out almost all the stages of the transformation of natural wool fibers on the same site : sorting, spinning, carding, knitting, weaving, warping, clothing, sales shop… On site, we meet Damien, the manager of the family business, for a tour of the factory founded in 1891 by his great-great-grandfather, Joseph Cazenave. Ah, this precious wool from the Pyrenees… Damien could talk about it for hours!


workshop

Trace the history of techniques

Let's go for a tour of the factory! Between the purring machines and the smiles of the busy workers, we cross the entire workshop to follow the steps in the manufacture of wool chronologically. An introduction that appeals to all our senses : the reassuring smell of this natural material, the noise of the clicking of the looms, the sight of the hundred-year-old machines that still work. More than a simple discovery of the transformation of wool, the visit turns out to be a real journey through time!


oldest boy  oldest boy

Wool from the Pyrenees : an ancestral tradition

In the Pyrenees, the breeding of herds of sheep in the mountains dates back to the dawn of time. In the valley of Luz-Saint-Sauveur, traditional pastoral life is characterized by the practice of transhumance of animals according to the seasons, thus allowing access to a food resource during the summer period by leaving the animals to graze freely. This ancestral tradition takes advantage of the lush mountain environment and bears immense respect for animals. “ The quality of the wool is a real indicator of animal welfare. Our sheep are happy here in the Pyrenees! ” Damien says, grabbing a tuft of raw wool in the middle of huge bundles. Indeed, to the touch, the wool fiber is light, flexible, warm, soft and resistant. The transformation process of 100% Pyrenees” raw wool begins!

The manufacturing stages

carding  carding

After shearing, which takes place at least once a year, in spring or autumn, the harvested wool (up to 2 kg of wool per animal) is delivered directly to this warehouse by the breeders. Maison Lafond uses nearly 15 tonnes of wool per year from sheep in the nearby Luz Valley.

The raw wool is sorted to be soaked, washed in hot water and dried because it has a large number of impurities. On his return to the workshop, the fibers are placed in a “ thresher wolf ” which separates them, dust them off and airs them, and then passes through the carding machine.

The next operation, carding, aims to disentangle and parallelize the fibers. The word carding, hence the La Carde brand of Maison Lafond, derives from thistle ” because shepherds used to rub the fleeces with bunches of thistles in order to clean and soften the wool. For this, a drum machine is used, equipped with very fine steel points which rotate at high speed so as to divide and parallelize the wool fibers.


warping
warping


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The next step is warping, an operation that consists of unwinding the spools of thread on the beam for weaving. The tufts of the sheep gradually take shape under the agile hands of the workers attentive to the tension of the threads and their precise parallelism. These threads, in the form of huge spools , are then installed by hand, one by one, on the looms or knitting machines.


manufacturing  scraping

We then discover a series of machines from another century used in the next operations : fulling consists of felting the fabric, scraping brings out the fibers of the fabric and makes them more flexible. Finally, the woolens are dried before joining the garment workshop where the seamstresses can then cut the pieces, sew the edges and adjust the fringes. In the clothing workshop, we are greeted by a talented seamstress : Aude, Damien's sister and co-manager of the family business, reveals to us the secrets of stitching blankets and clothes, a long and meticulous step, requiring a real know-how and real attention to detail.


manufacturing
carding

After this fascinating tour of the workshops, we naturally stroll around the shop to admire the range of finished products manufactured on site with so many precision gestures. The choice is vast to spend a cozy and bright winter. In the shop, the sudden urge to dress in wool from head to toe or bundle up in a woolen blanket can take hold of you at any time!


shop  fitting


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Practical info :

All year round, Maison Lafond's la Carde workshop is open to visitors and the boutique will allow you to discover all the models. Come and immerse yourself in the world of authentic and contemporary French manufacture!

Tours of the workshop are free and accessible to all ages.

Guided tour of the workshop : Wednesday 5 p.m.


La Carde blanket factory

36, avenue du Barège

65120 Esquièze-Sère

05 62 92 81 95

contact@lacarde-pyrenees.com


Opening time :

  • Monday to Friday : 9 a.m. / 12 p.m. - 2 p.m. / 6.30 p.m.
  • Saturday : 10 a.m. / 12 p.m. - 3 p.m. / 6.30 p.m.

Did you like our report? Find others on the Toulouse Pyrenees Guide blog.

Join us on the Facebook page of the Toulouse Pyrénées Guide, we are also on Instagram @guidetoulousepyrenees


Article and Photos prepared by Lesley Williamson


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