Herders to Home 2021: Luxury Mongolian Yarn and Fiber

Created by Jon Hetts

Herders to Home, ULA+LIA procures fibers from free-range Mongolian animals to create world-class knitting yarn

Latest Updates from Our Project:

Mid-Late August Production Update!
28 days ago – Sat, Aug 21, 2021 at 12:59:45 AM

Hey Everybody,

Sorry the long radio silence, but I'd been waiting for a few different things before writing and update but they kept getting pushed back, but at a point here where I have a few things to share!


The Not So Great

Unfortunately, we are still waiting for the rest of our fiber, which is our camel, yak wool, and sheep wool. The sheep wool should be coming any day, and the camel wool and yak wool will come at the end of next week/beginning of the week after that. I met with our spinning factory at the end of last week and we're currently in queue to have our cashmere dyed and start spinning.

Although the COVID situation has improved somewhat in Mongolia, there have been some delays at pretty much each step of the processing so far. At the washing, dehairing, and spinning facilities we use, there have been cases which requires shutting down for 7-10 days and a pushing back of schedules. All of the workers are vaccinated so they haven't resulted in any serious cases, but we still take a lot of precautionary measures. 


The Better

Even with the delays so far, I'm still trying to get everything to the states for distribution by mid-late November. Depending exactly on when things get finished up and what global logistics are looking like, we may end up flying everything to America instead of going by boat to save some time. It is a bit (lot) more expensive, but if that means everything is safely delivered and inventory is in stock for the holiday season, I think it makes sense to do so. Ocean freight still seems super congested at the moment and I'm not confident it's going to improve as we go into the fall and close in on the holidays. Last year missing the holidays and winter selling season was very difficult, so doing everything to avoid that!

The Cool and Good

-NATURAL DYES

I have *finally* received the natural dyes and mordant for our baby camel wool. This actually turned into a rather large problem as the mordant specifically got stuck in customs, but we prevailed in the end! I have a meeting set up on Wednesday at the dyeing factory I'm hoping to work with here to go over the process. Once I get our fiber I might bust out the pot and pans in my kitchen to have some fun! Here's some of the dye:

Our lac and weld dyes!

-SOCKS

Due to issues with batch minimums, in previous years I always split the batches with our spinning factory for socks. This year we're going to make our own sock yarn and do full runs of socks. This means #1 we're going to have a lot more inventory and #2 we can add our ULA+LIA logo on the socks instead of the generic markings we had last year.

Since we have full control now, I'm interested in adding a 10-15% yak wool mix to the sheep wool to soften/warm things up a bit. I wouldn't increase the price at all for those that have preordered, but wanted to put this out there as a slightly more unique and luxurious option that I'd prefer. I can't think of any downsides here except maybe darkening the color slightly, but if it's important to anybody that the socks are completely 100% sheep wool instead of the yak wool blend, please let me know and I'll find some solutions. It's also possible for me to do a run of pure yak wool socks in addition to the sheep wool, but I'd end up with A LOT of socks!


-RECYCLED CASHMERE BLEND

Similar to some of the problems I'm having with the natural dyes, I'm hitting some snags with the recycled cashmere blend as I'm being reminded how difficult it can be to do new things sometimes. The factories I'm trying to work with the shred my old cashmere clothes are giving me a lot of excuses. It's a *very* small ask that I have to shred the ~15kg I have to make our spinning batch, but I keep getting pushed off. I went for the nuclear option on Wednesday and called in a favor from the main director of one of the cashmere factories, so I'm hoping that will solve my problem without getting anybody particularly angry at me. But if not, the backup option I have is to do the blend with 15% of new cashmere (the natural taupe). 

This wouldn't increase the price for anybody that preordered, but I wanted to have this out there as an option in case I get completely stuck and run out of time. There will be plenty of time to change/refund orders if the recycled clothes aspect is make or break for you, but wanted to mention this incase things don't work out. There's also the possibility that the yarn created with the recycled fiber won't be of a working quality, and this would be the solution in that scenario as well. I still think we'll get it done, but wanted to be clear about the problems and potential solutions here!

Backerkit and Charging Cards

I'd still like to wait until dyeing is finished and we have the exact final colors to show until charging cards, which will be a few more weeks. I will give at least a 10 day notice of when I'm going to charge cards. If you would like for me to charge your card now, please send me an email at info@ulaandlia.com and I can do that. If you'd like to add to or change your survey, please follow this link to get your survey.


