December 2007

Yak fiber

Yak is part of the bovine family and is found throughout the Himalayan region of South Central Asia, in Tibet and as far north as Mongolia. Yaks live in the wild and are domesticated as well. Wild Yaks stand about 6'7" (2 meters) high at the shoulder. Domesticated ones are half that size. Both types produce long hair to keep them warm in cold winter months. Wild yak fiber comes in black and brown, however domesticated yak can produce white fiber too.

Yaks have two layers of hair, a long outer layer which is coarse and can be used for making rugs and ropes. The undercoat is very soft and comparable to qiviut and cashmere. The undercoat of calves is denser than adults. Each Yak produces approximately one pound (450 g) of fiber per year.

Yak fiber is not sheered but combed out in spring to early summer when they are ready to shed. Yak fiber has a nice crimp and can be spun easily. Because of this characteristic, it can create beautiful felted garments.

Since the amount of fiber is very limited, yak fiber is usually spun with wool or silk. The resulting yarn is wonderful for knitting and crochet.

For more information about yak yarn check out: The Yarn Company and Purl Soho.

Nazanin S. Fard

Needlecraft University

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