Wool workshops


The inhabitants of the Causses and Cévennes have kept the tradition of wool work alive, constantly developing the skills involved. From the heyday of the textile industries in the 19th century, especially in Lodève, formerly known as the drapery capital, to their decline in the 20th century, the art of producing yarn has remained alive and well in this area.

Wool work demands high standards in terms of the strength, elasticity, regularity and thickness (or “number”) of the yarn. To make a continuous yarn that has these qualities, the wool must be processed in several stages designed to purify, cleanse, disentangle and separate, parallelise, regularise, refine and twist it. Here are some of the early stages in the wool-making process:

Shearing: using an electric shearer, it is possible to shear a sheep in less than three minutes. On average, a professional shearer can shear 100 to 150 sheep a day, and some Australian champions can reach up to 300. This operation takes place in the spring, usually once a year. While shearing is useful to people, for harvesting a natural material with unique qualities, it is primarily an animal welfare requirement and is essential for good health.


Brebis Lacaune ©EICC

Brebis Lacaune ©EICC


Sorting: at the farm, different parts of the fleece are sorted into batches according to their quality. Indeed, many impurities are found in the fleece and can account for up to two-thirds of its weight. These are mainly suint, grease, earth, sand, straw, scattered seeds and thistles. The fleeces are then folded and rolled into bales (170 kg on average) before being sent to the sale centres, and then to the textile factories.

Washing: Naturally oily, fleeces retain dust and plant debris. The raw wool is therefore soaked, degreased, washed, rinsed and finally dried. The grease or suint is recovered and refined for use in pharmaceutics and cosmetics manufacturing under the name of lanolin. Not all of the grease is removed; a small portion is left on the fibre, to make it easier to work with.

Today, wool work is kept alive on the Causses and Cévennes by a variety of craftspeople, who arrange workshops and courses to introduce others to the skills involved in this art. They include Lena Maurec, based in Vebron, the Causse Cousette fashion studio, the weaver Martine de Wavrehin-Tissot, and the studio of the Averyon-based company Le Sac du Berger.