I’m Marie Segares from Underground Crafter and trying out new yarns is one of my favorite pastimes. Back in 2012, I discovered qiviut yarn for the first time at Vogue Knitting Live in New York City. Today, I’m going to introduce you to this luxury yarn!
Where does qiviut yarn come from?
Qiviut (pronounced “kiv-ee-ute”) comes from the musk ox, a large Alaskan mammal that is closely related to goats and sheep. Although Alaskan musk oxen were hunted to the point of extinction in the 1850s, the animals continued to thrive in Canada and Greenland, and were reintroduced to Alaska in the 1930s.
What makes qiviut yarn special?
Qiviut is the delicate underwool of the Arctic muskox. Qiviut is insulating and warm, but can also be worn in any climate, year round. It’s fine and light, and even softer than cashmere. This combination of traits is what makes qiviut yarn so beloved.
Qiviut is naturally available in light grays and browns, and, because bleaching can damage it, qiviut is usually only dyed in darker colors. Qiviut doesn’t felt or shrink, but, it does tend to pill and it has limited elasticity, so it is best used in projects that won’t be exposed to repeated abrasion or stretching. Because qiviut may bloom and get fluffier over time, simple stitch patterns work best. Its delicate features make it ideal for lace projects.
Dehairing qiviut fiber is difficult, even with commercial equipment. While an adult musk ox can produce 6 to 8 pounds of fiber, it will only yield about 2 to 3 pounds to spin into yarn after cleaning. Because of the difficulties in obtaining the fibers, the limited musk ox population, and the wonderful properties of the yarn, qiviut is very expensive – prices in the range of $100 per ounce are common. Sometimes, spinners (or yarn companies) will combine qiviut with llama, alpaca, silk, angora, cashmere, or very fine wool to create a (slightly) more affordable yarn.
If you’d like to learn more about qiviut, read my interview with Vivian Osborne, the President of Arctic Qiviut Yarns.
Have you used qiviut yarn before? What have you made with it?