Preparing Your Fiber for a Competition

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.


April/May 2023

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.


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Summer update and maybe get me writing again.

I start and stop writing all the time. I have small ideas that get posted onto a social media page and they tend to spark other ideas. I realize I need to find a better way to update on my yak fiber study. I have been working on a longitudinal study of yak fiber since 2020 and have a pile of data to sort and categorize and come to some sort of conclusion.

This on top of running the yarn shop. I love it but it sure keeps me on my toes. I’m sure that is why I love it. I like to learn continuously and the fiber industry sure lets me do that. I really enjoy having six plus projects going at any one time.

August 1 and I am realizing that I need to be planning the Christmas/holiday season now. It can be tough to think about the cool weather and warm cozy knitting when the temperatures are in the triple digits. I’m sure you all feel the same way when it comes to thinking about your knitting. I like to knit small projects in the summer or plan my holiday knitting during the holidays for the following year.

Any grand update? Not here. I’m busy with trying to run a business, raise a family, and have some fun in there. I sure am grateful for the fact that I am surrounded by a community of support in all of those endeavors.

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Yak Fiber

I’m back from the Denver Stock show. That is quite the production. It always amazing me the number of people and animals that converge on Denver. It is very exciting. I do think if you are involved in livestock the stock show is worth a visit at least once in your life. Showing is not for everyone but it is so interesting seeing all the variations of shows.

I have two main reasons to visit the stock show. I judge fiber for the USYaks Association and I am conducting a study on the U.S. yak population’s fiber. I was able to collect thirty-five new samples for my ongoing study. I will be reaching out to the ranchers there and requesting more information and details regarding their animals that they were so kind as to let me sample.

I will back up a little bit… I started my fiber study in 2020. I am in year two of collecting data that I hope will continue through 2023. Once I have data collected I will sort and sift and see what correlations are there. Then I hope to follow up with more study to see if I can identify causations as I isolate for variables.

There isn’t a whole lot of published information regarding yak fiber. The wool industry has the advantage of roughly 100 years worth of scientific study. Yaks are a relatively new critter to the U.S. livestock industry so not much as been studied or published about them. I am hoping to get that ball rolling with this study. I also hope to start that by publishing relatively regular updates to my blog.

Delphine, a young (less than one year) calf at the NWSS 2022

The above photos are a variety of yaks and fibers. Working left to right the golden colored fibers are human hair, the next fiber is the fuzzy yak down, and the third fiber is wool. It is fascinating to see the differences in the what the fibers look like and how they handle when you work with them. I am off to update data bases etc. with this.

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Stock Show time!

Things get a little nutty around here this time of year. I go to the Denver stock show (National Western Stock Show) at the end of January to judge yak fiber on the animal. I love this time of year even if it is super busy.

Let’s see, first thing is first. I’m flying into Denver this year so it means I need to pack a bit differently. Also, I need to be prepared for all kinds of weather, being outside, working with livestock, and dining at an awards banquet. Nothing like feeling like I need to pack everything. Oh, and I tend to only take a carry-on. I hate to check bags when flying. It is way to easy to get separated from them and it is way too easy to have the baggage claim area take forever. Especially in the Denver airport. It is huge and takes forever to get out of the airport even when you streamline things.

So what does my packing look like? I’m pretty basic when it comes to my items.

Jeans/pants Two to three pair that can be dressed up and down and worn with multiple shirts

Shirts- a long sleeved wool t-shirt, short sleeved wool t-shirt, a flannel, a cotton t-shirt or two. For seven days I usually pack about six shirts

Wool sweater

Water proof shell

Packable down jacket

Boots/shoes 1 pair that will be worn everywhere and probably one pair of moccasins/slippers for in and around the hotel

Of course my undies and whatnot that get changed out everyday

I don’t really wear makeup so the only thing I really bring there is mascara, BB cream, and my face wash.

A hairbrush and some hair ties, and a stocking hat. It is January in Denver so it could be really warm or really cold.

