The yaks in Changthang live in altitudes between 4,000 and 5,000 m and therefore, need to have a very warm coat to keep warm during the cold winter months with temperatures up to -40 C degrees.
The yaks have a three-layer coat. On the very outside, the hair covering the yak is used for making tents and ropes. The mid-layer is a bit thinner however too rough to use as a fine wool.
The wool closest to the body is the finest and used for garments. It's very strong and keeps warm, is odor-resistant as it absorbs moisture easily and releases it into the air.
In Ladakh, the nomads keep yaks, pashmina goats and sheep.
The procedure for the ‘farming’ of the wool differs from the type of wool: yak wool is plucked, pashmina wool is combed and a sheep is shorn.
A yak is only plucked once a year and per yak there is about 1 – 1,5kg of wool. Sheep are shorn twice a year.
In Ladakh and Himachal Pradesh our team is spinning yak wool, sheep wool and lambswool.
The yarn for the warp, going vertically from the loom,
is twisted to give it extra strength.
Yak wool is a very tricky one to spin as the fiber is very short.
Lambswool & Sheep wool have a longer fiber and are easier to spin.
The loinloom of the Changpa is made of wooden sticks which are the frame and the yarn is beaten down with a longer wide wooden stick with a small comb. The weaving happens on the ground and always outside. A piece of fabric is held around the waist to keep the warp stretched.
We are now using the lambswool for knitting in Himachal Pradesh
where a group of ladies is creating beanies, scarves and gloves
with the handspun lambswool.
Very particular, the fiber of the Changthang lambswool is very long and excellent for spinning by hand.
It is soft and warm and contrary to other wools, the fabric can be worn on bare skin without an itchy feeling.