Qiviut is a rare, incredibly soft and light-weight fiber. Qiviut is from the Inuit language, meaning the underwool of the Musk Ox or Oomingmak. There are several spellings of the word: qivitit, kiviuk, qiviuk, qiviute, qiveut, to name a few.
Musk Ox are found on the high arctic tundra in northern Canada and Greenland. They have been reintroduced to Russia and Norway. Musk ox in the wild are nomadic and travel about 1 mile per day between feeding areas. They migrate between moist lowlands in summer and high, barren plateaus in winter. To guard their young, musk ox travel in rings, the adults surrounding the young, protecting them from wolves and other attackers. Their diet consists of flowering plants, leaves and shrubs.
There are also a few domestic and research herds in Alaska, Canada and Montana.
Musk Ox grow 400 – 800 lbs. They have a long outer coat comprised of coarse guard hairs. Their inner downy coat allows them to survive the cold arctic winter. Qiviut is 8 times warmer than wool and is finer than cashmere. Qiviut doesn’t have natural elasticity like wool, and doesn’t shrink or felt and takes dye beautifully.
Musk ox shed their fiber once a year, yielding about 5 to 7 lbs. of fiber. Qiviut fiber collection, cleaning and dehairing is a very time consuming process as it is all done by hand. The yarn is spun in specialized cashmere factories. For handspinners, Silvia Becker offers advice on spinning qiviut.
The Musk Ox Company in Montana sells fiber and yarn for knitters. The yarns are available in several fashionable colors and patterns.
More about Qiviut
Are you looking for some qiviut to spin? Here are links to some suppliers of exotic yarns.