All the Hemp used to create our raw thread balls and hemp accessories is grown in small villages in far Western Nepal. A once wild plant, it is now farmed to keep up with the export demand. These small, subsistence farmers grow hemp alongside all the daily food necessities of village life in Nepal and will rotate the growing of the crops to replenish the soil.
Hemp is one of the best soil replenishing plants as it actively removes unwanted or built up chemicals from the soil before it loosens heavily compacted ground with it's large root system.
Hemp doesn't need any pesticides (as it is already unpalatable to insects), or herbicides (as it reaches maturity quite quickly and no other weeds can compete), making it a naturally organic fibre.
It's water requirements are low as it creates it's own moisture rich hummus as it grows - throughout the growing season it continually drops leaves which act as an insulating layer and retain water.
Once the plant has reached maturity it will be harvested by hand, and let to dry for around 2 weeks. It is then soaked in water for 2 - 3 days and dried again. After this process it is beaten with a stick to separate the thick fibrous threads from each other, otherwise it would not be able to be spun.
The raw fibre is then spun by hand onto a stick and put into balls for ease of weaving. This is an important tradition and has been in place for generations. Each member of the village has his or her own role to play, neither being more important than the other.
The Giant Himalayan Stinging Nettle grows at altitudes between 1200 - 3000 metres. The fibre has been used in Nepal for centuries and is naturally anti bacterial and fungal resistant. It takes moisture away from the body, making it cool to wear in Summer, and it warms you up in Winter by trapping body heat.
Nettle in Nepal is harvested from the wild plant rather than farming techniques. The remote villagers will set up temporary camps next to the particular crops they will be harvesting each year. This technique is employed as it takes a far longer time for the Nettle plant to reach maturity (compared to Hemp) and more land is needed to ensure a regular supply of the fibre. As Nettle grows so bountiful in the wild it is not necessary to farm, so long as harvesters cut the plant off just above the ground to encourage regrowth with the next rains.
As with Hemp, there is a lengthy process to turn the plant into a fibre: the outer bark is stripped away from the fibre by the teeth of village men and then boiled in a wood ash broth for 4 - 5 hours. It is then rinsed off and soaked in white clay for around 2 weeks - without this clay the raw fibre would not separate into the strings needed for spinning. Village women perform the spinning by hand and onto a stick, often while on the move. The fibre is then woven into delicate shawls and scarves using a traditional backstrap loom.
Buffalo leather has been used to create essentials such as khukuri (Nepali knives) scabbards, porters headstraps and shoes for ... well, forever in Nepal. The leather is a by product of the meat industry, and (as always in Nepal) nothing in wasted in the process.
Skilled craftsmen hide the buffalo as they have done for generations. The skin is then tanned traditionally, which involves many different processes, each one replicating the methods used by their ancestors.
Long soaking in water in which local bark and leaves are placed allows the skin to soften while remaining strong. These natural ingredients also give the finished leather it's colour. Mustard oil is used to oil the almost finished piece.
An entirely local resource based industry employing many low caste members, using organic products and traditional methods.
Image credit Anthony Titley.
All of our wool clothing items are handmade with merino wool. As Nepal does not have a sheep industry to speak of, the raw wool is imported from Australia and New Zealand, spun, dyed, and then crafted into clothing, accessories and felt items.
Merino wool is superior to regular sheep wool as each individual fibre is significantly finer in diameter, creating a far warmer, softer garment without any itch.
All our wool products are handmade in Nepal by highly skilled and experienced women gaining financial empowerment by utilising their traditional skills in modern Nepal.