Wool. A natural fibre, formed in the skin of sheep, and when there’s grass to graze on, every sheep will produce a new skin each year. Beautiful, durable, long lasting wool ! Since the first time i used merino, it was my favorite because of its softness, no fluffs and its light weight. I found out merino is also excellent at regulating body temperature, especially when worn against the skin and merino is one of the softest types of wool available, due to finer fibers and smaller scales. This seems the perfect yarn for baby/childrens clothing from bieq !
Merino is produced by merino sheep originating in Spain at the Moors. In the Middle Ages they gave the sheep as present and the sheep went across many borders and finally worldwide. Nowadays most merino sheep live in Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, and South Africa. Merino sheep need to be sheared at least once a year because their wool does not stop growing. Their many skin folds makes an adult sheep producing up to five kilo of wool each year. Wool from one sheep is called a fleece, from many sheep, a clip. Merino wool is very good quality because per square centimeter grows ten times as much wool as other breeds.
As our main production is in Peru, we buy our bieq yarn at Lima / Peru at Inca Tops. Last januar we had a meeting with Juan Guinassi, the general sales manager. He told us bieq merino yarn has to be imported from either Uruguay or Argentina by Inca Tops. They buy raw merino and spin and colour in their factory. It is good to hear their colouring process for our yarn is the least harmfull for the environment and has been approved by the EC. Inca buys most of the raw merino in Uruguay from merino sheep farmers. I would love to visit a farm in the future (which would be possible Juan told me ! ). Inca tops especially checks if the yarn they buy is from farmers which do not mulesh their sheep. Many merino sheep be stripped of a piece of skin to fight a parasite in their buttocks without anesthesia. A very bad thing !
My last visit to Peru in the Andes made me see so many beautiful alpaca’s as well. and … Peru is bieq main production country, i decided to give it a try and use pure baby alpaca for upcoming luxury MUMS FOR MUMS project AW2014/15 ! to be continued …
After a more than 7 hour drive from Ayacucho through the beautiful Andes, on tuesday midday i arrived in the colonial village in the Andes : Huancavelica. This was a strategic Inca centre once and now is a very poor city in Peru with a population of approx 42.000 at 3700m in the Andes. Feeling quite nervous to meet them, i first had lunch with my Peruvean agent Silvia and afterwards we went to the ladies.
….It was GREAT ! After a personal hug for every lady and some real Dutch coockies i took, called ‘stroopwafel’ i thanked them all for the beautiful hand knits they made for bieq.
It felt so nice and warm to be amongst them ! To meet the ladies who wrote their names on the paper bieq tags of each item. They are so proud to knit for bieq and knew the names of the styles the knitted !
In Peru unfortunately are lots of broken families, (sexual) abuse and there still is a Macho culture. Women start to earn money for themselves.
At all places (outside of Lima), women are knitting : in the bus, while walking along the streets, while being at their market stall etc. which they sell mostly. Then only calculating the yarn they used and not the hours spend.
Women are happy to have a knit job ! The bieq ladies can use a room next to one of the local churches every weekday in the afternoon.
I made some portraits of them and talked with lots of them in person and showed them latest collection they now start knitting and WOW ! …Impressed and touched i left at the end of the afternoon with such a happy feeling and a conviction i want to sell much more items !
This is what bieq is supposed to be : a Dutch brand with hand-knits only to cherish this beautiful craft and to provide less developed women an income while knitting these items.
Production is 1 of the most important things when starting a brand. bieq was registered already on 1st june 2004. It did not feel completely ‘real’ though, as working with approx 10 great Dutch grannies found at marktplaats.nl was not safe to present at a fair.
In my mind it kept spinning : production in a country where less developed women can get a fair income while knitting my designs.Being at home with their kids or knit together in a group and bring their knits to checkpoint where they get paid. But where to start …
My feeling was to concentrate on South-America and soon Peru was in the picture ! I found a UKorganisation Clothing Connect wanting to help Peruvean companies to find production work. So i had personal meetings in Amsterdam with several different companies. Then i met Silvia the current bieq agent situated in Lima/Peru. After research and lots of contact we decided to cooperate, to jump and to book first fair ! de Kleine Fabriek in Amsterdam our hometown !
bieq had only a small stand which during this 3day fair was bumped with people : ordering clients from several countries, photographers, stylists, magazines, other brands bringing compliments. After the fair i drove home very alive + kicking ! YES !!
For the production i went to Peru. This was the real challenge ! The amount of yarn to order, buttons, tags, sizes and ..to meet the knitting Peruvean ladies ! It was so cool to see them knit the bieq items ! After 6 months we received the first delivery from the knitting ladies in Peru.At the moment i opened the first box, i knew my goal to get my own Dutch design brand with hand knits only from projects around the globe to help people and do what i like most, can work !
Now just arrived in Lima. to be continued…
dear all, a bieq blog, finally !
The story of bieq started already in 2004. I want to share the bieq story so far. And tell you why i founded the brand. How bieq spreads its wings around the globe and gave many happy moments and hope many more to come !
bieq in short : since my grandmother Riek teached me how to knit, i loved to do so. In her closet she had lots of different yarns and she and her sister-in-law aunt Ger, teached me how to knit & crochet.
In 2004 i made a babyhat for a newborn baby among my friends. This friend was in the local babystore and the owner kept asking where the hat is from. This was the first shop to sell bieq ! After i discovered merino and it beautiful qualities (which i will post about later on), i made some babyhat designs and went to the hottest baby shop in town : Keet in Huis /KNSM/Amsterdam. They bought 30 bieq hats which were sold in a month ! I decided to continue and contacted some more shops, also in Belgium.
The first orders i knitted myself, but soon i needed assistance and found some Dutch grannies via Markplaats.nl who knit for bieq. Till recently the eldest bieq knitting grannie was 84 ! She now stopped knitting as her sight is not good.
My main goal by then already was to find women in a less developed country and provide them an income while knitting together in a group or at home while being with their families, ánd to cherish this lovely craft of handknitting. It makes me very happy to see a new design from my paper, to the knitting needles, shown by a baby at bieq photoshoot, being sold at the fair to shops around the world, and finally to receive them from the knitting ladies in Peru ! #round is the circle.
From my home office there was first POPupStore last week. It was so very nice to see some of you and to meet some real bieq fans ! Thank you all and we’ll certainly have another one some time.