Yak Yarn – Guide To This Yarn Material & Best Uses

By Jodie Morgan

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Looking for a luxurious, soft yarn? Yak fibers might be the perfect choice for you. I explore what yak yarn is, and ways to use it for knitting.

Yak Yarn Feat Img

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I reviewed, fact checked and updated this post on May 14, 2023.

Table Of Contents

What Is Yak Yarn?

Yak yarn is an animal fiber sold at expensive prices. This fiber isn’t popular because it’s expensive and hard to get, however, it’s warm, hypoallergenic, soft, and insulating. It’s also moisture-wicking and has antimicrobial properties.

They’re luxurious and great for winter projects. It’s only available in its natural colors. Unlike mohair fibers that come in a huge range of gorgeous shades.

Where It Comes From

Yak yarn is a luxury fiber made of the downy, soft undercoat hair (aka down fiber) of domesticated yaks (Bos grunniens). It’s a short staple fiber, so this bovine yarn is often blended with wool or other fibers for a softer, warmer yarn.

These animals are also known as the Tartary ox, the grunting ox or hairy cattle. For more information on other luxury knitting yarns be sure to check out my post.

Where Do Yak Live?

They live in the Himalayas, concentrated around the Tibetan Plateau, but they’re also found in Mongolia, Bhutan, and parts of India. They’re raised and cared for by nomadic herders. They live at altitudes of 9,800+ feet and have a double coat of hair.

The outer coat (used for sturdy blankets/ropes) is long and coarse, while the inner layer is downy and soft. They can survive -40° Fahrenheit!(1) Research shows yaks were already domesticated by 8 BCE by the nomadic Qiang people.(2)

People also use yaks for their milk, meat, and hides. The nomadic people of Central Asia only raise domesticated yaks, not the wild yaks (Bos mutus).

Types Of Yak Fiber

These two are the ones you might find available commercially.

  • Adult Yak Wool – It’s great for making rugs, blankets, and other sturdy items
  • Baby Yak Wool – It’s the softest yak fiber. Wool from baby yaks are often used in luxury projects like shawls and sweaters

How It’s Made Into Yarn

Making yak yarn is done by hand. With the heat of summer, they shed their undercoat.

How Is Yak Wool Harvested?

A few weeks before shearing, the herders comb the yak to harvest the down. This is a time-consuming process. An adult yak produces, on average, between 300 – 700 grams of down yearly. The fibers are cleaned and spun into yarn.

How To Wash Yak Yarn

Here are the care instructions for yak fibers.

  • Gently hand wash in cool water with a mild detergent
  • Lay flat to dry out of direct sunlight
  • Avoid hot water, harsh chemicals, and wringing the fabric

Always check the yarn label for instructions specific to the yarn you’re using.

Does It Shrink When Washed?

No, it doesn’t, because it’s a non-shrinking knitting yarn.

How To Soften Yak Yarn

Washing it after you’ve finished knitting always helps!

Pin For Later

Yak Yarn Pin

What Do You Use It For?

Wondering whether you should use it to make a project? Here’s why this fiber is used to make yarn. This luxurious yarn is often used for projects and things like clothing, accessories, a sweater, hats, gloves, scarves, and baby items.

Common Blends Using This Fiber

Here is a list of common blends using this yarn, and why they’re created.

  • Cashmere (from cashmere goats) – This blend creates a soft, warm yarn. It’s often used for sweaters, hats, and other winter accessories
  • Silk – It adds strength and luster to the yarn. It’s often used for shawls and other delicate items
  • Sheep Wool – It adds warmth and durability to the yarn. It’s often used for winter sweaters and hats

Where To Find It

Here’s where to find this yarn: online brand shops. Because it’s a rare fiber, it’s difficult to find. Here are brands or manufacturers of yak yarns to try: MYak. What’s The Price Like? The price varies depending on the quality, but it’s expensive.

Interesting Facts

Want to know some fascinating tidbits about this material? Impress your friends with these.

  • Yak down has been used for clothing and insulation for centuries in the Himalayan region.
  • There are two types of yak – the domestic yak (Bos grunniens) and the wild yak (Bos mutus).
  • The domesticated yak is about the size of a cow, while the wild yak is larger
  • The domesticated yak is the only one used for fiber
  • Yak down is hollow, which makes it a great insulator
  • It’s also water-resistant, making it ideal for wet climates

FAQS About Yak Yarn

Is Yak Yarn Safe For Babies?

Yes, it’s safe for babies because it’s a natural fiber. It’s soft and won’t irritate their skin.

Is Yak Yarn Ethical & Eco-Friendly?

The animals aren’t harmed. It’s a biodegradable fiber and a renewable resource. Their hooves are gentle on the ground, and they graze in a way that doesn’t rip plants.

What Can I Make With Leftover Yak Yarn?

You can make anything you want! Hats, gloves, and more.

Is Yak Yarn Itchy?

No, it’s not itchy because it’s a soft fiber.

Is Yak Yarn Good For Clothes?

Yes, it’s good for clothes because it’s a durable fiber. It lasts a long time.

Is Yak Yarn Good For Winter? 

Yes, it’s good for winter because it’s a warm fiber. It keeps you cozy.

Is Yak Yarn Good For Summer?

No, it’s not good for summer because it’s too warm.

Do Yak Yarns Pill?

No, they don’t pill.

Can You Dye Yak Yarns?

Yes, you can.

Is Yak Yarn Soft?

Yes, it’s a super soft fiber!

Does Yak Yarn Felt?

Yes, it does.

Does Yak Wool Smell?

No, it’s odorless!

Is Yak Wool Warmer Than Alpaca?

Yes, it is!

Yak Wool Vs Merino

It depends on what you’re looking for. Yak wool is warmer, but merino wool is less expensive and more widely available.

Conclusion

Happy crocheting or knitting! Hope you enjoyed this article. Do you have questions? Please leave them below!

References

  1. Qiu, Qiang, Guojie Zhang, Tao Ma, Wubin Qian, Junyi Wang, Zhiqiang Ye, Changchang Cao et al. “The yak genome and adaptation to life at high altitude.” Nature genetics 44, no. 8 (2012): 946-949.
  2. Long, R. J., L. M. Ding, Z. H. Shang, and X. H. Guo. “The yak grazing system on the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau and its status.” The Rangeland Journal 30, no. 2 (2008): 241-246.

About The Author

Jodie Morgan From Knit Like Granny

Jodie Morgan (Author & Founder)

jodie@knitlikegranny.com | Lives In: Regional Australia

Author: Jodie Morgan is a passionate knitter and blogger with 40+ years of experience currently living in regional Australia. Taught by her mother and wonderful grandmother “Mama”, she fell in love with crafting from a young age. When she’s not knitting, you’ll find her enjoying a cup of coffee with cream, or sharing helpful resources and tips with the online knitting community. Get to know Jodie and the team on our meet the team page.

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