We recently saw an article in The Wall Street Journal with the headline “Is Yak the New Cashmere?” (you might need a subscription to read it).
The article compares yak to cashmere for softness and durability, discusses the pros and cons, and explains were the fiber comes from. The conclusion seems to be that yak is growing in popularity with fashion labels because it is exotic while cashmere is old news. (Personally, I’m not going to kick cashmere to the curb any time soon!)
According to “The Knitter’s Book of Wool” by Clara Parkes, yaks are members of the bovine family native to Tibet, Mongolia, and south-central Asia. Yaks are one of those animals that have a rough coat of guard hair and a downy undercoat. It’s the downy undercoat that is used in yarn. Yak fiber has short staple length, which is why it feels soft, and good crimp.
Yak may be becoming popular for clothing this year, but we’ve had a yak blend yarn in our stable for a few years now.
Juniper Moon Farm Tenzing yarn was introduced in the fall of 2013. This sport weight yarn (suggested knitting gauge is 25 sts to 4″) is an 85% Merino Wool, 15% Yak blend.
Tenzing instantly became one of my personal favorites. It is soft and springy and feels like knitting with heavy cream in terms of how rich and luscious it feels in your hands.
Since Tenzing has been around for a while, there is a good selection of patterns for it. The Javier Pullover by Kristen Jancuk, shown above, has always been one of my favorites. Javier features an ombre colorblock pattern on a close-fitting raglan pullover with three quarters-length sleeves. It is sized XS (S, M, L, XL, 2X, 3X).
The growth in popularity of yak in the clothing industry means more availability of yak fibers in general, which allowed us to introduce three more yak blend yarns this season.
Juniper Moon Farm has another yak entry with Stratus, an aran weight yarn (suggested knitting gauge of 18 sts to 4″) is a 60% Merino Wool, 20% Nylon (polyamide), 10% Yak, 10% Baby Alpaca blend. The chainette construction means Stratus is both lofty and warm because it has more nooks and crannies to capture warm air. Stratus is available in 14 colors.
Since you’ll want to snuggle up in Stratus, the Cloud Pullover, by Pamela Wynne of “Flint Knits”, is a good project to knit. This oversized pullover has long sleeves and a cowl-neck that is sure to keep you warm when the winter winds blow. It is sized XS (S, M, L, XL, 2X, 3X).
Abbey’s Stratus offering is the Solstice Sky Duo is a coordinating earflap hat and fingerless mitts set. The tassels on the hat are a fun touch.
New this season from Queensland Collection, Oxley yarn is a sport weight (suggested knitting gauge 24 sts to 4″) 50% Yak, 50% Wool blend. Oxley is available in 16 rich colors. Some of the colors, like the purple I’m holding up, have a lovely heathered appearance. This yarn feels wonderful in the hank! I made sure this purple hank and a silver one came home with me. I haven’t had a chance to knit or crochet with them yet, but I enjoy bringing them out to pet them. (Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about.)
Jo Allport designed three patterns for the launch of Oxley. The Kelle Beanie Hat calls for just one hank of Oxley, so it is a good choice to take this new yarn for a test drive. Don’t let this pattern intimidate you. The cable pattern in the hat has both text and charted directions and the hat is knit flat and seamed. You can practice your cabling without worrying about maneuvering double pointed needles!
Last, but certainly not least, is Lhasa yarn from the Debbie Bliss Pure Bliss collection. This aran weight (suggested knitting gauge of 16 sts to 4″) yarn is a 50% Cashmere, 50% Yak blend that is to die for! When you’re talking about yarns you just want to keep around to pet, Lhasa should definitely be on the list. Lhasa is another chainette yarn and has a good amount of spring.
Debbie has released a pattern book featuring 13 designs using Lhasa yarn. This beautiful cabled caplet is one of my favorites. Isn’t the stitch definition great? If you aren’t ready to commit to a caplet, one hank of Lhasa is enough for a hat or a cowl.
Be sure to visit your local yarn shop to see these beautiful yarns in person. They have to be felt to really understand how wonderful they are!
Have you ever knit or crocheted with a yak blend yarn?