After our Tibetan wool is harvested and brought to our Nepalese facilities, it begins the next step in its journey towards becoming a beautiful heirloom as it is sorted, carded, and spun into yarn.
The wool is graded by craftspeople with a keen sense of touch for the material, a skill developed through years of practice: fibers are sorted for degree of fineness, length, and color. Wool from the back, neck, haunches, and shanks all have different qualities; from very thin and soft, to thick, coarse, and strong, so the wool sorting process is simplified when a fleece is shorn in one piece so these areas can be easily identified an entire fleece shorn from a sheep in one piece.
At this stage, the wool holds almost no resemblance to the soft, fluffy fiber we identify as virgin wool. It’s a coarse mass of tangled ropy fibers, greasy from the lanolin and matted from packaging and transportation. And that’s a good thing! To preserve its wonderful, stain repelling qualities, our wool gets carded “in the grease,” meaning that the lanolin is not washed out of the wool, although if the wool is especially dirty or full of vegetable matter it may be rinsed gently in water before being carded.
Carding the wool separates and realigns the wool fibers so that they can more easily be spun into yarn. Although tedious and time intensive, the carding process is completed by hand rather than machine to maintain the length of the natural fiber and help preserve its strength and durability. Once the fibers are separated and realigned, the wool is transformed into light, fluffy puff called rolags, and ready to move into the spinner’s basket.
Each of our artisan spinners wields a tool called a charkha, a machine similar to a Western spinning wheel, but often with exposed rather than wheeled spokes. Fluffy rolags are attached to the spindle of the charkha and carefully pulled into a fine thread until the spindle is full.
Finally, these spindles move onto to the hands of a master weaver, who transforms them into a wide variety of yarns, twisting only wool threads for single ply yarns, or combining them with different materials for a blended yarn.