Moeke Yarns was started in 2014 by Ioana together with her brother Radu and his wife Simina. Ioana lives in The Netherlands, her brother and his wife have their life and business in Romania.
In 2013, Ioana went to visit her parents who now live in my grandparents’ house and looking through the things left by her grandmother she found two big bags with yarn, hand-spun by her grandmother 16 years ago to be made into bed spreads for her grand children. She ran out of time and sadly passed away.
Ioana realised that there is a potential there that was lost... Romania has quite a number of traditional sheep breeds and a long tradition in wool processing. But nowadays, due to bad economic circumstances, shepherds cannot sell their wool anymore so they burn it. Such a waste…
Her decision to do something about it was immediate. She told her brother about her plan and he was immediately enthusiastic. They would make yarns from Romanian wool, produced with traditional methods and no harmful chemicals, spun in a traditional fiber mill and dyed with plants.
The yarns have proven to be a big hit, so much so that they haven't even broached the subject of dyeing them yet, so for now the yarns are available un-dyed only. Batches are small and seasonal so until the Autumn, we only have a limited choice available.
The story of the yarns
Producing great eco-friendly yarns is a laborious process involving lots of care, dedication and commitment to quality.
The journey to create great wool yarn starts with finding great sheep! Ioana found her sheep with local Romanian shepherds. She looked carefully how the sheep lived and fed to ensure that we only buy fleeces from healthy and happy animals, well taken care of and tenjoying their life outside, on natural pastures. These sheep do not have their tails clipped and no mulesing is practiced on them (mulesing is the removal of strips of wool-bearing skin from around the buttocks of a sheep. The argument behind it is to prevent flystrike but it is a very controversial practice).
Sheep living on natural pastures has a downside - more vegetable matter tangled in the wool. The fleeces are first sorted and cleaned by hand. Next operation is washing with warm water, salt and then mild eco-friendly detergents. It is a laborious process and a lot of time and energy is invested into it. The aim is to remove the dirt and around 70% of the lanolin (the fibre cannot be spun if too much lanolin is left in).
There used to be fibre mills everywhere in Romania. But after the 1989 revolution the wool industry collapsed and these old-fashion fiber mills closed, one after the other. Only a small number survived. The machines in these fiber mills are hundred years old, still working and in good shape! However, they cannot be compared to modern machines that can be operated with a push of a button. They are kept in the family for generations and the craft of spinning yarn is passed on from parents to children and to grandchildren. Despite the difficulties that these old machines pose, they persisted and pushed on with their initial plan.
After the yarn comes back from the fiber mill it is washed again with eco-friendly detergents and sodium bicarbonate and it is rinsed in water with vinegar to remove dust and impurities that stick to the lanolin. Still, even this additional wash will not remove all the lanolin on the fiber. When using the yarn your hands will feel the difference! The yarn is a minimally processed yarn, that means that it still has some vegetable matter and lanolin in it. It is the result of not using any harsh chemical agents during the production of the yarns.