OK, I think that's it for me! A lot of info here, so please feel free to holler with any questions. I have finally planned a short getaway to the countryside which will be starting on the 27th. I'm looking forward to hanging with some animals and doing a lot of knitting, so I'll hopefully have plenty of new pictures to share in the next updates.

Thank you!

-Jon

Through the woods we go
King of the hill

Our cashmere has arrived!
about 2 months ago – Fri, Jul 30, 2021 at 11:20:12 PM

Hey Everybody,

Not a whole lot of progress to report quite yet but still wanted to send an update on where things are at. We have received all of our cashmere, but are still waiting for our other fibers. The sheep wool is waiting for delivery, and the yak and baby camel wool are in their final stages of processing. I'd be surprised if we don't have everything in hand within the next two weeks! 

When the cashmere shows up:

It's not always glamorous!

We received three natural cashmere colors this year for dyeing. Above is a light grey/beige used as the base for most dyed colors in conjunction with the taupe. We'll make undyed yarn with the cream and taupe.

Our two natural colors (cream and taupe)

The cashmere has definitely met my expectations and CANNOT WAIT to see how it spins up! The test results I have put the thickness between 15.5 and 16 micron depending on the color, which is really fine for Mongolian cashmere. Our previous years was usually around 16.5-17, although it would depend on the color a bit. I'm waiting on the schedule from the factory, but I'm hoping we can get the cashmere sent out ASAP for dyeing and start spinning in the next week or two.

Natural Dyes

In other news, the natural dyes from Germany are slated to arrive Monday. As long as there aren't any super goofy loops to jump through with customs here, that will get delivered to the dyeing facility on early next week when I meet with them. Unbeknownst to me, I actually know the person that I'll be working with there to do some testing and final dyeing, so it should be really nice to have fuller access to things. 

Recycled Cashmere

As for the recycled cashmere yarn, I've been getting the runaround a bit with trying to get the clothes shredded down. My first option has given me too many excuses and won't shred the clothes for me. Right now the clothes are at my backup option and are in queue. When I talked to the director there yesterday he told me it will be finished by the middle of August. This has been a bit aggravating for me because it's a rather small ask, but it really feels like a lot of places really don't want to try new things even if it doesn't impact them. I'll be beyond relieved and proud when there is something to show here! In the meantime I'll just keep poking people until it gets pushed through.


That's about all I have to update for now. I'm planning to charge cards for Backerkit sometime around the middle/end of August, but I'll give everybody plenty of notice before I do so. Ideally I'd like to have all of the fibers at least dyed to show off the true colors and give everybody a chance to make any changes. If you'd like to get back to your survey, please follow this link. If you're still haven't received your survey and the link doesn't work, please send me a message and we can work it out.

Thank you! Hopefully I'll have colors and more fibers to show soon!

-Jon


horseback livin!
Yak Fest 2018!

Backerkit is open!
2 months ago – Fri, Jul 16, 2021 at 02:36:06 AM

Hey Everybody!

Finally got everything together and cleared to open up Backerkit, and you should get an email within 12 hours from this update with your invite. If you don't get an email, please check your spam/promotion folders to make sure it didn't get stuck there. If you still can't find it, please send me a message at info@ulaandlia.com and we can figure it out. The invite will be sent to the same email you used to pledge on Kickstarter! 

If during the Backerkit process you ever lose your survey email, you can have it resent by going to this link and entering your email.

If you pledged on the Kickstarter campaign, please DO NOT follow the link on the main Kickstarter project page. That is for new pledges/preorders, and you will be charged twice if you go through that link. Please always access your survey through the invite email or this link.

Natural Dye and Recycled Cashmere/Wool Blend Upgrades

As for Backerkit itself, it should be pretty straight forward! One thing that I did have to switch around was how the upgrade prices for the naturally dyed camel wool and recycled cashmere blend work for the addons, but this will not be a problem if you directly pledged for these packages on Kickstarter.

 Do to how Backerkit works, I was not able to charge upgrade fees for the packages (e.g. in a 700g Baby Camel package, you could not mix 3 skeins of natural dye and 4 skeins regular dye.) Because of this, I had to separate them into two different items. If you'd like to mix the natural dye or cashmere/wool blend in a package, please select the upgraded item package and let me know after making your choices at info@ulaandlia.com and I will assign credit for you on the backend.

