From Porto we traveled south to the Serra da Estrela mountains of Portugal. Our first stop in this region was the Burel Wool Factory.
Burel Wool Factory produces wool fabric and finished goods that are sold in stores throughout Portugal. We were able to tour the wool factory located in the village of Manteigas. This picturesque village lies in a valley surrounded by mountains and is accessible by a very winding road of switchbacks. The factory includes equipment for most processes involved in creating the woolen goods. We were able to see carding, spinning, plying, weaving, finishing and cut and sew production on our factory tour.
The equipment used in the Burel Factory was unique and unlike what we have seen in other mills. They had weaving looms and machinery over 100 years old, as well as more "modern" machinery dating from the 1970s. Some of the spools used in the machines were over 6 feet long. The space was bright and clean, and full of natural light. It was amazing to see the whole process of wool fleece to finished object in one space. All the machinery was going full speed making beautiful things.
Burel weaves patterned woven wool fabric, very traditional to the region, but they are also known for their colorful, solid boiled wool. They use this fabric to make modern, architectural pieces like hand stitched, three dimensional wool coverings for walls and ceilings. They even make vases out of wool! While we were there, they were finishing a large custom project for a wool ceiling that was slated for a new restaurant. Several workers were busy tufting and sewing. Burel also works with a number of Portuguese designers who use their fabric for everything from wool shoes to bags to clothing.
We were very excited to learn that the factory had a selection of "seconds" for sale--blankets and shawls that had small flaws and were sold at a discount. Our group took advantage of that section and found dreamy woolen goods to take home with us. We also visited their factory store, with finished goods such as bags, clothing, and shoes made with their wool.
Burel owns a mountain resort just outside Manteigas, which was our home for three nights. The Casa das Penhas Douradas is located high in the mountains above the village, in the heart of the Serra da Estrela national park. It is a gorgeous hotel outfitted with beautiful wool blankets, rugs and pillows in every room, of course, made by Burel.
This lodging was a hiker's dream surrounded by trails. Anna, Keli, Caitlin and I all went on a long 16-mile hike one day making a loop around the surrounding mountains. The landscape is beautiful, although everywhere there were signs of the fires that have affected Serra da Estrela, just like they have here in Colorado. Our hike ended at a lake that we swam in - the perfect way to cool off after a long day of adventuring.
Stay tuned to learn about a sheep blessing we attended on St John's day!