Mafalda Menezes, weaver at the Atelier de Tecelagem das Mantas de Minde, begins by telling us in Minderico that “to weave menizias”, that is, “to weave blankets”.
In the past, this was an activity characteristic of the local community, and the production was mainly carried out by women. “Blankets were the family support of the population of Minde around 1900.
They built looms out of stone, wood, iron… everything is very simple and handicraft.” The production of blankets using wooden machines has reached a significant scale.
“There were about 200 looms in Minda. Elderly people say that it was wonderful to walk down the street and hear the sound of looms. They worked every day and sold blankets on the weekends to support the family.” Mafalda Menezes speaks of Minde’s routine almost a century ago, during the heyday of the blanket industry. Industrialization, and more recently the textile crisis, put an end to the clatter of the looms.
The exception is the Atelier de Tecelagem do CAORG, Centro de Artes e Ofícios Roque Gameiro, where, in addition to many other ancient tools such as spindles, winders and wheels, we still see old wooden looms. “One of them is very old. There are new works, but there are also those that are over a hundred years old.
We have two more new looms that were purchased to keep the tradition of weaving going. There are three of us,” says Mafalda Menezes.
Visitors can see them at work, watch the synchronization of the body with the machine under the sound of wood. “We tell people the story of the blankets and explain the whole production process. The usual reaction is surprise. On the other hand, since the rattling of the looms is noisy, some people pass along the street, being curious, and go inside to have a look.
The reaction of the people who lived in Minda many years ago is also interesting, and when they return, they are surprised to find that there are still looms that make blankets there. Some stay here and talk.
Mafalda Menezes is very fond of sewing the so-called fashionable blankets. They are very colorful, with bands of various warm colors such as red and yellow. “We follow four patterns. Minde’s blankets are all colored. That’s why they are guys. The term means colorful, beautiful. There is also a brown pattern with rainbow colors. Only the oldest blanket, dating back to the 19th century, the so-called black blanket, has natural wool colors. They weigh about 3 kg, and the fancy blanket weighs about 5 kg. The lady takes more wool.
A few decades ago, blankets were also used as clothing. For shepherds to protect themselves from the cold. “He had many uses. If the shepherd went to pasture, he could be used as a cloak. It was the main part of the dowry and they were used in beds. Today, there are still people who like to see them on their beds, but most prefer to put them on the floor. As a decorative item. We don’t have a lot of sales, but the demand is great because some people want a real Minde blanket.”
Small strips of blankets are used for other items that we can also see in the weaving workshop, such as shoes, bags and home accessories.
All production is carried out in the workshop and using traditional tools.
Mafalda Menezes has been working as a weaver for seven years and she is happy to talk about her profession and her contribution to the protection of one of the Mindericos brands. This is a demanding investment. We quickly complete it when we see her at the loom.
She explains why “it’s not easy. There must be coordination, head, torso and limbs. The loom is adapted to our body, to the length of our legs, arms … This is a factory work that requires knowledge, but, unfortunately, no one wants to continue. Very sad”.
This is your regret. Anyone can study at the Atelier de Tecelagem, but, as he puts it, “no one wants to.”
The universe of quilt production in Minda is limited to the Atelier de Tecelagem and is vital to the succession of the weavers. There are those in the area who make blankets, but there are other ladies, “it’s not 100% wool anymore. They also use fiber. Pure, traditional, as it was in the days of 200 looms in Minda, only here.”
The ladies of Mantas de Minde are part of the Antena1 program. Vou Ali e Já Venho supported by Turismo Centro Portugal, You can listen to the broadcast of this episode here.