Bucos is a small isolated village in Cabreira mountains, in Cabeceiras de Basto, north of Portugal. There, people survived mostly from agriculture and from the sheep they all raised in the surrounding mountains. These provided a secure source of food and wool, a raw material essencial for protection and warmth during the long cold winter time. The shearing was always done once a year and with the wool they could make clothes, sockings, blankets and other kind of materials to help them endure the cold, the rain, and the rough weather conditions of living even if for short periods of time in the mountains. Women, after their domestic activities and field crop cultivation, used their spare time to work the wool. All those that were grazing their flocks of sheep also carried a spindle and were spinning the wool at the same time.
Nowadays, women, generally speaking, abandoned domestic activities and started working in the secondary and tertiary sectors. However, a small group of women who loved the work with the wool kept the habit of meeting some days of the week to work the wool, performing the whole set of activities - from the washing to the weaving. It is a pleasure to listen to them talking about the old times, while their hands work: tousling, combing, spinning, plying, skeining, swifting and weaving.
To help preserve that know-how and tradition "Casa da Lã" ("House of Wool") was created. An old shool was renovated to accomodate them and all the tools necessary to recreate the traditional process of making wool. The wool that is used in "Casa da Lã" ("House of Wool") mostly comes from local flocks of the Bordaleiras Entre Douro e Minho, a native breed, in order to keep the high standard quality of the old times. "Casa da Lã", besides being a place of work for these women, is also a museum and a centre of interpretation of this traditional way of working the wool. This is a live Museuum considering that this group of Buco women are there in a real working situation and can also explain to visitors what they do and how, and their interest in passing down this tradition from generation to generation. They work under the guidance of a fashion designer and textile artist, Helena Cardoso, and they achieve a wonderful work combining the ancestral know-how, wool crafted by hand, with contemporary creativity. Therefore, they are creating wonderful clothes with Design following the old traditions. To do this, they use old looms or have had copies of old looms made, as well as old tools still in activity such as: steel teeth combs, spindels, skeiners, swifts and others.
This project has been helping these women have a better life, as it keeps them busy and focused and also teaches them to socialize with each other. It is becoming also a touristic and fashion attraction. The quality of the products is superb and these are quickly sold to all those that visit this place. This project is now a success and its recognition is a guarantee that this tradition is going to be kept. Inside "Casa da Lã" (House of Wool) there is a wonderful atmosphere, where passion, soft raw wool and textiles combine so well with the brilliant light and the colours of the mountains around.
Women have worked the wool for centuries, but their names have been forgotten. To pay a tribute to Bucos' women that still work with determination the loom, the spindle, the swift, the skeiner, the comb... Here are their names:
Ilídia Mateus Oliveira (born April 22, 1946)
Ana Francisca Fernandes Teixeira Pires (born March 5, 1947)
Maria Teresa Senra Simões (born March 5, 1948)
Elisa da Conceição Gonçalves Brás (born Dec. 8, 1949)
Adelaide Machado Fernandes (born March 5, 1950)
Ana Gomes Brás (born Dec. 2, 1954)
Teresa de Jesus Ferreira Oliveira (born Oct, 1, 1956)
Maria Marques Santos Quintas Simões (born Jun. 3, 1960)
Maria Gonçalves Jorge (born April 1, 19629.
All these women have been an inspiration to me. I thank them all for the kind way they shared all the wool secrets with me.
I hope this documentary work may help them achieving their goal, that is to say, that the secrets of work of the wool may never be forgotten.
Other sources of information:
"Mulheres de Bucos (cabeceiras de basto): trabalho da lã" / Câmara Municipal de Cabeceiras de Basto. (ISBN: 978-972-96369-4-3)