Qiviut is the name of the wool that comes off of the Musk Ox, a gentle giant of a creature often found in Alaska. Once hunted to the brink of extinction, Musk Ox are now considered to have the most precious, softest fiber in the world. Eight times warmer than wool and finer than cashmere, qiviut is extremely rare, it is one of the most luxurious fibers you can choose for a garment.
The softness of Qiviut is something that must be touched to be believed! Qiviut is not only soft, it is also non-irritating to the skin, and is very durable - garments made from it are worn for years and can be hand washed in mild detergent. It retains warmth even when wet.
The lightweight fiber preserves heat in the winter, while also providing cool, breathable comfort in warmer weather. This fibre has been carefully gathered by hand and no animals were harmed in the gentle shedding of it. This fibre generally sells for anywhere between $35-$56/28grams/oz, and skeins of yarn often sell for over $100-200 each!! Fibre count is 100s+ (12-15 micron).
The mighty muskox (Ovibos moschatu) is a survivor from the ice age. Possessing powerful curved horns, which hang down like side bangs from a helmet-like skullcap, muskoxen are actually more closely related to sheep and goats than to cattle and oxen (although all of the above are members of the Bovidae family).
Adult muskoxen weigh from 180 to 400 kg (400 to 900 pounds) but they look much larger on account of their thick coats and large heads. Once muskoxen proliferated throughout the northern hemisphere alongside wooly mammoths, but hunting and habitat loss caused them to retreat further and further into the remotest parts of the north until the end of the nineteenth century when the animals could only be found in the unpopulated wilderness and empty islands of northern Canada and deep in the arctic fastnesses of Greenland. In these remote locations tiny herds of one to two dozen muskoxen still subsist on grasses, willows, lichens and moss while contending with terrible arctic predators and fearsome cold.
Fortunately the muskox is provisioned with fearsome horns and doughty neighbors to fend off polar bears and wolves. The herd is capable of assembling in a ring formation with horns outward to stand off wolves and ice bears (although such a strategy works less well against humans with our projectile weapons). To fight the cold, the muskoxen have fat reserves and one of the most remarkable insulating coats in the animal world.
A muskox’s coat is divided into two layers: a long stringy layer of coarse outer wool and an inner layer of soft warm underwool called qiviut (this Inuit word now primarily denotes muskox wool but it was once also used to refer to similarly soft warm inner down of arctic birds). Qiviut is one of the world’s premier luxury fibers: it is allegedly 8 times more effective at insulation than sheep’s wool and yet is softer than cashmere.
The Musk Ox survived when the other greats of the Pleistocene – wooly mammoth, mastodon, saber-toothed cats, giant sloth – all went away. And it returned to Alaska by way of New York Harbor. Now, it turns out, the musk ox could again be the great survivor in our new Arctic age of extinction. Ross MacPhee, a curator in the department of mammalogy at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, says the musk ox’s homogenous genetic makeup suggests it has been through population stress before and can survive boom-and-bust cycles.
“What we find with living musk oxen is they’re not exactly clones, but they’re so amazingly similar that there’s only one explanation,” MacPhee says. “And that explanation is that they had to have had a very severe pinch on their populations. We estimate that that happened about ten thousand years ago.” But that doesn’t mean it’s all good news for the cold-weather beast, which is most closely related to goats and sheep and can weigh up to 800 pounds. The pace of these changes could challenge even an animal as resilient as the musk ox, scientists say.
Brendan Kelly, an Arctic ecologist and research scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, says all Arctic species are currently endangered by the rapid speed of climate change. “For organisms to adapt – whether it’s changing body size, or changing the timing that they have their calves, and hence can match when the plants are most nutritious – it really depends on the rate of the environmental change relative to the generation time of the organism,” Kelly says. “So if there’s a really, really rapid environmental change, it’s very hard for there to be an adaptive response.”
As I was reading about Musk Ox I found out that all of the muskox at the Myskoxcentrum in Härjedalen, Sweden, came from Ryøya, near Tromsø, Norway. What?!? Muskox on Ryøya? I knew about the Dovrefjell group and an attempt to introduce muskox on Svalbard, but I had never heard of a group in northern Norway. The search was on.
It turns out that there is a flock of about 20 animals running around free on a small island named Ryøya off the coast of Tromsø. NRK’s Ut i naturen television program made a 24-minute show about “Moskusøya” (“Muskox Island”) in 2006. Unfortunately the show is in Norwegian, but even if you don’t speak Norwegian, it’s still worth watching for a while if you want to see muskox running around and scientists trying to catch them. In the Ut i naturen program, we also get to see some historic television clips from the 1960s when the muskox first came to Troms.