The real hiccup for packing is that I am judging and presenting at the show. This means I need my computer, papers, clipboard, fiber boards, baggies, labels, paper, etc. Honestly this stuff will take up most of my bags. And I am a total coffee junky so I will have multiple ways of making coffee on the go. I use instant coffee, single serve pour overs, and a packable pour over filter. This means I’ll have two water bottles, one hot and one cold with me at the stockyards. Everything is far away and I need to be on the go and contained in a backpack. I also don’t know how far away food will be so I will have at least a few granola/protein bars with me.

I am excited to fly again. I really haven’t since the Coronavirus Pandemic started in 2020. I’m fully vaccinated, boosted, and will have my masks and sanitizer with me. I’m not too worried about traveling during this time for myself. Flying has always been a way to catch viruses and bacteria. Just too many people crammed in together. Now hopefully it means that people are more careful than they normally would be. I might be a bit too optimistic, but I’d rather be that than grumpy and fearful. I’ll be careful and considerate and hope that I get the return type of behavior…

A few other bits to this: My shipping department (me) will be a bit slow for a week while I’m gone. I cannot ship things from Oregon while in Colorado. I will hopefully have a few order ready to go out before I leave that my husband can ship for me. I will also be totally absorbed in yaks for a week or so while dealing with the stock show. That means that all my posts etc. are liable to be about yak fiber. I do love this time of year! I get to play with and be around lots of yaks. Such a treat for me!!

Lastly I should have Little Hawk Yarns rockin’ and rollin’ again the first week of February. I have been spinning and I have a bunch of dyeing to do so I’m shooting for a pretty major web store update towards the end of February.

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Big update

Wow! 2021 escaped me rather quickly and all of a sudden I’m 10 days into 2022. I’m not even sure how that happens.

I have decided that I just need to write in order to get started and quit overthinking every little thing. Bear with me, we are going on a little update journey…

2021 in review: My family moved from Nebraska to Oregon. A move of roughly 1000 miles and it managed to get stretched into a timespan of about 2-3 months. Buying and selling houses right now is more of a waiting game than it used to be. Seems like if anyone would like to become an appraiser it would be a good thing to do. There seems to be a shortage of them and their backlog is huge. Because we were moving so far and didn’t know our timing we got rid of a ton of our stuff. We kept more than we probably should have considering but a month or so after we moved into our new house some thieves helped themselves to our cargo trailer and the items still in there. We managed to get the trailer and much of the items back but of course we didn’t get the tools (all of my aviation maintenance tools) and the silver back. Those are relatively easy to get sold without questions and even used hold value. Luckily my Little Hawk Yarns items were relatively untouched. I did lose my canopy for events, but that was it.

My kids got started at their new school. We are closer to family than we have lived in probably 14 years. It is nice to be able to visit for holidays etc. instead of having the trip be 1000 miles and two days of driving.

I’m working on starting my tool collection over. A little at a time. Mainly I’m focusing on the tools I need to repair my truck and trailer or fiber tools. My business, Little Hawk Yarns, has shifted to almost all online with this move. This is allowing me to reassess what is and is not working.

2020 got me started on a few projects that I have continued through 2021 and will through 2022. First, I started a scientific study on yak fiber. I discovered that there isn’t a whole lot of information out in the world about the yak fiber despite it being a super soft and lovely fiber. I am now in the process of collecting samples from animals around the USA and studying the fibers. I am working toward publishing results around 2024 and hope to have more updates here with several different articles in the meantime.

The other big project is myself. I finally reached out and admitted that I needed some help in 2020 due to PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). This is the first I have openly talked about it anywhere. I’m not sure what all to say… I think most commonly I’ve run into the question of, “How did you get that?” Most people really don’t expect it from someone who has not been in the military and had a pretty fantastic childhood. So, the super simple answer is, several traumatic events in my life that happened over the coarse of several years. 2007-2018 to be more exact. No, I won’t give details but the basics are that I had 8 co-workers die in plane crashes, I had several other people close to me die in the same timeframe, and I had several personal things going on all at once. Everything compounded to the point that I have had anxiety go through the roof, I was angry all the time, and I wasn’t very much fun to be around (even for myself). At this point I would say after almost a year of some hardcore weekly therapy, and starting anti-anxiety meds I am at a much more stable and better point. I am not “cured” and I will be going back to therapy once I find a new therapist after having moved. I have realized though that most people do not talk about this stuff. Someone talking about their situation prompted me to reach out so I’m hoping that I can prompt someone else to reach out and get some help. I won’t sugar coat it though. It isn’t easy. But being in therapy and dealing with things ultimately is easier than living with the side-effects of PTSD.

