The changing seasons always have me thinking of exploration to distant lands, ideally with exotic fibers. One can’t always get out of town at the drop of a hat, though, and sometimes have to be content with a bit of armchair traveling – and few places on earth draw the imagination powerfully as the Tibetan highlands. Since Alexandra David-Néel’s journey to Lhasa in the 1920s, the first western female to visit the city, Tibet has been a magnet for adventurous females, and the story of mYak yarns epitomizes this sort of intrepidity.
Co-founded by Paola Vanzo and Andrea Dominici, mYak demonstrates the best of a hybrid heritage – spinning together the natural fibers sourced from the nomadic herders of the Tibetan highlands with the founders’ native Italian attention to artistry. These two have spent years traveling in Tibet and working directly with herders, much in the same way the June Cashmere team does, with a deliberate focus on training and sustainability. This personal involvement in fiber sourcing and processing ensures that mYak yarns are ethically produced, eco-conscious, and fully traceable from the grasslands of Tibet to your project bag.
mYak yarns, available in both worsted and lace weight, are made of 100% baby yak down. Due to the extreme cold temperatures of the Tibetan plateau, this down is exceptionally fine and warm – and exquisitely soft. The down is combed from the bellies of yak calves in the spring, before it is naturally shed for the summer, which means that the animals are not harmed in the process of collecting the fiber. This does mean that the supply of the yak down is limited, both because the number of suitable yaks in a herd is small, and because the process for collecting it labor-intensive. The down is sorted from the guard hairs in Tibet, then shipped to the town of Biella in northern Italy for processing and spinning.
To enhance the sustainability and strength of their yarns, mYak chooses not to bleach the natural color from the fiber. Yaks are generally darker in color, and the down ranges from pale grey to nearly black. Dyeing the fiber unbleached gives depth to the colors of the yarn, as well as a rich heathered quality.
Where will your fiber travels take you this summer?