As I’m sitting here in Assam, feeling the tropical heat of this place and smelling mustard oil, chatting about eri yarn and natural dyes with Chandan and Latika, I realize that I have not had the opportunity to tell the story of our summer trip in Ladakh.
I returned to Ladakh on the 28th of June, full of energy for another wool sourcing trip and time in the mountains, working on the endless possibilities of the Kharnak wool and meeting all the dear people again.
The first two weeks were mostly spent around Kharnakling, where our products are spun and woven. Kharnakling, only 9 kms from Leh, is a small village of settled nomads, most of them from the region of Kharnak where we source our wool. Here it was about process optimization, spinning types, carpets and overall product development.
Surely, the Changthang Plateau was calling, these mountains so serene in the middle of nowhere…
I took the first trip to Kharnak in early to mid July to visit the community of Kharnak, a warm-hearted community of individuals and the loyal suppliers of our wool.
I made it a small habit to take two trips to Kharnak, one which is rather less work-intensive and which gives me the possibility to observe and share the daily life. The other one, certainly much more work-intensive is all about wool!
So I took off and went to Kharnak with Angchok one early chilly morning. We arrived and of course, went from chu skol (hot water) to cha kunak (butter tea) to yo (yoghurt) to tagi (bread) to cha shrul (butter tea with butter, ground barley, sugar and churra, the local cheese) and much more Kharnak food followed in the coming days. As every year I also went with Tenzin, the shepherd and all the sheep and goats to the mountains for the day. Always one of the most precious memories from Kharnak.
Of course, the second trip to Kharnak came quickly and Angtak, the younger brother of Angchok and Tenzin came with me to source the wool, now the third year in a row. This is when we are digging through the fleeces of wool, handpicking the yak wool and packing it all into big bags.
We had our wool shopping list and one day got together with the men from Kharnak who wanted to sell their wool. Karpo, Nakpo, Gnongpo, jumbu, khullu, bal – that’s the essentials to know for the sourcing: white, black, grey, lambswool, yak wool, sheepwool.
At the end of the day we had a mix of all of those and were very satisfied with our selection.
Once again, it was our plan to transport our wool from Kharnak towards Leh by crossing the Taglang La pass, as we have been doing and enjoying. Unfortunately, the day before we wanted to leave with our wool, all the men of Kharnak (those who are not shepherds and therefore, our potential horse men) left together to Leh in order to oppose the high presence of tanks and military in the Kharnak area. We therefore sent our wool with Angchok.
Here is when the biggest part of our work started: skirting, washing, carding – in short: processing the wool to make it ready for spinning. Since we left Kharnak and returned to Leh at the end of July this process has been ongoing: the lambswool is soft as ever and already knitted into beanies. The sheepwool is now clean and ready for carding. In between we went to visit our team in Himachal Pradesh and started the weaving and knitting for this fall.
So even though I have already arrived in Assam and we are talking eri silk in this completely different environment, the wool work is still going on, up in Ladakh, in Himachal Pradesh and in my mind. Here I would like to warmly thank Angtak ley for being such a loyal companion and growing wool expert!
We are eagerly waiting to seeing and feeling this year’s wool in one of our products, it will be an emotional moment haha! Surely, once they are up on the store and all around you will find out!
Thanks for reading,
P.S.: Here’s a small selection of 35mm, digital and cellphone photography, representing the different situations, photographers and convenience. Due to limited Internet here in Assam the pictures have a low resolution, well!