Spinzilla Diary: How To Spin Yak/Silk
In the dozen or so fiber-laden vendor halls I visit each year, I love seeing spinners encounter yak/silk combed tops for the first time. Sometimes there is a sharp gasp or, more often, a stunned silence paired with the frantic search for a credit card. I’ve spun quite a lot of it over the years, but when I saw Lisa Souza’s new colorways on depigmented yak/silk combed top, I knew it had to be my Spinzilla project.
Commercially prepared yak down blended with silk is a great spinner’s challenge. The qualities of the two fibers oppose each other: yak is short, soft, and slightly crimpy, while silk is usually long and slick. I find this blend easiest to spin from the fold. This technique also makes for speedy spinning—a good thing for Spinzilla!
Spinning from the fold does two helpful things for a yak/silk blend: it allows the fibers to be spun into a semiwoolen-style yarn more easily (most effective for fibers shorter than 3 inches or so) because the silk is shortened when folded, and it helps to keep the fibers more or less homogenously blended. Drafting with a worsted draw can encourage the silk to separate from the yak down, leading to a less consistent yarn. All of this can vary spinner to spinner, so give it a try!
When spinning yak and silk blended together, especially in a handpainted top, I only work with one staple length at a time. Pull off a chunk (or two) of fiber from the end of the sliver, fold over your index finger, and begin spinning.
The project that I’m making (which I began planning here) will be Lisa’s yak/silk plied with chocolate yak down. The yak down on its own is short and homogenous. I’m also spinning it from the fold, but I can use longer chunks of top when spinning a fine-gauge single.
I’m zooming through Spinzilla for Team Spin Off. Go team, go! When the dust settles, I’ll be back to show you how I finish this laceweight handspun before knitting my Pyrope Shawlette.
Featured Image: Lisa Souza’s new Salmon Run colorway on depigmented yak/silk. Photos by Kate Larson