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9. December 2014 15:38
by Jobo
1 Comments

Yaksperiment... Experimenting with Yak Fiber

9. December 2014 15:38 by Jobo | 1 Comments

I have a good spinner friend who likes to challenge me...

She is always trying new techniques and new fibers, with the goal of creating different types of projects.

Well, the latest new fiber to try is quiviut! she is working on spinning a very fine lace weight from quiviut roving that she has... And it just so happens that I have a very small sample bag of both quiviut and yak fiber.  So I am going to play along with her.

there is definitely a learning curve with trying this yak fiber... The bag that I have is quite small, and I forgot to weigh it before I began. It's just a regular sized sandwich baggie with a few small poofs of fiber.  Some of it is a little bit compressed, so I thought it probably needed to be carded.

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How to card it is another important question... yak is a very short staple fiber at maybe an inch long in the bag that I have. That means worsted techniques an inchworm drafting are not going to work here at all. I carded my fiber into some tight Puni style rolags. 

The first one I carded I spread the fiber over the entire card but I think that was a mistake. I had to take the fiber off in three portions and I used small knitting needles to wrap the fiber around. I compressed it a little bit so it would hold on to itself during spinning.

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The next time I decided to just put the fiber on the first third of the the hand card and remove it in one single go with a larger knitting needle. This time I used 5 mm ones. And I did not compress nearly as much. I think that the diameter of the knitting needles better matched the staple length of the fiber and resulted in an easier to spin roll of fiber.  You could almost see the fiber spiralling out of the end of the rolags.

As for the feeling of spinning yak... I can only describe it as though it feels like I am spinning dryer lint... Lol. After hours of playing with this stuff I went and got a handful of lint from the laundry just to see how they compared.  The lint was really, really short, and I couldn't keep it together much past drafting.  I could draft maybe two inches, and then it fell apart before winding on :)  Yak really does feel a bit linty.

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I had to really adjust my usual spindling technique to make it work... I ended up using a kind of modified long draw technique. It seemed to work best when I drafted quite far from the spindle tip. I tried to keep my drafting triangle at least a foot or more from the spindle tip and held the fiber very very lightly. It felt almost like chewing gum stretching... But don't even think about stretching too far or this fiber breaks into little useless strings. The first roll I tried, I think I threw away as much as made it onto the spindle.

After a little experimenting and testing I decided I should try spinning some of the fiber directly from the bag to see what that was like too.  I fluffed up a piece and went for it - and shockingly, even though it had been a bit compressed, the fiber was clean and untangled and it drafted just as easy from this preparation as my pain-in-the-butt rolags had.  Lesson to self - simplicity.  Try it.

In the end, I just flew by the seat of my pants on this one, yielding a really soft, light two ply laceweight.  I thought it should spin finer, but this weight is what felt reasonable.  My yarn is very inconsistent, lots of slubs and thick or thin bits.  There are lots of fibers that I've tried, only to find them scratchy and unpleasant.  I'm surprised to say, that yak feels almost like cotton to me.  It's pretty limp and not very stretchy.  It's soft enough for close contact to skin... and I think I'm confident in saying I'd be cool with Yak fiber underpants in the case of a zombie apocalypse.  I'd probably sweat my derriere off, because this stuff is supposed to be mega warm though.

My friend is going to knit hers into a bookmark swatch... so I'm going to do the same... here is my unblocked progress:

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