Monte Velho

Reguengos de Monsaraz Rugs: A Living Heritage

Reguengos de Monsaraz Rugs: A Living Heritage

Alentejo rugs are a centuries-old tradition in the region. Originally used by shepherds during the cold weather, over the years, they have become a symbol of the Alentejo. The Fábrica Alentejana de Lanifícios mill in the town of Reguengos de Monsaraz has played a very important role in keeping the history of these rugs alive. When this traditional craft was disappearing, Mizette Nielsen gave it new hope.
Mizette Nielsen
Born in Holland, she has lived in France, Spain and England, working in fashion, advertising and cinema. In 1979, she arrived in Reguengos de Monsaraz after falling in love with the shuttle loom, in search of the roots of this craft. She arrived at a time when political freedom had swept the Alentejo fields and tested reforms. It was not an easy time and, being a woman, even less so. She bought this mill and struggled to find her place in local society: weaving was a man’s job and women remained in their shadow, carrying wool and making finishing touches to the work. Mizette rediscovered rural objects and rugs and began producing them again. And, little by little, she gave women increasing prominence.

Mizette made this rich heritage her own. Currently, there are five weavers keeping this legacy alive at the mill. Nowadays, the rugs are used as bedspreads, tapestries or cushions and boast a variety of sizes and patterns, depending on what customers want, but the basic rug always uses traditional style. Made from 100% wool, with no synthetic fibres added, these rugs can take various forms and employ a range of designs.

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This weaving mill, which is housed in an old olive press, also serves as a museum for old rugs made in Reguengos, which have been restored over the years. When we enter the mill, the weight of history takes us back decades, reflecting all the work Mizette Nielsen and her weavers have done: the extension of a memory that cannot be forgotten.

More than that: this is a new take on such a tradition. Offering new ideas, new designs and creations, it is a memory transposed to the present, in a new form, with a new lease of life.