So there are the big updates to what has been going on. I’m going to work on writing more again. I have missed writing. Plus I have so many more things to go into way more detail about. Namely my yak fiber study… You may get sick of yaks.

In about a week I will be traveling to Denver for the National Western Stock Show. I will be judging yak fiber and I will be presenting and I will be collecting samples of fiber for my study. I cannot wait to go see lots of yaks!

Young yak bull
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We are moving to Oregon from Nebraska! We are officially out at the end of the month. So what the heck does that mean for Little Hawk Yarns and me? First I will be upfront and say I have a lot of unknowns yet. This is a crazy fast move and a long one at that. So, no we don’t have a new address yet. We have to sell the house in Nebraska before we can get a place in Oregon. That means we are in limbo there, which means most things are in limbo. Have you ever tried to change over things without an address? I can think of so many social implications this has, but now is not the time or the place to go into that. Just think about it for a minute though for me please.

Now, for the business… I am moving it to online only for the time being as I move states. Shipping will be on hold for the month of June as I don’t know where me or my stuff will be at any given moment. I am also working on my yak fiber study and have a bunch of samples that need cataloged, sent to the lab, and data entry done. That means I am trying to figure out how to do that on the go in a compact manner.

Personally we are moving with two kids, two dogs, two cats, and I will be manning that circus by myself while my husband starts work. Luckily my mom is in between where we live now and where we will be living so I won’t actually be alone. And my kids are old enough to actually be a help. They are fantastic help even when one really doesn’t want to move.

I am finding that in the world of the internet checklists are only sort of a thing and moving 1000+ miles is not common. Almost all moving advice is for moving across town with lots of known information. Not a wild adventure of moving across the country on a lot of unknowns. I guess we like to be different.

Why are we making this big crazy move? Well, my husband got a new job. The old one was stressing him out to the point of being ill. And our family is in the Pacific Northwest. Yay! We will have our kids actually get to know their cousins, grandparents, and aunts and uncles. We have been trying to get back there for about 10 years and it just hasn’t worked out with jobs. It finally has, so we jumped at the opportunity.

I’d better get more packing done. So much packing! A bit of advice: Get rid of all the things. I am finding out how much crap I can pack into a house and it is way, way, way, too much. I need to learn how to not be a good consumer.

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Quick update

I am making myself sit down and update you all. 2020 sure threw me for a loop. It seemed that many things just didn’t happen in 2020. On the other hand I got busier than ever. I didn’t get to attend any festivals or shows in 2020. I was glad of not needing to travel but I also missed traveling.

I have many plans in the works behind the scenes. The Pandemic has brought about a yak fiber study that I am working on. I also now have an electric drum carder that means I can process my own fleeces a bit faster than a snail. Maybe I can put a dent in the number of raw fleeces I have in my garage…

As things start working towards spring and vaccines becoming available it is looking like I may be able to go back to having classes in person. I have missed people in classes.

A quick list of things in the works for the shop/web store:

  • yak study
  • new knitting needles coming in
  • new yarns coming in

classes coming up:

  • knitting 101
  • crochet 101
  • weaving on a rigid heddle loom
  • spinning
  • weaving a bookmark
  • magic loop socks
  • knitting cables

This last year has been fabulous to point out exactly which direction I want and need to be going in. I am more focused than ever on having local products. The supply chain has been unstable throughout the country over the last year but I have found that my local products are here and reliable. This means I can help keep businesses here in our community healthy.