For the variety add-on packs, there's less that I can do. If you plan to choose an upgraded skein, please select the 'upgrade fees' add-on and select how many skeins you will upgrade. That will add the charge to your cart.

I think that's about as clear as mud, but I think it will make sense when going through the survey. Sorry for the confusion here!

Colors and Lace Options

If you'd like one place to view all the colors, here they are! Lace will be available in the Plum Cashmere, Antique Ruby Baby Yak, Dark Harbor Blue Baby Camel, and Recycled Cashmere/Wool blend.

Other than that, rather smooth sailing over here! We're at a little bit of the calm before the storm as this week is Naadam, a national holiday here. Even though the festivities have been canceled, the country is more or less on break. Our cashmere is ready to be delivered to our spinning factory to start the dyeing process, and the camel wool has been washed and now needs to be dehaired. Around the end of the month/beginning of next month we're planning to start spinning. Next week, we'll also start shredding some cashmere clothes to prep for the blend!

As always, please holler with any questions, comments, or concerns! Backerkit usually runs rather smoothly, but please let me know if you see any mistakes or errors in the survey that I can fix quickly.


Thank you!

-Jon

A cold shot for those in the heat!

Thank you everybody for another awesome campaign!
2 months ago – Sun, Jul 04, 2021 at 06:42:02 PM

Hey Everybody,


THANK YOU once again for an awesome start to a new fiber season. We've got a lot of new and interesting things happening over the next couple of months and I can't wait to see how everything comes out.

As for what's next, I'll send everybody their invites into Backerkit in 14 days. Backerkit recommends waiting until the payments are processed for the Kickstarter pledges before opening up the Backerkit platform to streamline the process. After you get an invite email to Backerkit (in 14 days) you'll be able to select your yarn colors, weights, and add on any other items you'd like. I'll also have some finished items (socks, knitted items) and spinning fiber for those interested!

Until then, just hang out! I'm hoping I'll have some more updates with fiber processing over the next week, and I'll share as many updates as possible with the progress. If you ever have any questions, feel free to holler anyway you'd like, whether it's on here,  ravelry,  facebook, or email at info@ulaandlia.com.

I'm looking forward to a busy summer!

THANK YOU!

-Jon

Down to the final stretch!
3 months ago – Tue, Jun 29, 2021 at 02:33:59 AM

Hey Everybody!


Hope you're all enjoying the summer! As we're getting down to the last couple of days I wanted to update everybody with what's happening and what to expect. Still not a lot happening at the moment, but things should start getting pretty busy in the next few weeks.

Cashmere is undergoing the washing and then will head to a different facility for dehairing, which is where all of the thicker guard hairs get removed and leave just the fine cashmere. Here's a video of the washing in action. It's done on some old Japanese equipment! It has three different stages of more or less the same process, getting cleaner and cleaner as it goes.

Before it hits the water, it gets shaken out a little bit more to reduce the amount of soil dust in the cashmere.

Heading Into the Washer!

In other news, we're making the final arrangements for the natural dyes we're going to be using for the baby camel wool! I know we haven't quite hit the $90,000 mark yet for the ochre camel wool, but I've already got to put the order in! Here's a bit more info about the dyes.

Sorry for the poor picture quality, but this is about the best I've got until I can get the dye and we can play around a bit more with the sampling. For the red, we're going to be using lac dye, which is similar to the cochineal I was originally planning for but this will give us a deeper red. The ochre will come from the plant that is called a lot of different things, but some of those names include weld/dyer's weed/dyer's rocket. According to Wikipedia this dye has been used since the first millennium BC, so really interested to see how this comes out! As far as I know this will be the first commercial projects using natural dyes in Mongolia, so I hope there can garner some interest in some local producers here as well. Maybe we'll even do some limited items with our dyed yak wool and natural dyed baby camel wool!


Other than that, not a ton to report! Mongolia is still struggling pretty hard with covid stuff, although we do seem to be trending in the right direction at least. Most businesses are still open here in the city, but traveling out to the countryside is still tough and I expect it to be for a while yet. We'll get there soon enough though!


OK that's all! You'll hear from me again when the campaign ends to talk about Backerkit and the next steps going forward. Thank you guys for the support! As always, please holler with any questions, comments, or concerns!


Thank you,


Jon