The Big Ones, Part III: Yak

Got yak?! Many fiber artists and crafters have worked with yak (Bos grunniens for the domesticated yak, Bos mutus for the wild yak). The yak is in the bovine family (so is related to cows) and native to Central Asia. (Pic source)

Yaks, like many of the animals whose fibers we enjoy, have a coarse outer coat (guard hair) covering a soft undercoat (down hair). Yaks naturally shed in the springtime, so if you brush a domesticated yak in the spring you might have your arms full. (Pic source) The fiber’s staple is short (1-1/2 inches/3 cm) and has a good crimp. Depending on the animal’s age, health, diet, environment and whether the outer or inner coat, yak fiber ranges from 14 to 22 microns.

Historically yaks have provided the people who raised them with milk and meat for food, fiber for clothes and ropes and dung for fuel. (The dried dung of bison were also used by the native peoples and European settlers in North America as fuel, who called it “buffalo chips.”

Like many animals, yaks can be raised outside their native home (Tibet). Remember, however, that the fleece produced by animals in warmer climates will differ than the fleece they produce in their native, colder climates.

I bought of a cone of Yaqui – an undyed 2-ply yak yarn (300 y/61 g) – from my favorite yarn store in San Francisco, Artfibers. I am experimenting with stitch design. (It’s my fourth swatch; I keep trying different stitches to find one that works well with the yarn.)

Artfibers had swatches knit out of overdyed Yaqui. It dyed beautifully; the colors were muted and rich. So maybe I will skein some up and overdye … 🙂

Has anyone knit or crocheted with Yaqui in particular or yak in general?


About sweatyknitter

Fiber art devotee, author, and amateur artisan bread baker.
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9 Responses to The Big Ones, Part III: Yak

  1. I have knit with yak yarn only once – to date. I found it a bit stiff while knitting, but once washed, heavenly.

    Thanks for providing info about The Rocking Yak!


  2. I started working with a Tibetan yarn company about 6 years ago The Rocking Yak. We are a social enterprise working to alleviate poverty among the Tibetan villagers who spin yarn for us. You can read more about that at
    Ever since I’ve joined The Rocking Yak, I have knit with nothing but yak! My family has wool allergies & we’ve discovered that yak down is hypoallergenic & doesn’t bother my loved ones. It is SO soft & naturally water resistant. I can even through my kids items into the washing machine without too much ware to the knitted piece. I LOVE this fiber. The yarns we make (& that I use) are hand spun with a drop spindle and have a natural knobby texture. I have knit stockinette, seed stitch, cable & even lace with this yarn & have been pleased with every piece that I’ve made.
    Really, I can’t say enough about the fiber/yarn. Whatever you decide to make with your yak yarn, I’m sure you will enjoy working with it.


  3. Haw about an oven square? Then it could be looked at and smiled at every day. : )


  4. I don’t feel I am a skilled enough spinner to tackle qivuit – though I will knit with it!

    Yes, there are so many variables affecting yarn quality! I once knit a very complicated cable pullover with a llama yarn … As the yarn was spun rather loosely and the cables were so heavy, the gorgeous sweater stretched! There was nothing wrong, per se, with the yarn, but I should have either put in a tighter twist or knit a lighter sweater. :(. Oh well, life is a learning adventure!


  5. Thanks for the advice … I will try a swatch with a less complicated stitch pattern!


  6. I still haven’t knit up a swatch in the yak that I like! Any ideas?!


  7. Ha Ha. I have never been a status symbol sort of girl. I was never interested in them. However I do indeed have “my price” because I would love to say ” Oh isn’t it nice? It is Yak”. smile.


  8. Hi there, I have both spun and knit yak and found it to be quite lovely. However, it seems to wear best when blended with another fibre. I have a hat that was knit from an assortment of small amounts of yak and buffalo and merino from a workshop (so I don’t know the supplier), and the halo is really pretty. A simple stitch pattern seems to suit it, at least to me. It is very warm too. Lots of fun.


  9. ladybean73 says:

    I’ve not worked with yak yet, but perhaps in the future I will. As a spinner I’d like to start from fiber and work my way up to a finished product. Oh but it’s probably quite expensive, as are the other rare fibers of, say, vicuna and quiviut. One day… one day. 🙂

    It was interesting to learn that fiber quality would vary based on the location of the animal. I hadn’t thought of that.


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