I have to admit it. Yaks are a subject I never gave much thought to before I started researching my new yak-y yarn blend Beyul. The animals were just a distantly exotic beastie – horned, hairy, associated in my mind with snowy high mountain peaks and Tibetan yurts. It wasn’t until I started reading about this fascinating animal that I truly began to get excited about the fibre and it’s amazing properties.
Let me share with all of you lovely fibre friends, starting at the beginning with the shaggy bovine beastie itself…
A key part of the historically nomadic Central Asian societies in Tibet, Mongolia and Russia, yaks are used in every facet of the people’s lives:
- The dwellings, ‘yurts’, ‘yurta’ or ‘ger’ depending on the language of the region, are made of the felted, highly insulating wool, and warm clothing and textiles woven from the fleece;
- Yak butter is made into a rich, sustaining tea to help survive the freezing −40°C winters;
- The animal is the sole source of transport in these mountainous regions and can carry up to a 100kg of weight;
- Since there is very little vegetation at these high elevations to burn, even the dung is a vital resource to communities as the sole source of fuel.
The animals even have a minimal impact on the sparse grassland in these extreme climates and every single facet of the yak is used for survival making them and their fleece extremely environmental.
Tibetan woman with her yak – image source via Travel Watch
It is interesting to note that there is a direct correlation between the altitude that an animal lives in and the softness of its fleece underlayer:
“… sheep live at a few hundred metres altitude; Merino sheep live at around 1000m…yaks live at 4000-5000m…Through thousands of years of evolution, the Yak has developed an astonishing fibre as protection against the extreme low temperatures of this high-altitude environment. (Kora extreme performance sportwear)
The higher the altitude that the yak lives in = the higher quality it’s fibre and soft, insulating downy underlayer which is what is typically used for yarn.
Yak train in the Himalayas – image via The Planet D
A single yak produces a mere 100g of down a year – one average skein of fingering weight yarn, making it a rare and precious fibre. Hand-combed or plucked, this short fibre sits between the most luxurious fine Cashmere and softest baby Camel in micron thickness and has a similar butter-soft handle and gloriously gentle halo… however – it has the added benefit of pilling less than either fibre.
My Aeolica Wristwarmers in Beyul DK Serpentine and Balsam.
Yarn like Beyul – spun from the delicate down – is durable, breathable, lightweight and its incredible thermal properties keeps you cool in summer and warm in winter.
As this new blend embodies the best and most desirable qualities in luxury yarns – softness, durability and an utterly opulent feel for the most sensual knitting experience – I decided to name my yarn ‘beyul’, the Tibetan word for Nirvana-like hidden valleys of plenty.
Siri by Linnéa Öhman in Beyul DK Rhubarb
Beyul combines the best of 3 fibres – the gentle halo of high quality Yak down, a subtle shimmer from silk, and the bouncy goodness of the softest superwash Merino. With a round ply that show off stitch definition at its best, his blend is truly a dyer’s dream, taking dye with an intoxicating richness that takes your breath away.
Find the blend in both fingering weight and DK on the shop and at select local yarn stores near you.