Rethinking Wool

Wool has a rich and deep history - its use goes back to the stone age and is connected to survival, trade, and the economies of numerous societies. Many of the techniques used in wool production today haven’t changed much in the past century, in particular wasteful industrial processes like burning residues. Meanwhile, traditional techniques that both represent heritage and may be more environmentally or socially relevant are at risk of being lost.

There are already some examples of initiatives that are reshaping local value-chains around wool, addressing every step from farmers, spinners, weavers, designers and makers all the way beyond the consumer to waste and up-cycling centres that can give old wool new life. 

For shemakes, this opens up many challenges in terms of design, engineering and community engagement. That’s why shemakes partners and labs are studying wool from the ground up as a transversal project. In particular, we envisage creating “micro-factories” for  wool processing.
The investigation dives into three dimensions:

  • Place / connects different locations, observes localized practises and creates a common knowledge base. We look at the resources of each specific place, its cultural heritage and wool-related processes, while thinking about how to work with locals towards socially sustainable practices, creating design interventions between labs and other stakeholders (from farmers to industry to recycling).
  • Design / zooming into the properties of the resource and its diversity, the design phase examines extant techniques and experiments with new techniques. We will imagine and design applications such as boots, hats, insulation, carpets, pots... We will have the possibility to test natural and bacterial dyeing with various types of wool. 
  • Make / looks at the machines, the equipment and tools that support wool processing, exploring past, ongoing and future forms of production. We will collect, hack and create open-source tools like weaving looms, spinning wheels, and other machines for brushing, shearing, felting, tufting, etc.


Read further details about our experimentation with wool in the shemakes Open Toolkit.

shemakes Open Toolkit