They are at stock shows and fiber festivals – fleece and fiber arts competitions. You own (or want to own) yak and enter your fiber to compete.
What does it take to put an entry in the show and see where your yak fiber stacks up?
First, it takes planning.
Roughly up to a year in advance, a fiber festival will put out dates and deadlines for entries. Why? Organizers need time to take applications for entries, create show classes, find venues, teachers, vendors, insurance, and get advertising, but fiber producers and makers, the people competing, need the time to process fiber and make finished goods. With exceptions depending upon where in the world you are and what the climate and culture are, “seasons” for fairs look something like this:
Fiber fairs/festivals or stock shows are typically held in either the SPRING or FALL
Craft fairs are mostly scheduled in the SUMMER or at indoor venues around the WINTER holiday months
One WINTERTIME show in particular, The Denver Stock Show or the NWSS (National Western Stock Show) is held for sixteen days in January in Denver, Colorado. There are fiber competition events going on within the YAK associations. Here is a sample timeline to use if getting ready to show that fiber. This timeline reflects the FIBER preparation OFF the animal, not the preparation to show the YAK itself in a pen or halter show.
ENTERING A KNITTED ITEM: If the year of the show is 2024, the best fiber, which is what you want to enter in a competition, should be combed in the SPRING of 2023, 8-10 months before the knitted item will be shown at the 2024 show. In this scenario, harvesting the yak fiber 8-10 months prior not only collects the fiber at the optimal time for the yak, but gives the knitter time to hand process the fiber (washing, dehairing, carding, spinning) into yarn for a knitted product to be completed after. If hand processing is not “in the cards” (get it?), and the yak fiber will have to go to a fiber mill for processing into yarn, check with the mill for their turnaround time because most mills’ lead times are an average of 6-8 months from when they receive your fiber for you to get yarn back.
Comb fiber from the yak, skirt the fiber (pick out any hay pieces or clumps of dirt) so you are left with cleanest fiber for the next step
May/June 2023 –
Start hand processing or contact and send raw fiber to mill to process…communication with, shipping to and from the mill factor into this timeline
November/December 2023 (for mill processing choice)
Yarn comes back from the mill (hopefully as there is no real guarantee for timing) and there is only about a month left to knit up an item to enter into that 2024 NWSS fiber show
Entry process will include sending in application with payment to enter show, then getting instructions, rules and labeling required from the show organizers to show your entry
December 2023/January 2024 – entries for a knitted item are usually due to the show organizers a couple weeks before the actual show happens. All shows vary with deadlines, so make sure you are checking registration dates for all the types of entries.
How long would you take to knit a hat or a scarf? Crochet? Weave? Felt? Timing can vary widely depending on technique, the artisan producing the final product, and intricacy of the work.
The point? Planning. Time. Up to a year or more sometimes in advance when you are a fiber producer or fiber artisan. The process of getting a product to the finished stage from the raw material can take quite some time and calls for advance planning.
The yak takes a year to produce the fiber THEN we take up to another year to get the raw fiber or a finished product. This example is not used just for show competition, the same resources and timing would apply if you wanted to market your fiber products from your yak herd.
VARIABLES that influence the timeline: weather, animal/herd health, economy, demand on mills, availability of mills, health of mill owner, health of rancher, price of goods, scheduling of shows, demand for fiber, trucking/shipping availability and stability, availability of someone to comb animals.
Planning for a fiber show and a fiber project is really about a TWO-YEAR PROCESS because of the time it takes to grow the fiber, process the fiber, and then produce a product from the fiber.
SHOWING RAW FIBER for competition? The timeframe is still there but in the case of yak, if the NWSS in January is where you wish to compete against other yak producers, the harvest of that best fiber still happens 8-10 months prior to the January show.
Although a lot of time and work goes into an accessory that is deceptively simple in appearance, the fulfillment of being rewarded with feedback from other yak producers, fiber experts, and the public on what was able to be produced from your raw fiber can be priceless. While it can be a time-consuming process to enter a fair or show it can be well worth the feedback and ultimately the marketing exposure. Whether you are marketing your animal or your skills, the exposure of fairs and competitions spreads your name among potential customers and your peer groups.