Qiviut (pronounced kiv-ee-ut) is the extremely fine underwool of muskox and is one of the finest and warmest fibers on earth. Qiviut is not easy to get hold of but muskox yarn is prized by many experienced knitters and spinners who appreciate its unique fiber properties such as fineness, warmth, softness and non-shrinkage.

Muskoxen are native to Arctic regions in Alaska, Canada and Greenland. During the 1850s they were hunted to extinction in Alaska, however a small herd from Greenland was re-introduced and they are now flourishing. Each year, this remarkably tough animal grows a dense layer of Qiviut over its entire body, protected from wind and precipitation by an outer coat of dark brown guard hair. The fine, dense underwool helps insultate the muskox from tempratures that can go as low as -50F. Each Spring, the muskox naturally sheds it coat so, unlike sheep, no shearing is necesaary to remove the fiber. Because shedding is fairly synchronous, large fleecy sheets of Qiviut can be combed from the shoulder and flank areas of animals.

Qiviut is a speciality yarn and isn't widely available, however, if you make the effort you can get hold of Qiviut yarn from small specialist farms and suppliers in both Alaska and Canada. One such small family-run business is Windy Valley Muskox Yarn. The farm is located in the Matanuska River Valley of Alaska and the family specialize is producing Qiviut and other speciality yarns such as Suri Alpaca and Pima Cotton in a stunning array of natural and unique dyed colors.

Characteristics of Muskox Yarn

What makes muskox yarn so special? Well, it blooms beautifully, swelling and becoming softer and warmer the more it is handled. Both the Lace weights and the Fingering weights can be considered lace weights by most standards. The Sport weights can be considered fingering weights by most standards. Because muskox yarn blooms so well these fine weights can be worked on needles much larger than standard lace weight fibers. Also Qiviut yarn is incredibly soft it is non-irritating. However, before you consider using Qiviut yarn for your next project you should be aware that 100% Qiviut yarn tends to sag and it doesn't retain its shape that way that wool does. The good news is that many producers of muskox yarn, such as Windy Valley Muskox Yarn, produce Qiviut/wool blends; so you get the softness of Qiviut with the elasticity of wool. Knitted items like scarves and shawls are ideal for 100% muskox yarn. Qiviut does not shrink; in fact Qiviut tends to stretch by up to 10% when washed.

Garments made from muskox yarn is nothing new. Russian, American and European women brought their knitting skills with them to the far north and soon starting using yarn made from muskox underwool. The indigenous women of the far north, like the Inuvialuit, learned knitting skills from the new-comers, and today are some of the most accomplished knitters when it comes to making beautiful, handcrafted, hand-dyed garments made from muskox yarn.

If you're looking for a new type of yarn for your next knitting project maybe you could try using muskox yarn. Thanks to family run concerns like Windy Valley Muskox Yarn, Qiviut can be purchased throughout the United States and beyond. Once you feel the fineness and softness of muskox yarn, and what a pleasure it is to work with, you'll be finding more excuses to use it for your future projects.

About the author:

Visit exquisiteyarns.com to learn more about Windy Valley Muskox Yarn and other hand-dyed yarns like Rio de la Plata yarn.

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