Alentejo Blankets & Merino Sheep
For centuries, flocks of merino sheep have roamed Alentejo’s fields. Introduced by the Beri-Merines Berber dynasty, the breed is celebrated for the quality of its wool, characterized by its smooth, fine texture. To withstand the harsh Alentejo winters, the shepherds made the first fabrics for blankets and cloaks. Their simple patterns were tightly woven and waterproofed with an olive oil coating. These work mantas were part of the hired workers salary. The repertoire expanded to include more detailed traveling blankets and graves (decorative bed covers) which were socially regarded as objects of prestige. Only the best wool was used and the carefully selected dyes connected to the region. Patterns varied from elaborate, alluding to early Roman pottery, to simpler, pastoral themes.
ADVANTAGES OF WOOL
Wool is the basis of everything that is produced at Fábrica Alentejana de Lanifícios. It is a naturally sourced fiber, non-polluting, 100 % recyclable, renewable and durable. Merino wool is obtained from a very specific breed of sheep that produces the best wool in the world. There are some very special features that make merino wool the best option for decoration and protection:
Ideal for regulating heat & temperature
Merino sheep live in places with great thermal variation; and their wool helps them adapt. Merino wool fibers regulate temperature and absorb moisture, while retaining heat. Thanks to its hygroscopic properties, wool reacts constantly to changes in ambient temperature, regulating the thermophysical comfort levels of surrounding surfaces, in hot or cold weather alike.
Safe & Bacteria-free
Wool is naturally safe. It does not promote the growth of bacteria (which also means it's odor-free) and, thanks to its high water and nitrogen content, wool is less flammable than synthetic yarns. It is a flame-retardant material, used in the aeronautical and automobile industry.
Merino wool fibers are quite complex, just like the human body. They are basically composed of protein molecules known as keratin, and are thus very flexible and can be stretched by 30 thousand times or more in any direction, imparting added strength and stability to our crafted pieces.
Wool does not attract dust (no sniffling here), so it is ideal for people with mite or dust allergies.
In the 1930s, António Durão created a workshop employing masters and apprentices in the art of woolcraft. Decades later Jose Rosa brought together the region’s manta producers and the workshop became Fabrica Alentejana de Lanificios, with improved design, quality and production techniques. He created the MANTAS DE REGUENGOS (reguengos blankets) brand image, and was awarded the Gold Medal at the Brussels Universal Exhibition in 1958.
In 1977 Mizette Nielsen, a Dutch artisan, took over the business, investing in the timeless tradition of heirloom blankets. While retaining the prestige and quality of the Reguengos fabrics, she introduced creative design innovations that kept the brand alive. Mizette added value and a new dimension to this iconic art that is part of the Alentejo’s cultural identity.
January 2020 began a new era, as three Portuguese visionaries took ownership of the mills. Their passion for Alentejo’s wool craft tradition resulted in a commitment to local artisans, while introducing new products and repurposing traditional fabrics.