Make sure to check out the store online at and find me on Instagram and Facebook @littlehawkyarns

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Spring 2020 update

Holy shit you guys! Pardon the language but with the coronavirus shutting things down left and right I do believe that it is warranted. If you are like me you are now working from home and the kids are home because school has been cancelled. It makes for an interesting dynamic. Our district/state hasn’t figured out if it is really the two weeks they announced or if it is more. Although nothing official has been put out, I really doubt my kids will be back to the school building before their May 22 release date. That means, homeschool. So it means time to figure out what they are going to do. Since I own Little Hawk Yarns (more on that in a minute) part of the homeschool curriculum here has to involve fiber arts. I’m putting together a weaving project, a sewing project, and knitting project for my daughter. I have not figured out what for my 11 year-old son yet. He does not care for this stuff and I really don’t feel like going ten rounds trying to get him to do something. He may end up mostly doing cooking projects.

Since I have shifted my store to online only I am home and able to do this. And as I get kits put together I will add them to my store to help out you who would like to be able to do a fiber project with your kids who are also home.

Speaking of the store… Little Hawk Yarns is all online now. Make sure to check it out since I am adding lots of items that I did not have on there before. In this time of uncertainty I sure could use you help in staying afloat. Without the steady income of the store here in town things are pretty questionable at the moment.

That’s the good and the bad. The ugly is that the web page updates slower than I like. I’m working on classes online, but I don’t have things recorded to put on there as I was not ready to go 100% online quite yet. So it will likely be ugly for a bit while I get organized.

I do hope that you can find some things to enjoy during this time. I am enjoying the extra time with my family and the removal of distractions that comes from the social distancing and events being cancelled. I would like to leave you with a wish for your good health.

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Catching up from a crazy week…

School started yesterday. We also started putting in hardwood floors about the same time. And my dogs attacked my cat yesterday. The cat seems like she’ll be okay. Is freaked out my only slightly damaged despite a large size difference between her and the dogs.

The floors are going in smoothly it just means that my house is in utter chaos for the start of school. My kids are good sports though and don’t seem to mind. We can only do so much each evening before we poop out, or it gets to late to run the saw politely so we get a couple of hours in each evening. We should be done by the weekend. I really hope so since I have farmers market to attend.

I am tickled how the new farmers market is going here. I didn’t tell you about the market did I? Well, I got convinced to join the board of directors to start a farmers market here in Chadron. We have a great board that works their butt off to make this a go. While it isn’t anything like a big city market it is steady and I at least have had great support as a vendor. It seems like my other vendors do too. I do love the buzz around a farmers market. Everyone setting up their little portable stores and then the customers filtering in as the morning gets started. So much fun. It would be lovely if we could get more produce vendors this year. I know it has been a tough year though.

Well, I had better get some knitting and more cleaning of my office done so I can actually find things. Oh and a quick note… I have books and patterns on sale on my web page. Make sure to check it out. 40% off and all you have to do is checkout. The discount is automatic.

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What’s for supper?

I’m supposed to figure out what to do do for supper tonight. Officially I’m still working for another half an hour. Today and really this whole summer, seems to have slipped away without even realizing it. A week from today my kids start school. Yes, we start early. We also get out in May so there are some perks.

I am very ready for the steady schedule that school provides. I love the days spent with my kids though. I like that this Little Hawk Yarns gig provides us with the ability to spend the time together. That said, I am so ready to have the days where I can not worry about what the kids are up to and actually get some work done.

Speaking of work… I have most of my fall classes lined out. I’m madly knitting sample pieces. I just started the hat this morning. Good thing I like to knit because I have a lot of knitting to work on. Knitting to a deadline can be a bit of a worry though. Luckily most of the classes this fall are for smaller projects like hats, mittens, and socks. The mittens are done and the socks are started. Actually I might knit the mittens again in another yarn with another set of needles so people can see the differences. We shall see what I end up with timing-wise.

My sock class is filling up nicely. Hooray! I always like when a class is nice and full but not overflowing. I’m excited to introduce some new knitters to the joy of sock knitting.

Okay, I’d better get to figuring out what on earth this family is going to eat tonight. All I know right now is that it will likely involve bacon.

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