ULA+LIA: Mongolian Yak Down, Cashmere, and Camel Wool Yarn

Created by Jon Hetts

From herders to home, our yarns are made with exotic fibers from nomadic, free-range animals on the remote Mongolian plains. Enjoy our super soft cashmere, yak down, and camel wool yarns in a variety of colors and weights!

Latest Updates from Our Project:

Just Keepin' in Touch ;) And an update on fiber procurement
about 1 year ago – Sun, Mar 25, 2018 at 11:51:35 PM

Hey all,

Everything is going great so far with backerkit and surveys. About 90% of people have their surveys in, so that gives me a great estimate of what to order for with my fibers and yarn. I hope the process was relatively painless for everybody!

Tuesday morning, I should be signing a contract to lock in our fiber for the production run. I ended up finding a great organization that works with a number of herding co-ops in Mongolia, which is great news and has a lot of great upsides to it:

  • By working with the co-ops, the herders and their families end up with more money for their fiber.
  • All of the co-op members follow guidelines to ensure pastureland sustainability and to stop overgrazing
  • All the fibers will be laboratory tested for purity and (top) quality.
  • All fibers will be traceable to their area of origin in Mongolia, which is also really cool!

Originally, I wasn't planning on getting this far with this Kickstarter project, as I didn't think it would be worth it to have fibers specially procured here for a small-ish order. With the great result from the campaign, I thought it was best to push for it this year. It is a little bit more expensive this way, but definitely worth it. I'm hoping in the coming months to take some weekend trips out to the countryside for some pictures of the animals getting brushed and to meet with the herders a bit!

Will continue to keep you guys updated. As always, holler if you have questions!

Thank you!

-Jon

Backerkit Invites Out to Everybody Else!
over 1 year ago – Sun, Mar 11, 2018 at 08:50:01 PM

Hey All,

The world hasn't ended, and seems like Backerkit is running smoothly! Going to send the rest of the invites out after posting this update. You should receive an e-mail that will look like the following pic:

Just hit the "click here to respond" button to link Kickstarter and Backerkit together. If you didn't get an email, please check your spam folders. If you still can't find it, send me a message and we'll get it figured out!

Fiber Pics:

Also, got some pics of fiber when I was at the factory the other day. They had cream and taupe cashmere (although this taupe was a bit dark/brown) and some camel wool. They didn't have any yak on hand, but hoping to get pics of those soon as well.

Cream Cashmere - Brown/Taupe Cashmere - Sandstone Camel
Cream Cashmere - Brown/Taupe Cashmere - Sandstone Camel

 

Camel Fiber
Camel Fiber

 

OK that's it, just wanted to keep everybody posted. As always, if you have any questions, just get in touch and we'll get it figured out. Thank you!

-Jon

Backerkit is open, and some progress updates!
over 1 year ago – Thu, Mar 08, 2018 at 03:26:22 PM

Hey everybody!

Thanks for being patient! Everything is ready over at backerkit to move everybody in and start with add-ons and getting orders organized. First, I’m sending out a test to 5% of backers to make sure everything runs smoothly. If everything doesn’t blow up Friday or Saturday, I’ll send the invites to everybody else this Sunday/Monday. If you guys could select your items and add-ons soon, it would be a huge help. With a lot of options (weights, fibers, and colors), this information is really important for me when accurately predicting production and procuring fibers,

A few notes about shipping: 

Here are the shipping fees for add-on items. If you already made your pledge and paid shipping, you will not need to pay anything else to receive your items. These are only if you decide to add more items to your order. Add-on fees are cheaper than pledge shipping fees because it’s cheaper to add weight than to originate a new order, and I want to pass these savings on to you guys. 

 Add-on shipping fees: 

For 100g items (fiber and yarn):

USA – $1 

Canada – $2 

Everywhere Else – $3

For 400g items and Packages

USA - $3

Canada - $4

Everywhere Else - $5

Due to a small issue, shipping for add-ons is going to be handled a bit differently than I had originally planned for international backers, as a small fee for add-ons compared to total weight, but it should end up being cheaper for the large majority of you guys. If there is any issue and you think you’re being over charged, please send me a message and I will personally go into Backerkit and make sure shipping is correct. If there is a difference, it will usually only be a dollar or two cheaper or more expensive, but I do apologize for the inconvenience and any confusion. 

For backers that did not choose a reward, there will be an origination/base fee for the order, similar to the costs on the reward levels in Kickstarter. After that base fee, your add-on costs will be the same as shown above. This is for both yarn and fiber. 

It should be pretty straight forward to navigate, but here are some simple instructions for Backerkit:

  • First, you will be asked to choose your options for your pledge level. You will be prompted to select weight and color for each ball you pledged for. 
  • After selecting your options for the pledge, you will be taken to the add-on page. Here, you can add additional items to your order. 
  • For the 100g balls, you will be prompted to choose your options immediately (color and weight). 
  • For the 400g balls and packages, you will select your options before checkout. When ready, just hit the “Next” button, and you will be asked the questions for weights and colors.
  •  As a reminder, you will not be charged for your order until around the end of July! So if you think you might change your mind, no worries, you can always go back and change options. 

