This year I was privileged to venture back to a country close to my heart, this time with David and our two daughters. Nepal is land of colours and contrasts, enclosed in a tiny area – soaring snowy peaks and flat tropical plains, yaks and cows, saffron sadhus and maroon monks, Buddhist Stupas and Hindu Temples. It’s a beautiful country where life’s harsh realities are ever present. It’s a country I fell in love with 20 years ago when I worked in a remote village. It’s a place that taught me to be me, to appreciate the small things, not take things for granted (as well as how to keep walking uphill for 6 hours still smiling!). It’s a place I always thought I would be connected with. I returned again to fly and now its somewhere we trade with. It feels like it’s coming full circle, allowing me to give back and also to share it through the beautiful products we sell.
Whilst in Pokhara (the picturesque lakeside town where we base ourselves for paragliding) we weren’t thinking so much about shopping when some beautiful Hemp and Nettle Rucksacks caught our eye. This was not only for their great design and quality finish but also because of the fabrics. As an obsessive sewer I consider myself pretty clued up about fabric but I’d never seen fabric made from stinging nettle before! Believe it or not it is super soft and not at all stingy.
It got even better because it turns out the manufacturer specifically supports a micro enterprise development program that finds markets for products from remote mountain villages. The wild nettle and hemp are harvested by villagers, processed by them (soaking, beating, drying) and spun by hand into fibre. It’s an old skill being given a new market. This fabric is not only sustainable people wise but environmentally too. The nettles grow wild and hemp doesn’t need pesticides or fertilisers to grow and is a great soli conditioner for the next crops planted there.
The yarn is then sold and taken to the cities where it’s woven into cloth. A very large amount of this has found its way to Sunit and Buddhi’s house / factory. It was exploding from a storeroom threatening to take over the whole house! Finally someone with a bigger fabric stash than me! They have a small factory with eight people working there cutting and sewing the bags. Everyone sews their own bags from start to finish, ensuring quality and, I think, job satisfaction. The hum of sewing machines, smiles and chatting, as they helped to fix one of the sewing machines, characterised our visit. Back to the shop to place our order then!
We wouldn’t have brought them if we didn’t love them. Great designs, leather trim, quality zips, (no nasty plastic bits here), clever laptop pockets and of course the beautiful natural, textured, sustainable fabrics.
These bags have already seen some pretty interesting places, where will you take them?