The Rocking Yak Blog

What Is A Social Enterprise?

We all know what a charity is and we all know what a business is. A charity’s bottom line is to bring some kind of benefit to a group of people who could use the help through the money or service of others. A business’ bottom line is to earn a profit for the investors by bringing a product or service to market. But what happens when you mix the two? You get a social enterprise, a mix of the best parts of a charity and a business.

A social enterprise is a business that wants to help people more than anything else. Like a business, a social enterprise seeks to bring a product or service to market but does so in order to provide sustainable employment to its workers and suppliers, not to benefit the investors. It’s about providing an opportunity for employment to those who need it but have none.

A social enterprise is a charity that seeks to be self-sustaining. Like a charity, a social enterprise helps people in need but in a way that is both sustainable and brings self-worth. It’s not about giving money away. It’s about developing a product or service that provides sustainable employment and fair wages in a safe workplace. It’s about recognizing the value of a person and the skills they have to offer.

This is a tricky balance but one that is desperately needed if there is to be meaningful and lasting change in a community.


Yak Fibre

Yaks have been in the Himalayan mountains for thousands of years. Tibetans have been herding yaks on the Tibetan Plateau for centuries and using their hair or fibre to provide shelter and clothing for their families. Yak fibre is an essential part of the lives of Tibetan nomads and has some very unique qualities.

Yaks have two types of fibre: coarse hair and fine down.  The coarse hair is typically black and is what you see when you look at a yak.  It’s the outside coat that protects the yak from the elements, whether rain, snow, high winds, or even the intense summer sun.  This very coarse hair is used by Tibetans to make tents, ropes, and hardy loose-fitting outer coats.  The inner soft down gives the yak its warmth for those high plateau winters.  The yak down is very fine, making it perfect for articles of clothing worn against the skin.  It is said that yak down is softer than cashmere, with more warmth for its weight.

The hair and down is harvested in spring as the temperature rises.  These fibres fall off the yaks as they shed, but can also be plucked or gently pulled off by the herders. On rare occasions a pair of scissors is brought out to gather the hair and the fibre.  Most yaks have a black outer coat of hair with a brown or grey inner coat of down.  There is also the more rare white yak.  Each year a yak typically sheds about 100g of down fibre.  The rarity of this down fiber contributes to its cost.

Tibetans have been gathering yak fibre for hundreds of years and only now is the rest of the world learning about this beautiful fibre.  Bringing this natural fibre from the high Tibetan plateaus to world’s markets is well worth the effort.


From Their Hands To Yours

When we started making the trip from Shangri-la to the spinning village, it would take us over an hour each way.  The road we took was winding and full of potholes.  It was not uncommon to find a truck turned on its side every now and then.  In recent years, the Chinese government has built our friends a new winding road cutting our travel time in half.

Throughout the winter months (Nov – Feb) there isn’t any fieldwork to be done.  This is the time that our spinners are able to spin yarn.

Every two weeks we fill my truck with 25 to 30 bags full of cleaned and carded yak down fiber to deliver to the ladies.

Because the Tibetan people are a very communal group.  They enjoy gathering out on the street to talk about the latest happenings.  Our spinners often walk around as they spin yarn, visiting friends and enjoying the warm winter sun at 10,000 ft above sea level.  Spinning fiber is such a natural action for these ladies that watching them work is truly poetry in motion.


6 Reasons Why Yak Is Best For Babies

When I am giving a baby gift, there is certain criteria that I look for. I want the gift to be handmade, practical, loved by both mom and baby, and heirloom quality.  This usually means that I knit a gift using The Rocking Yak’s luxurious hand spun yarn.

Yak down yarn is the PERFECT choice for knitting baby items for these 6 reasons:

1. Yak down is naturally hypoallergenic and extremely soft on sensitive baby skin.
2. Yak down is super snugly and warm for tiny little bodies.
3. Yak down is naturally water resistant, keeping cold moisture away from baby.
4. Yak down is machine washable, making it easy for mom to clean, (wash in cold water and lay flat to dry).
5. Once knit, our yak down yarn as a beautiful soft drape that makes it easy to snuggle into.
6. We stand behind the integrity of our yarn, believing it to be the perfect choice for your next heirloom gift.

Now is a great time to get started on those new baby gifts.  It’s still cold, we’re still stuck indoors, cabin fever is an all out epidemic, & knitting will keep you busy.


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