My mother washed the sweater. After the first wash, the water was brown. It reeked of animal poo and floated with bits of plant material. The second wash was little different. But after five or six washes, the water came clean and the sweater was significantly lighter in weight. It still was nothing that anyone would have worn, so Mom decided to unravel the knitting to save the yarn. As it was a fair isle knit of three entwined colors, this was not so simple as having a song bird fly off with an end of yarn in its beak and having the whole thing come unraveled. In other words, it took a long time.
The end result of at least 10 hours of labor was four large cakes of yak-hair yarn of three different natural colors: dark brown, brown-grey, and natural white. It is a hand-spun yarn of variable width from fine to bulky. The yarn is not the luxury yak down, finer-than-cashmere stuff that is found on the internet when searching for yak yarn. It is a coarse yarn that incorporates any hair that might have come off a yak along with very fine bits of plant material that were tightly spun into the fibers.
What I love about the yarn is that it crochets into an amazingly realistic curly wig. Thus far, I have only used the dark brown. When I eventually dye the white, I hope I manage to do so in a way that does not mute the subtle variations of the natural fiber.
Because I fear I will eventually run out of this yarn, I looked to see if I can find similar yarn for sale on line. I haven’t. The only similar yarn I found was for sale on Etsy for about $16 for 50 grams, plus shipping from China. It is only 50% yak hair, does not contain all the subtle variations in color, and does not appear to have the same hairy appearance. So if anyone knows an exporter of similar hand-spun, thick-thin yak hair yarn, let me know!