Our good wool hunting started on a golf course. Who would have thought that a lady, a handsome sheep, a golf course, a walking fanatic, and an innovative idea would lead us to a new product line in Muezart!
Ready for the story?
A striking looking sheep that called our attention
Age-old, Beautiful, Golf Course Is Where Our Story Begins
Our story begins on a golf course. The Shillong Golf Course is breathtakingly beautiful. Rolling green terrain surrounded by coniferous trees. The British established this 9-hole course in 1898 and it became an 18-hole course in 1924. What is a pleasant change is that the Shillong Golf Course is a shared resource of the city. It is not fenced off or zoned out. Parts of it is open to the public to use as a kind of park. In a city like Shillong with such an undulating terrain, it is hard to find a plain flat area of grass that can be used by families.
There is a big stretch of the golf course. Cars must be stopped for golfers to swing their clubs. Come Sunday the sight of children, men, and women sunning themselves, walking or playing on the ground near this road are very common.
You don’t need to look much further, and you will see goats and sheep grazing too! A rustic sight so very pleasing to the eye and the heart.
Like we said, our story begins here – on the golf course!
A Compulsive Walker and an Ideas Generator
Our CEO Ralph is a walking enthusiast and loves his treks. Did you know that there are many walking trails in Shillong? No wonder this beautiful city is also called the Scotland of the East.
Ralph prefers to walk to the office, cutting across wooded parts of the city (Yes, there are lots of green spaces like this in Shillong) and part of the route he takes is through the Shillong Golf Course.
You will see him walking briskly, waving and greeting the kids with - ‘Khublei’ (This term can be used to say hello and thank you in Khasi).
Enter the Protagonist of Our Story – a Sheep
In October 2019 Ralph noticed an attractive sheep on the golf course – with a large, jet black face and a thick coat of brown fur. The amount of fur was striking, and it was luxuriant, wavy, and light brown in color. The sheep was grazing along with a few goats, and a lady was tending to them.
Over the next few days, Ralph kept running into this ‘lady with a sheep’. Each time he saw the sheep the thick coat of fur on the sheep ‘called’ him.
“My! that looks like good wool material”, he thought.
He had a flash of an idea – maybe this sheep’s wool can be spun and blended with Eri silk, the fiber that is the primary focus of Muezart?
He mooted the idea and encouraged the team to go ahead and experiment. To see if we can blend this wool with our Eri silk. A totally out of the box idea and the team loved it!
Lady with a Sheep is Amused
A few weeks later, we happened to go to the Golf course for a photoshoot and met this lady. We asked if she could sell us her wool. You should have seen her expression! She was surprised that we wanted to buy her wool. She told us that she hand-combs her sheep and makes soft, comfy, pillows for her family.
After a few seconds, she started laughing and told us that no one had ever offered her money in exchange for her wool. What she said next surprised us, “I will give you my sheep’s wool for free.” That is how loving and simple our village folks are. Of course, we said no. So, we made a deal and went back after a week to collect the wool from her.
Here she is handing over a bag of hand-combed wool from her sheep.
First Try – Not Successful
After scouring and cleaning, we found that the wool fiber was coarse. Baphi, our in-house spinner, experimented spinning yarn from it, something she had never done before. It was easy to spin. But she could not blend it with Eri silk fiber. The problem was that the lady with the sheep had cut the wool and the fiber was too short and did not blend well with the longer Eri silk fiber.
Miranda interacting with the Lady and her Sheep
Good Wool Hunting Continues
Our sheep story continues. We persevered with our ‘good wool hunting’ effort. We heard that there were a lot of shepherds in Smit village, the upper side of Shillong, a region which is on a higher elevation. We were told that most of the locals owned about 10-20 sheep of a different breed. We were all excited, like little kids, and had high hopes of finding a source for local wool that we could blend with Eri silk.
We Visit Smit Village – No Luck with Wool
It was a cold chilly Sunday when we drove up to Smit village. It was very foggy, and we could barely see anything outside. Fortunately, as we were about to reach the Smit village, the view cleared. As we took a turn in the road, we suddenly hit a wide-open expanse of bare hills. We told the taxi driver to STOP! We had spotted what we thought were sheep and cows in the far distance. We got out of the car and started to run up and down through the hills. The shepherds looked at us in amazement! They stood frozen as we approached them. The shepherds only spoke their local Smit dialect of Khasi. But we knew how to tell them that we were looking for “langbrot” (sheep).
Joanna talking and having a great time with the shepherds
There we stood, with the shepherds and their flock of sheep grazing. Their fleece was dirty but looked good. Since we didn’t know much about sheep breeds, we asked if they sold their fleece for wool. The shepherds shook their heads and insisted that they only raised sheep for their meat, not for wool. We worked hard at taking lots of photos of the sheep so we could identify the breed and figure out the quality of the wool. We later discovered that the sheep in Smit wasn’t the right breed for good quality wool.
Handspun wool yarn made from the bag of fiber we bought from "The Lady With the Sheep". It turned out a bit wiry because she cut the wool instead of sheering, and the fibers were very short.
A New Product Idea Emerges
Our search for local wool, to blend with Eri silk, opened our eyes to a possibility of a wool-silk blend as a new product line. While we were exploring the wool from the sheep in our region, the research and development team (we are kidding! It was just another member of the Muezart team of enthusiastic, curious folks) found that a blend of Merino wool and Eri silk is a sought after one.
A Quick Primer on Wool
Just like silk, wool is a natural, renewable fiber. The sheep eat green plants and grasses which store carbon. The internal digestive mechanism of the sheep converts this carbon into wool that covers their bodies. The sheep are sheared once a year and can give 4 to 5 pounds of wool. Wool is an eco-friendly, renewable resource.
There are many varieties of wool and many grades. The fine wool is used for weaving textiles used for clothing or for knitting. The coarser wool can be used to make carpets, for stuffing beddings or for weaving furnishing fabrics.
Merino the King of Wools
Merino wool is considered one of the finest and softest. You can wear it close to the body unlike other woolen material that gives an itchy feeling if it comes in touch with the skin. Just like Eri silk, Merino wool keeps you cool in summer and warm in winter. It helps the body stay sweat-free as the fiber is porous.
The Muezart team was excited about the natural chemistry between Eri silk and Merino wool. They saw the possibility of launching a new product – Muezart’s very own blend of Eri silk and Merino wool. We call it Erino!
Blend of Marino Wool and Eri Silk – Our New Kid on the Block
We didn’t want to wait, winter was approaching. Why not get the best wool in the world, a wool that has so much synergy with Eri silk, and get started?
The team met and we procured a high-quality Merino wool that comes from Tunisia and Spain. As soon as we had the wool in hand, we met with a spinning mill and developed a custom blend of 60% Eri fiber and 40% Merino fiber. That is why we named this blended yarn ERINO!
The team swung into action and took this new yarn line to be naturally dyed by Kong Tmung in six beautiful colors.
Our natural hand-dyed Erino yarn is now available for sale to all those waiting to knit, crochet, or weave with a beautiful blend of Eri silk and Merino wool.
We can’t wait for you to try Erino!
Want a sample? Or do you have a question? Write to us.