Myriam is an almost sixty years old young passionate about wool crafting. Her wool business at the farm of La Thibaudière in Vendée (France) started four years ago. She transforms the traditional way the wool of her alpacas, sheep (Shropshire, Mérinos from Rambouillet, Swedish, Solognot and Gothland) and angora goats and that recovered from sheep farms in the area. Her breeding includes fifteen animals over 3 ha.
After washing it, she cards and spins a part of the wool and sends the rest to small French spinning industries. Once the wool balls and skeins ready, Myriam dyes them with 100% natural dyes.
She grows tinctorial plants (Reseda or Gaude, Safflower, Yarrow, Isatis Tinctoria or Pastel, Sarrazin, Alfalfa …) or collects them in the wild to manufacture her own dyes. When she fails to obtain the desired shades, she buys from merchants specialized in ecological vegetable dyes.
Under the brand Nat Wooly, Myriam sells wool balls, natural or dyed and also weaves them to make hats, shawls, sweaters and other fashion accessories. The sale takes place in the farm shop every Thursday afternoon from April to October, on artisans markets, fairs and the Internet. “My goal is to promote the wool, arouse envy of knitting them and put them in shape.”
Always driven by the love of nature and animals
Myriam begins her career as a nurse in Paris. She grew up in a small suburban house where she was fortunate to have a small patch of grass to test a miniature garden. The need for nature eventually catch up and pushes her to settle in Normandy with her partner to renovate a house. While continuing a nursing work at home, Myriam begins to develop manual activities, raises some sheep and chickens, and learns to spin wool and to transform products from her garden. Through these activities and many meetings with farmers and artisans working wool, her passion for nature and animals is confirmed.
Landed in the Vendée region to be closer to the ocean; after many visits of houses with land, she falls in love with one of them and settles. Her job as a nurse eventually weighs on her; “When you’re a nurse you are like a battery, you unload yourself every day and you get refills at home. Over time, the battery will discharge faster and faster and will become increasingly more difficult to recharge.”
Following a divorce Myriam wants to keep the house and restore it to its former life, it was a small farm. The idea of setting up an educational farm appears quickly, with great support close friends and the village mayor the project takes shape. It is at this time that relations with the neighborhood become tense, farmers in the area do not necessarily see in a positive light she approaches their profession. Never mind, she welcomes groups for several years for various educational activities on the farm. Children discover enthusiastically vegetable and dye plants and farm animals (pigs, geese, chickens, sheep, goats, donkeys, horses …).
She also organizes workshops to present the wool transformation process but she’s willing to go further: “I feel the link with the animal when I craft the fiber, the texture, the odor, knowing where it comes from. I’m always fascinated by this process.”
Little by little, Myriam crafts her project
Managing an educational farm, as small as it is, requires a lot of energy and interactions with people just passing through. It is time to change direction to find an activity that suits her more, and that allows people to stay longer on site. Myriam since childhood was immersed in the wool, creating, sewing, fibers; her mother was an outstanding seamstress. “Wool is a great matter; a renewable material with strong connection with the land and animals. Today the majority of the French wool is processed and worked in China with non-ecological methods and the result is not very good. Transforming the artisanal way the wool in France is to me a militant action in order to upgrade this noble material that has been completely forgotten.“
To be profitable, Myriam adds to her small farm project, the eco-camping in a yurt. When she presents her case to banks, she gets seven loan refusals because this is too small a project, too alternative, with too little investments and in addition led by a single women. Support from the Guarantee Fund to the Initiative of Women who stands surety is not enough to convince bankers. Fortunately, a more open-minded bank manager agrees to support her.
The first dye plants in place, she begins such as a magician numerous tests to find new colors. She presents her discoveries to campers and visitors during summer workshops on the farm.
Today, the wool business and eco-camping activities are in financial equilibrium, Myriam thinks she can generate a salary soon. Her wish is to grow the wool activity and contribute to the development of the French wool industry. Indeed, she plans to enroll in the association Nature et Progrès (an association that promotes organic agriculture) and participates in the creation of a charter for the organic textile sector. “I plan thereafter, if the wool business wins well, to limit camping and possibly book for people internships, with two activities full time you must ensure communication, paperwork etc … of each; it’s harder than you think to overlap both.”
His project seems to be on track; Myriam regularly hosts the European Days of Craftsmanship and received the award for best art craft for her processing of wool in 2014.
Advice for future new peasants
“I strongly advice WWOOFING (World Wide Opportunities in Organic Farming, a network where you can find organic farms to do volunteer work in exchange of food and bed) because you can experiment the daily life of the farmer, adapt to it and discover the reality of the job. “
“Meet people that understand the spirit of your project.”
“Be perseverant without being crazy”
“Do not start alone, it is really hard. For instance being a couple can help to have add an extra revenue. “