Yearn Worthy Yarn: Qiviut

musk ox yarn After the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge popped up in the news again, my mind couldn’t help but think of all of the great wildlife found in the arctic and in Alaska; the porcupine caribou, the arctic fox, and the polar bear. But do you know of the musk ox?

The musk ox is a large gentle creature similar in weight and stature to a buffalo. They have large curved horns and long shaggy hair and are more closely related to goats and sheep than to oxen. I first fell in love with these animals when I was researching the arctic a while back for work. For those of you that have watched the Planet Earth series you know how cute they are.

In preparation for the warmer summer months, musk ox shed a layer of their fur called qiviut. Pronounced kiv-ee-ute, qiviut is an Inuit word for down or underwool. The qiviut is very soft and warm and easily spun into highly sought after yarn. Warmer than wool and finer than cashmere, it is extremely rare. It is also often referred to as “the cashmere of the north.”

Qiviut’s natural color is a light brown-gray color and can be dyed various shades. It knits up best as a blend; the wool or silk lending memory to the fiber.

This amazing yarn can be purchased from Windy Valley Musk Ox and from the University of Alaska’s Large Animal Research Station where they incorporate environmental practices whenever possible:

Most of our yarn is processed by a small, family-operated mill. They strive to be as earth-friendly as possible, following organic wool processing practices and using non-metallic dyes. This philosophy compliments our process of hand combing the qiviut from live animals.

Also available in roving and unprocessed, qiviut is a luxurious fiber perfect for a scarf or shawl. Save your pennies because this yarn is pricey.

[Image courtesy of LARS]

Written by Kelly Rand

Kelly covers visual arts in and around Washington, DC for DCist and is editor of Crafting a Green World. Kelly has also been published by Bust Magazine and you can find her byline at Indie Fixx and Etsy’s Storque and has taught in Etsy’s virtual lab on the topic of green crafting.

Kelly helps organize Crafty Bastards: Arts and Crafts Fair, one of the largest indie craft fairs on the east coast and has served on the Craft Bastard’s jury since 2007. Kelly is also co-founder of Hello Craft a nonprofit trade association dedicated to the advancement of independent crafters and the handmade movement. Kelly resides in Washington, D.C. and believes that handmade will save the world.


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