In 1969, 25 muskox calves arrived in northern Norway via boat from Greenland. The idea was to raise muskox for their wool as domesticated livestock. The University of Fairbanks in Alaska had some kind of research project related to muskox husbandry (I haven’t looked into that yet) and the idea was transferred to Norway.
The undercoat wool of muskox, known as qiviut, is a highly valuable wool: it is warmer than wool, finer than cashmere and hypoallergenic. Sounds like the perfect winter clothing material, except that muskox are pretty rare and not widely domesticated – which makes it a very, very expensive material
In 1969, the herd was established at a farm in Bardu with the hope that eventually every farm in the area could have 2-3 muskox for a meaningful supplementary income. But by 1975, calls for the end of muskox experiment were being made. According to media reports, a hunter was killed by a muskox and the muskox population was being devastated by a virus (hmmm, sounds familiar, right?). So in 1976, the herd was moved to northern Troms, and five years later, the Tromsø University is taking care of them to preserve the species.
The Department of Arctic and Marine Biology took over the herd and moved them to Ryøya to study their behaviour and adaptation as arctic animals. Muskox as livestock in Norway didn’t work out, but who knows what the future holds. The Qiviut are still here.
If you watch the TV program, you’ll see that while the scientists herd the muskox to collect measurements and/or for transportation to the overwintering station on the mainland, they quickly pull out the qiviut, which they sell to support their research. Qiviut is a bonus of having muskox in Norway — if you can catch them.
Well , don’t you worry I caught some of it for you !! to support the musk ox population growing not only on the American continent but also in other habitats that are good for them. This will enable the species to grow, get stronger, adapt and hey, probably outlive us all, since they already did that to the woolly mammoth.
Don’t worry, if I EVER find a woolly mammoth, I will share its wool with all of you …
Only a small amount available so please don’t wait too long for this amazing Norwegian Qiviut fibre that wil be tha absolute softest you have ever touched in your life ! YUMMM!
Also, some absolutely WICKED tops (as if the Qiviut isn’t wicked enough !)..
Have a fun weekend and happy spinning, knitting, weaving, crocheting and fondling fibre !
Qiviut Fibre (Norway)
50 gram pouches $40
50 grams spun in lace weight will give you an amazing amount of yarn ! Enough to knit yourself a shawlette that will keep you warm even through the coldest weather!
only a very limited quantity available!!!!!
only a very limited quantity available!!!!!
Amazing to spin and wonderful to wear. Has an amazing drape and with its long staple and lustre it will make an absolute wonderful magical yarn
How To Order:
2. message me on facebook or ravelry where I am Ixchelbunny.
I will email you right back with all your order details and payment methods.
Any questions? Any custom orders for yarn or dyeing fibre? Please don’t hesitate to ask! Always happy to enable.
IxCHeL Events to put in your Calendar!
Handknitters Guild Mini Wool show
Coburg Town Hall, 90 Bell Street, Coburg
The AMAZING handknitters Guild Victoria is putting on their annual Yarn & Craft Show again ! Yeah ! This market is one of my favourite events of the year and s set in the epic , recently restored Coburg Town hall.
The date to put in your calendar is May 17th 2014, 10am-15pm!!! I will be there with bells on (and ears..ofcourse!) and will have a NEW range of handspun angora, mink, yak, alpaca, bison! and loooooong repeat lace yarns and sock yarns !!!
for the yarn spinners: all the IxCHeL blended tops will be at the party as well! Ranging from my Angorino to the epic Bunny bison bliss! It is going to be an AMAZING day !!!
Address to be on May the 17th is: Coburg Town Hall (pictured) located at 90 Bell Street, Coburg, about 500 metres from Sydney Road. Entry is free. the Hand knitters’ guild 2014 Raffle Rug made by Guild members with luxury yarn from the Bendigo Wool Mill will be on display and $2 tickets will be available for purchase.
Friday 18th July-Sunday 20th of July
Bendigo Sheep and Wool Show
Bendigo Show Grounds
Flower Power Bunny Shed
THE event of the year with heaps of fun and super special fibre happenings!!
Exciting news !!!!!! more info on that later in the year !!!
Friday 15th of August-Sunday 17th of August
39th Annual Country Conference
Camp Manyung Sunnyside Rd,
Im doing a talk there about the Navajo Churro Sheep project, Navajo Rug making, Navajo style spinning and more !
Lots of extremely special and hard to find fibres and yarns and SPINDLES will be available there !
Not to be missed!
There will also be a Special Navajo rug display and I will also have a stall there with lots of fluffy stuff to hug..enabling galore!!
To participate in the Country Conference please contact : Dot Vallence , email: email@example.com