Founder of WEHVE, Gesine Holschuh, went on a series of trips to South America when she discovered weaving collectives and merino sheep farmers in Uruguay.
Merino wool forms the foundation of her woven designs, sometimes blended with other fibers like Pima cotton, Mulberry silk, linen and baby alpaca wool.
Merino wool is breathable, soft and water-repellent. It also regulates the temperature of the body, keeping you cool in hot weather and warm in winter time.
Sharing the merino wool process not only emphasizes the handmade quality of WEHVE but also gives the people behind the process the attention they deserve. Even after five years, Gesine still travels every other month to the artisans to stay on top of things and to connect the threads of human relationships. All the cooperatives operate according to established global fair trade principles. Transparency is key.
FEEL GOOD, LOOK GOOD
Let's start from the beginning. Uruguay’s temperate climate and large pasture lands are excellent for sheep breeding in a natural, renewable and self-sustainable environment. The sheep enjoy freedom the whole year around and are only brought into the shearing hut once a year to get shorn by professional shearers. The shearing process is easy and fluent, with a steady hand, a fluent motion and without stressing out the sheep. Believe it or not, but when the treatment of the sheep lacks humanity, it shows in the quality of the wool.
SORT THE GOOD FROM THE BAD
The wool is now thrown onto the sorting table and the wool classifier checks it for fineness of fiber, length, stability, fullness and particularly its resistance. Fleeces are washed to remove dirt, dust, vegetable matter, sweat and wool grease. Did you know that the wool grease is recovered and, from this, lanolin is extracted? You can find lanolin in your everyday beauty products. This zerowaste approach is essential in the philosophy of WEHVE.
Now we have packed fibres in a random formation. This scoured loose wool now undergoes the next stage of manufacture. They use specific techniques such as carding, combing and gilling to prepare the wool for the spinning process, at which the wool is formed into a yarn. The processes conducted between scouring and spinning are collectively known as top-making.
COLOUR ME HAPPY
Ready to add some colour? The secret to the incredible colours of WEHVE designs lies in the artisanal process of patient kettle dyeing in small pots using the pantone colours that Gesine shows to the artisans. At the same time old techniques are honoured. They create the subtle nuances in their striated colours as well as the fantastical shading in space-dyed yarns. Each piece is therefore unique.
WEHVE STANDS FOR WEAVING
As you probably already know by now, WEHVE extracts its name from weaving, the process of interlacing yarns. Gesine personally knows every single player in the production chain, with whom she is regularly in contact. Even more so, Gesine herself carefully set out the guidelines for the weavers, keeping in mind the technical difficulties of weaving every design by hand. The weaving process is a labor-intensive job. To give you an example, setting up the loom only takes about four hours.
Every step is done by hand, so it is crucial that the weavers have a positive mindset. If not, it will reflect on the quality of the weaving. For this and other - more obvious - reasons, Gesine is keen on making sure that WEHVE is actively contributing to the independence and autonomy of the people who dye her yarns and weave her collections. The end result is both a creative splurge from a social entrepreneur with the soul of an adventurer as well as a testimonial to the know-how and tradition of artisans overseas.