in february this year, ross travelled extensively in india working with textile artists to design unique pieces for planet. a special visit was to the kullu valley in the himalayas, in the state of himachal pradesh to see yak's wool weaving.
an early morning flight from delhi was a beautiful way to see the dramatic landscape
yaks look a lot like big boxes covered with lots of hair to me. this pretty one was giving rides near a temple. they are brushed to remove the soft wool which might explain how this one is so well groomed.the fibre for our pieces is taken from the fine under-hairs and is lightweight, a fantastic insulator and wonderfully soft. generally the wool is brought from ladakh, high up in the himalayasyak’s hair is comparable to cashmere in softness and fine micron size.
this short film shows some of the processes in weaving...a bit rough and the audio is very patchy and I didn't plan to publish these at the time of recording.......
the yak’s wool arrives on spools and by hand it is put onto the shuttles to weave the weft fibres (these go across the fabric width).
to set up a loom takes two men a full day. 1280 threads need to pass through two needles by hand.
plain weaving takes a bit of energy (I have yet to see an overweight weaver) and also requires a bit of co-ordination. the arm pulls the shuttle across the weft. the feet raise the heddles, which alternate the threads to create the weave. complexity of the weave creates durable structure. usually in this type of weaving they create a diamond weave also known as “bulbul” or birds eye.
weaving is a communal activity. I saw about ten looms in operation together. weavers are paid per complete piece, so they want to be fast, but also accurate.
kullu weavers are famous for colourful border patterns. these complex geometric designs are created by hand on the loom. they tend to be symmetrical. traditionally they were naturally dyed, however currently fluorescent chemical colours are very popular. after the pattern is established, the loose threads are finished by hand.
the pieces are then cut from the loom and are washed and ironed and checked.
this yak's wool handloom fabric meterage I brought home and we have made into cushions.
this obliging guy let a woman pin a lady’s shawl on to him, so that she could show me how woven wear these shawls... basically he is in drag!
later I photographed this lady wearing the full regalia of silver pins that are used to hold the piece together. she is a shaman's wife and was very happy for me to photograph her!
men wear a particular cap which has a colourful geometric design.... its everyday wear and lots of blokes wear them
in a neighbouring region caller kinnaur they make large blankets with borders similar to the kullu weavers. the borders are considered to be prayers and have deep meaning. i was lucky enough to find some vintage pieces to send home for planet. two sections are stitched together to make the wide width, so they are enormous as well as beautiful.
the charcoal coloured yak's wool blankets like the one above, was made for planet by stitching two large shawls together. we have them in a pale grey and a natural too. they are large enough for a king bed ... and we do have the half size, suitable as a throw
some of the finished pieces that have just arrived for planet in yak's wool and we have an amazing selection in pashmina also
it snowed the first afternoon that I arrived too! quite a magical experience to be inside with a roaring fire and to see this landscape outside
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