October 29, 2020

From Land to Needles
Tracing our yarns back to their sources

土地から編み針まで~ 毛糸の源流をたどる<br>Nomadnoos

Interviewed by Meri
Photos courtesy of Nomadnoos and Flavia Sigismondi

What if knitting lifted people out of poverty and could make the world a better place? My thoughts on this topic inspired this issue’s feature about two yarn companies doing just that. How they are doing things differently, satisfying consumer interest in fair trade and sustainability, and building ethical and sustainable businesses? My interviews with two of these company’s owners follow, giving you your own food for thought.

Coty Jeronimus, Nomadnoos


Spring 2019, when we walked into the giant exhibition hall of H+H, we spied the Nomadnoos booth, and were immediately drawn to it. The luscious yarns spun from yak, camel and sheep wool, was all the more impressive when we learned it was handspun! We placed our first order on the spot, lucky to have it arrive in our shop soon after. 

Coty, the founder of Nomadnoos, learned to knit from her paternal grandmother, a prolific knitter who knit socks and sweaters for all of her 18 grandchildren! When it was Coty’s turn for a sweater, they shopped together for the yarn and pattern, and Coty enjoyed watching the garment grow and take shape on the needles. She still treasures one of her grandmother’s sweaters. When Coty learned to knit, she decided to make her own yarn as well! She bought greasy wool to take home, washed it, dyed it, and handspun it into yarn. After making several sweaters in this way, she gave up because the yarn was too scratchy and bulky. Besides knitting, Coty immersed herself in a variety of textile arts as a teenager. She dyed fabric, tried batik, and even made Brussels lace. After high school, it wasn’t a surprise that she went on to study textile design in Amsterdam.


After graduating from college, Coty worked in the textile industry for 25 years, first as a designer then later as a product manager in charge of sourcing. Over the years, the industry changed significantly, shifting from European to Asian production, and prices dropped. She witnessed the negative impact of the fast fashion industry on the natural environment and on the workers. 


On the other hand, when she visited India for an audit, she met organic cotton farmers who explained how things improved once they switched to organic farming. There was less disease for one thing, and the experience left such a powerful impression on Coty, that she quit her job to work as a consultant in the sustainable textile industry, thereby fulfilling her need to be a positive force for change.

Her day job is still to support textile companies and NGOs to become more transparent and to integrate durability and responsibility into their supply chain. Her consulting work led her to the herders of Mongolia, who produce beautiful yak and camel fibers, and the marginalized women in Nepal who possess exceptional spinning skills. She realized that if she could unite the two, creating gorgeous yarns could become a means of livelihood for artisans, and also have a positive impact on the knitting world. Thus, Nomadnoos was born.

The concept of Nomadnoos aligns with the slow fiber movement, with transparency and responsibility present in each step of the supply chain. The goal is to pay the workers a fair wage, thereby eliminating the middleman sourcing the fibers. The money goes directly to the herder community via cooperatives. All the fibers are processed in Mongolia following the national laws.  


Their supply is limited because fibers can only be collected once a year in Spring. As the weather warms, the animals no longer need their thick undercoat, and the herders begin manual combing. Mongolia is a huge country and it takes time to collect all the fibers to bring to Ulaan Bator, the capital for processing. The earliest the washed and carded fibers can be sent to Nepal is in September.

Once the fibers arrive in Nepal, they sent to trained spinners. The spinners work from home, spinning approximately 4 kg of yarn per month, while also doing other tasks and work. They constantly look for and train new spinners. Respecting the environment and all the human beings involved in the process is very important for the brand.  It is truly a slow process.


Sustainability has become a “buzz” word in recent years, but for Coty, it means more. She thinks it’s about sticking to your values and being responsible for people and the planet.

She tries her best to respect the people she works with. For example she constantly recalculates the living wage of their spinners, ensuring they receive fair and just wages. Being respectful to the environment is equally important to her. Desertification is a huge problem in Mongolia. The herder cooperative Nomadnoos collaborates with is aware of the issue, and is trying to restore their rangeland as best as they can. 

To this day, Nomadnoos yarns have a positive impact on the rangeland in Mongolia and on the life of the herders, in addition to creating an additional income for marginalized people in Nepal. 

There were many hurdles to overcome.

When Nomadnoos began the project, the first problem was  how to achieve a certain standard in spinning. She tried different spinners in Mongolia and in Nepal but ended up deciding to focus only on spinning in Nepal. She learned that hand spinning has been embedded in the Nepalese culture for centuries. 

Still, before spinners can achieve the required standard, they need to go through a training that lasts for 1.5 months. Another challenge was achieving standard dye lots because the colors of yak and camel yarns vary per lot and per season. Season after season, they need to be able to deliver the same color to the market. Thanks to finding a great dye master in Nepal, this problem was solved. 

The idea of manufacturing hand-knitting yarn was a new concept for the herders and spinners, but eventually Coty found her collaborators to help make it happen. The Mongolian herder cooperative is one; Tara Panera, her point of contact in Nepal’s who manages the spinning, dyeing and packaging processes, is another. 

Now Coty and her team are working hard to bring Nomadnoos to the next level. They are running a social project to fund creating a workshop for their spinners in Nepal. The idea is to create a space for spinners to work, while getting childcare and other support.

On an environmental level, they are looking into raising awareness of plastic waste on the steppes amongst the Mongolian herders. 

In terms of product development, there are some new yarn features in development, one of which is a thicker yarn. 

Coty hopes that she can reopen a study trip program and workshops again in the near future, bringing knitters to Nepal and Mongolia to meet the spinners and herders, for customers to truly learn the value of Nomadnoos products and processes. We cannot wait to see what other amazing products Nomadnoos releases in the near future.

To this day, Nomadnoos yarns have a positive impact on the rangeland in Mongolia and on the life of the herders, in addition to creating an additional income for marginalized people in Nepal.