The Longo Mai Wool Mill In Chantemerle, Serre Chevalier – Reviving Missing Traditions

The arrival of the Longo Maï local community

When they took the mill on it was nothing but a substantial, aban­doned making, wherever no wool experienced been spun for sixteen a long time. The 1920 equipment was cov­ered in cobwebs, the floor lit­tered with rubble and several years of publicity to the features experienced weakened the composition alone. But the philosophy of this Swiss origin community is to preserve outdated traditions and techniques alive although residing self suffi­ciently and independently of modern day socioeconomic con­ventions. It seems that a single only wanted rolled-up sleeves, a powerful perception and a superior deal of tolerance. The end result is plain to see.

Serre Chevalier’s textile field

The mill is currently an up-and-operating enterprise and the group has 6 members. It is operate working with techniques that go again to the 14th century. It was all around that time the to start with mills sprang up in the Guisane Valley but the first textile field started off producing all around the 16th century. Little by minimal mills in the area, including the one in Chante­merle, begun operating textiles together with the regular grain business enterprise. Daniel Gilbert, a his­tory trainer in Briançon, tells us: “Till the 19th century, all textile mills preserved their flour mill to see to the desires of the village. You can however see the ancient millstone in Chante­merle.

There have been about fifty textile mills in the location in the 19th century, most of which ended up housed in previous flour mills.” These spouse and children enterprises man­ufactured for neighborhood customized. A hat manufacturing unit was established in Villeneuve and nowadays hosts the UCPA centre ‘les Chapeaux’, which means ‘hats’ in French.

The Schappe factories in Briancon were the largest silk mills in the Alps and flourished among 1873 and 1890. They employed 1,200 staff and maïnly provided the silk mag­nates of Lyon.

The Chantemerle mill

The Chantemer­le mill belonged to the Blan­chard family from the 1880’s onward and was one particular of the smallest in the valley. The chilly winters built it a seasonal activity as the water froze. With Globe War I the emerg­ing field of the spot wilted as personnel had been recruited as soldiers. The aftermath of the war witnessed a new period with changing consumer routines and fashionable textiles like cotton and nylon having more than the sector thanks to their comfort and straightforward treatment. The mills bit by bit dis­appeared and the Schappe factories ended up shut down in 1933. Three Blanchard genera­tions kept the Chantemerle mill open as a complement to their farming right up until the 60s.

The Longo Maï Mill these days

The Longo Maï group have not been idle considering that their arrival. They restored the workshop as nicely as living quarters for mem­bers, but they also invested in new machinery, a Merino flock of 450 ewes and a drinking water turbine, which makes 80% of their energy. Fifteen tons of great wool are turned into socks, jumpers, blankets etcetera just about every 12 months and then bought in their very own store, at marketplaces and by mail order. Ever caring to unfold their perception in wool as an outstanding merchandise, the mill organizes a guided tour of their workshop once a week. The customer will be taken by way of the three flooring of the creating and demonstrated the com­plete procedure of building a jumper or a blanket, from washing the wool to stitching it up. It is a jour­ney into a environment that could have been missing permanently.

Regardless of its a bit dated visual appearance and its uncomplicated equipment, this mill is renowned around the globe for its broad know-how and exploration into wool. It is a testomony to an industrialized European craft that carries on to fascinate.

Author: Jacqueline Louise Gagnon