A lightweight fabric made of yak and goat hair, the challi (or chha-li) is woven by the nomadic Changpa community of the Changthang region of Ladakh. Traditionally woven on a fixed heddle loom, known as sa-thag, by the men of the community, the fabric is fashioned into saddlebags, tents, rug coverings, grain carriers and blankets.
Finished challi fabrics are composed of many strips that are woven separately and then joined together. During the weaving process, both yak and goat hair is used as warp threads while one is selected as a weft thread, thus creating the strips. Each strip has a complete individual pattern which is then stitched together with others to produce a large compound design. These designs are often used as identifiers of the finished fabric’s weaver or owner.
Traditionally, the colours found on challi fabrics have reflected the natural colouration of the raw materials used — creamy white or light brown for goat hair and dark brown for yak hair. Today, while artificial dyes are used to create a slightly broader range of colours, the traditional materials, weaving methods and patterns have remained the same.
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