Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A Lesson On Yak

yak If you are like me and old(er), you are probably singing that song that goes “yakety yak, don’t talk back!” But this isn’t about talking back. Instead, it is about yak fiber and spinning it into yarn. I recently told some friends of mine who have climbed Mt. Everest that I was spinning yak fiber and realized that I didn’t know very much about yaks. I know the fiber I am spinning is quite soft but Ron seemed to think it was quite coarse and scratchy. So I decided to do some research about them and their fiber. I got a lot of this information from The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook by Deborah Robson and Carol Ekarius.

Yaks are hairy animals that resemble cows and are found in the Himalayan Mountains. Their down is used for wool and the outer hairs are used for rope and rugs. Their milk is used like we drink cow’s milk and they are also eaten for meat. Yaks are used as farm animals and for sports such as racing and polo.

White yaks produce more fiber than dark ones but there are more dark yaks than white ones so dark fiber is more common.

Yaks have different layers of fiber. They have a long coarse outercoat that is used to make ropes for tents, bags, or rugs. There is a midrange layer also that is used in clothes that are waterproof and warm. Then there is the undercoat that has elasticity and bounce and can be almost as fine as cashmere and qiviut.

The down can be combed out before shearing or the whole coat can be shorn and then everything sorted later.

Fleece weight can vary a lot. Down yields anywhere from 7 ounces to 2 pounds.

So now I’m spinning some grayish yak/merino blended fiber and I love it because it is so soft. I’m going to make a 2 ply yarn with it but I’m not sure what I will make with the finished yarn yet.

Have you ever spun or knit with yak? Please share your experience if you have!

Image: 'Tibet-5812 - Yak at Yundrok Yumtso Lake'
Found on


Sioux Roslawski said...

Polo games with yaks? Really? They don't look like the swiftest of steeds...

No, I've never spun any kind of yarn. I imagine, Pat, that it must be extremely satisfying to spin the yarn and then knit a creation with your yarn.

Thanks for the yak lesson, Pat, and happy knitting.

Whatzitknitz said...

So I spun some yak-merino-sold blend in December and loved it. I knit a beautiful shawl with it. I decided to buy more but this time I only found a yak-merino blend and I am having an awful time spinning. It keeps breaking you have any suggestions for me?

loonyhiker said...

@Whatzitknitz You might try changing the way you draft the fiber. I usually do a short forward draw and lately I've been trying a backwards draw which seems to work nicely. You might also try adjusting the tension on your wheel so it isn't taking it in to the wheel so quickly.