If you have any questions, send an email or message! Both I and people at Backerkit will be here to help if you have any questions, so no worries.

Progress Updates:

I’m still in the process of trying to arrange meetings with some different herders and co-operatives to procure raw materials. There are some groups coming into the city next weekend and near the end of the month that I’m arranging meetings with, and also touching base with some different conservancy programs working out of Mongolia. The nomadic herders here are, by nature, hard to track down! Because of that, meeting dates are always a bit tentative, but we’ll get it nailed down soon.

I’m visiting the spinning facility tomorrow to drop off some more samples of DK weight cashmere (~250yds/100g) and fingering weight wool (~440yds/100g) that we will be aiming to copy for our production. I’m also hoping to have a chance to get some pictures of some raw fiber if they have any laying around! 

Even if there isn’t much happening, I’ll still try to post updates at least every couple of weeks to let everybody know what’s going on. As always, feel free to message me directly or leave comments with any questions.

Thank you, as always!

-Jon

Wow, so here we are!
over 1 year ago – Tue, Feb 20, 2018 at 09:05:05 PM

I keep saying it, but thank you all again for the support! After the first week or so I didn't think we were going to quite hit our goal, but in the end we flew through it and even hit our stretch goals. All the natural colors for the yak and cashmere, and a lovely crimson red for the cashmere too! Also going to have fingering weight in addition to the DK weight for those that might want something a bit thinner too. I've got an exciting spring and summer ahead of me here to get everything together and shipped out, and I'm looking forward to it.

So What's Next For Backers?

I'm currently working with Backerkit to finalize everything and set the survey up perfectly. After about 2 weeks when the payments are finalized from Kickstarter, I'll send out the surveys and bring everybody into Backerkit. Once that happens, I'll ask everybody to select their items and add-ons so I can get a better idea of exactly what I need to produce (fibers, colors, weights) so I can start preparing for production.

I'll go over this again at the time, but I will not be charging your cards on Backerkit when you make your selections! It will just give me counts, but you will still be able to reduce/add to your orders until August or so. A few weeks before shipping, I will "lock down" orders and charge cards for add-ons at that time.

Counts don't need to be perfect as I'm going to be making a lot of inventory as well, but the information will be really valuable for planning demand to deliver the project, and also have the right levels of inventory for the next year.

For Those Buying Fiber: When backerkit gets set up, you'll be able to add funds and select your amounts and types. Same as above, your cards won't be charged until right before I ship, so you'll be able to add more and change your selections if you change your minds in the next few months. I'm hoping to have some pictures of the fiber the next time I visit the spinning facility for you guys to check out, which will probably be about the end of this month.

What's Next for Me and Production?

Although I had originally planned to just work with my spinning partners to procure our cleaned and sorted fibers, I'm currently working through my network to find some local co-operatives and herding groups to purchase our raw fibers from. 

Working With Co-Ops

I'll have more information about this in the next few weeks, but working as closely with herders and families as possible is something I'd really like to work on. I still need to be certain it won't effect our delivery, but with visibility this project has received in Mongolia and the substantial amount of fiber I'll be ordering, different groups and organizations are more eager to work together and connect to international markets. I had originally reached out to some organizers before this campaign started, but didn't receive much of a response when I didn't have 600 people behind me!

Instead of buying our fibers from, more or less, larger aggregators, we'd be working with local co-operative groups and buying directly from the herders. It may be a bit more expensive and include another step or two to get the fibers, but it's better for everybody in the end. 

Here's a pretty cool video from CNN that shows that same idea as illustrated by a different company. This is only about yak wool, but the same stories can be told for cashmere and camel wool as well.

Don't Hate the Goats!

I was a little wary of sharing this video because of those couple of lines when they mention goats, cashmere, and issues they cause. I've been involved with the cashmere industry for a number of years here, so I've done a lot of research on this. The people that I've talked to in co-operatives, that work in sustainability, and that do environmental research here confirm that goats are not harder on the environment than any other animals. Issues with overgrazing in Mongolia stem from improper herd management, having herd sizes that are too large, and staying in one area for too long. It's also important to have a good mix of animals in a herd, as different animals focus on different flora for grazing.

For example, if yaks or sheep replaced all the goats here, Mongolia would face the same potential problems. In the end, cashmere is more expensive, but it is the softest too! Goats are also make up a substantial portion of many herding families' incomes, so it's important to keep demand strong for our little horned friends as well, especially if it's with the help of Co-Ops.

Why Work With Co-Ops?

These co-operatives generally work with organizations to insure sustainable herding practices that can keep this tradition alive indefinitely in Mongolia. (herd sizes, animal mixes, rotating grazing areas, etc.) We would be able to trace back our fibers to specific areas in Mongolia as well, which would be awesome! I'd be posting pictures throughout the summer of me taking a bike to the countryside and visiting the areas, but I'm already getting ahead of myself a bit, and I could go on about this for a while! But wanted to share some more and involve you guys in Mongolia as much as possible.

