Know your yarn: yak – knit purl

Photo © Enrico Dell’Angelo of mYak

I am always curious about the story behind things. After I attempted to investigate yak yarn presently gracing our shelves, among the first a few things i learned was just how much the folks around me benefit from the word “yak.” My coworker Summer time really was wishing I’d name this publish “Yakkin’ About Yaks” (Cait recommended “Just Yakkin'”), and that i can’t let you know the number of occasions I have read or heard the language “yakety yak” previously two days.

Unsurprisingly, apparently , within the animals’ native Tibet, words on their behalf have completely different associations. Nor (ནོར་), a Tibetan word for “wealth,” may also be understood to mean “yaks.” Residing in a flat in Portland, I certainly value items like frozen treats and durable leather boots, however it required some studying before I started to understand how riches might be truly equated with shaggy bovines.

Yaks hail in the Tibetan Plateau, just north from the Himalayas. This high-elevation region, which provides coverage for more land compared to states of Or, Washington, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Boise State Broncos, Arizona, Nevada and California combined, is prone to bitter cold, drought, heavy winds and intense solar radiation. Overhunting makes the region much more perilous for wild yaks, however they still live here. By all accounts, they are majestic creatures, standing to six ft tall and 10 ft lengthy, with proud curving horns and flowing black jackets and tails. Their domestic neighbors—having resided among humans not less than 4,000 years—are a bit less imposing and vary more colored, but they’re still very sturdy creatures. Their thick jackets provide crucial defense against the tough climate. Descriptions of the yak’s coat read like tags on technical apparel, with multiple protective layers each playing a job. The coarse, clever outer coat can remain on year-round, repelling moisture and ultraviolet sun rays, while an extremely fine, crimped undercoat of lower provides insulation in the winter months. A midrange layer fills within the gaps and—like the outer coat—includes some fibers with insulating hollow cores. The coat’s typically dark color absorbs precious warmth—light-colored domestic yaks grow extra-thick jackets, potentially in compensation.

Photo © Jamin “Lobsang” You are able to of

Yaks are extremely exquisitely adapted to high-elevation existence they have a tendency to languish in environments we’d consider much more comfortable. In your own home around the plateau, they’ve managed not just to subsist but to aid a whole culture of individuals. Although the nomads of Tibet also raise sheep, goats and horses, it’s the yak which has made their method of existence possible. As the American bison (a cousin from the yak) was to Plains Indians here in The United States, the yak is to nomads in Tibet. Nomads traditionally reside in camping tents woven from rugged yak hair and tethered with yak-hair ropes. They weave softer areas of the coat into warm blankets and clothing. They carve yak bone into small implements. Nourishment originates from wealthy, sweet yak milk and products—like butter—derived from it. Yak meat as well as yak hooves provide valuable protein. Yaks could be ridden—even raced—and they are able to carry heavy burdens. Their butter could be burned for light. Even their dried dung could be burned for warmth (the Tibetan plateau, in the end, is usually over the treeline).

A sidenote: It appears that lots of Americans believe that yaks are abnormally smelly! While travelers to Tibet frequently discuss the pungent and pervasive odor of yak milk products fermenting or burning, individuals who use yaks characterize them as getting a smaller amount of a smell than ordinary cows. Even their dung (I promise to prevent speaking about dung soon) is said to be surprisingly inoffensive. Perhaps there’s been some confusion between yaks and muskoxen, whose scent is potent enough to become incorporated within their name? It’s my favorite guess.

You don’t need to reside in Tibet (or burn dung) to profit from yaks. It isn’t that yak goods are recently obtainable in other areas around the globe. Lengthy, lustrous yak tail hair was once prized for fly-whisks within the Roman Empire as well as for Santa beards within this country. Lately, however, there’s been renewed curiosity about the yak’s downy undercoat, which may be combed from lower-covered babies or in the bellies of mature yaks right before it would be naturally shed for that summer time. Today, buying yak made of woll will make you feel warm and fuzzy in additional ways than a single. Modern processing produces more uniformly fine fiber, and companies like mYak make an effort to ensure the fiber they marketplace is serving the people and creatures it comes down from. Although yak fiber can differ broadly, the best lower rivals cashmere in gentleness while remaining uncommonly strong. It’s, obviously, extremely warm, yet breathable. It is commonly more high and bouncy—while being less slippery and vulnerable to shedding—when in contrast to other warm fibers like alpaca. Inside a blend like Sublime Yak, yak wool can add plush gentleness, strength and wonderful depth of color.

Photo © Paola Vanzo of mYak

Because Tibetan nomads depend on yaks in a lot of ways, a lot of the expert understanding they’ve passed lower for generations relates to yaks. I’d rather not over-romanticize a means of existence that has to have numerous challenges. Still, I will not help but admire efforts to preserve time-tested, very ingenious nomadic traditions, especially when confronted with pressure in the Chinese government to stay lower and alter. I believe knitters, using their natural appreciation for traditional understanding and fine fiber, stand it a distinctive position to help these tenacious communities endure, along with the extraordinary animals they raise. Getting convinced myself to purchase some mYak Worsted in Desert a week ago (I are hoping to make a form of Birch Bay), I will tell you against experience that it is a really enjoyable induce to support.

Sources: The Yak, second Edition, The Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook, The Realm of Tibetan Nomads, Tibet’s Irreplaceable Yak: A Animal of Burden and much more