I love yak fiber and other short staple, downy fibers. So, when I finished this project and my daughter wanted to try them on I found my inner voice sounding like Gollum from Lord of the Rings, saying, “My Precious,” and not wanting them to leave my wrists. And although wearing wristlets makes you feel a little like Wonder Woman, they will not protect you from assaults, but they will protect you from chilly drafts. Superhero status will be achieved after you conquer longdraw. You will use your magical powers to transform downy fiber into soft, sensuous, circles of warmth for your wrists.
To spin yak, you will need a wheel with a very high drive wheel to whorl ratio. One way to achieve this is with a very big drive wheel. To understand why, compare a lock of cormo cross freece with yak fiber.
Under a microscope, at 190 times the actual size, both fibers look similar in fineness. But, take a look at the length. Wow what a difference. It is the length that drives the choice of spinning ratios. Long fiber need less twist than short fibers. This makes sense if you think that twist is what acts like glue to hold the fiber together as it becomes yarn. Short fibers need a lot more twist to make yarn.
Your flyer, the device that is actually adding the twist to your yarn, needs to be moving very fast. This is where my problem occurs. I am a super slow treadler. When I want to spin a very short fiber, I need to bring out the big guns, or drive wheel, as the case may be. Otherwise, I have to treadle like the wind and always end up back at my default treadling pace of turtle, with my yarn falling apart.
The Flatiron is perfect for spinning short, fine fiber. With my super high speed whorl/pulley the ratio is 26 to 1, meaning that my whorl (flyer) is rotating 26 times for every time the drive wheel makes one complete turn. I can treadle at my slow pace and still add enough twist for my yarn to be durable and stable.
Spinning the Singles
Down fibers like camel, yak and bison yearn to be spun longdraw. The supported longdraw seems to work best for me. Using this drafting technique may require some practice if your default drafting is a short draw, forward or back. After attaching the fiber to your leader you will be gently controlling the twist with your forward hand. Your fiber supply hand cups the fiber while allowing a small amount of fiber between your thumb and forefinger. Since the fiber is fine, we will be spinning a fine yarn, and since the fiber is so short the drafting triangle is microscopic in comparison to a medium weight wool yarn. In the drafting triangle your fiber supply turns into yarn, so the more fiber you feed in, the heavier your yarn. Pull your fiber supply hand away from your forward hand while using your forward hand like a stop gate to open, shut, twist and untwist the twist between your hands allowing only enough twist through to twist those tiny fiber in the triangle between your forefinger and thumb on your fiber supply hand. Then treadle, open the front hand finger and thumb and let the yarn draw on.
Continue using this technique and checking for your desired twists per inch and wraps per inch. Spin the whole ounce.
Ply two singles of yarn using S twist to ply a yarn with approximately 6 twists per inch.
Wind the plied yarn into a skein using a Niddy Noddy. Secure the skein in at least four places. Place the skein in warm water with a dash of soap (I use Method dish soap) and let sit for 10-15 minutes until entire skein is wet. Swirl around the sink a little bit then rinse with warm water of the same temperature you used for washing. Squeeze out excess water then place on a towel. Roll up the towel and kneel on it to remove the remaining water. Hang to dry.
When the yarn is dry, make a ball of yarn. Then knit up the Twin Leaf Wristlets.
Equipment: Schacht Flatiron spinning wheel, superfast pulley/whorl
Fiber: Yak from HaySpringsYaks.com, 1 ounce
Singles WPI: 20-21
Singles TPI: 10
Singles Twist Direction: Z
Ply WPI: 14
Ply TPI: 6
Ply Twist Direction: S
Yardage: One ounce of fiber yields 160 yards of 2-ply yarn