So yes, that is a huge goal of mine, and I think with the success of this project I'll have the demand to where these groups will want to work with me. I didn't make it a big part of the project up until now because I still can't promise anything, but it's something I'm working on. Even with the success of the campaign, I still view this as just a start. If not this year, then next year, and I'll be able to plan even further out for demand if I have a lot of happy customers with me. If there's more demand than supply this year for Co-Op products, it will still bring more herders into these sustainability programs.

Stop Rambling, Just Tell Me When!

ALRIGHT! I'm going to be working on setting contracts for our fibers with co-ops in the next few weeks/month. Final counts for the fiber order should be in by mid/end of April at the latest. Then we wait for the end of spring/beginning of summer! We should finish procurement by July or so, which will set us up to clean and separate the fibers. One way or the other, we should still be on track to spin everything up in August, and get everything sent out in September. I'm excited for spring, and I'll keep you guys updated consistently! THANK YOU AGAIN!

-Jon

Fiber for Spinners and Stretch Goals!
over 1 year ago – Mon, Feb 12, 2018 at 08:53:52 PM

Hey everybody!

Campaign has been going awesome and I am super excited about going into the last week. Thank you guys for the support, and welcome to all the new backers that have hopped on since the last update. I have done a little bit of advertising on facebook, so thank you to the dozen or so people that saw my ad on there and trusted me enough to come on board!

A few things here to add to the campaign:

Fibers

I've had a number of spinners ask me if they could buy unspun fibers directly, and I'm happy to officially announce that is something that I will be adding to the campaign. This campaign came about due to listening to my customers asking for yarn that made my finished goods, and I'm going to continue with that tradition by offering the fiber that makes our yarns. At this rate, I think I'll be selling whole yaks and goats by the end of the year :D

How to Order Fiber:

Instead of adding another round of rewards to the campaign and potentially confusing the campaign, I'm just going to have it as an add-on in backerkit. Here are the prices:

For 100g - Cashmere $23, yak wool $16, camel wool $10

For current backers, feel free to add that amount to your pledge, or just wait to add it in backerkit when I have a separate addon for them.

For the new folks, the easiest way to do it is to just pledge $1 on the 'no-reward' option. That way, you'll be given access to backerkit at the end of the campaign where you can add funds, select your add-ons, and have shipping calculated as well. Especially for international backers, shipping may be relatively expensive for small amounts but is reasonable for larger amounts, so please check comparable rewards (100g/400g) for shipping prices. More info about shipping in this update too, which has great info for international buyers especially!

Colors and Weights!

I met with my spinning partners today to chat about securing raw materials for the spring/summer, and also about different minimums for colors and weights. Unfortunately, I couldn't really get them to budge on the minimums, BUT, I can combine colors and weights together for minimum batches. Batches are still 50kg per fiber and per color, but I can split that fiber/color into two weights. (e.g. For 50kg of CRIMSON, they will let me spin 25kg in a DK weight and 25kg in a FINGERING weight). 

So, it doesn't look like I'll be able to offer as many colors as I had hoped, but it looks very promising to add another yarn weight! Here are the colors we'll have:

Cashmere - Natural Taupe, Natural Cream, Crimson

Yak - Natural Dark Brown, Natural Light Brown

Camel - Natural Sandstone

I already have some samples coming to Mongolia of fingering weight yarn that I'd like to produce that is in the ballpark of 400yds/100g, and I should be able to offer that across all fibers and colors.

With more choices and colors, I'll need help from you guys to get my fiber and yarn orders correct. I'm planning to send out a preliminary survey at the end of this month after the campaign closes to get info from you guys about colors, weights, and amounts, but I won't charge credit cards or finalize surveys. It will be for a basic estimate to go forward with production, so everybody will still be able to change/adjust what they please. Then in August, I'll finalize orders and surveys before shipping everything out.

If anybody has any questions about anything, let me know! Thank you as always, and I'm excited about heading into the last week!

-Jon

P.S.

For people that are new to kickstarter and might have questions about backerkit, here's a short explanation of how it works. Please don't hesitate to ask questions about backerkit as well!

Backerkit Intro

After the kickstarter campaign ends, you’ll fill out a survey on a website, backerkit.com. Backerkit works in conjunction with a kickstarter campaign by importing your rewards and funding level automatically, and then you choose which rewards you want, and also which colors and (possibly) weights you want on backerkit. It generally streamlines the process of selecting items with multiple options. 

Through backerkit, you’ll also be able to add extra rewards if you would like, even after the campaign ends. (e.g. if you pledge $1 for fiber, you can increase your pledge here for the reward and shipping) Or, you can also change your rewards and options (colors/weights/etc) up until the time I ship out. You'll also be able to combine shipping charges so shipping is less overall for more rewards grouped together.

Backerkit will more or less be like clicking through a small online shop with the credit from what you pledged on the campaign, and it’s pretty straight forward. Feel free to ask any other questions!