July 2007

What is Qiviut?

Qiviut pronounced (ki - vee – ute) is an Inuit (natives of Arctic Circle) word for the undercoat of Musk ox. Despite the name "ox", Musk ox is actually a relative of goat and lives in the Arctic Circle in places such as Alaska, Canada, and Greenland. The animals grow Qiviut all over their body. It protects them in temperatures as low as -50º F (-46º C). They shed their wool in spring in anticipation of warmer weather.

Qiviut is comparable to Cashmere; some even say it is softer. It is nonirritating, is eight times warmer than wool, and does not felt. Qiviut is combed or collected from Musk ox natural habitat, no shearing is involved. Another source is the Eskimos who hunt the animal for food. According to their culture, they harvest the wool from the hide and use it to produce yarn. An adult animal sheds about 4 to 6 pounds (1.8 to 2.7 kg) of wool each year.

Qiviut is difficult to harvest and as a result, pricey. It lacks body, so it is mostly used for hats and scarves. To use it for sweaters and other garments, it is combined with small amounts of Marino wool, Cashmere, or Alpaca. This way, it will retain shape but will remain extremely soft.

Musk ox was hunted to extinction in Alaska in 1850s. A herd of 34 from Greenland was reintroduced in 1930. University of Alaska, Fairbanks has its own herd. They offer Qiviut yarn for sale and proceeds are used for the program and supporting the animals.

Oomingmak is a cooperative of producers’ of Qiviut in Alaska. It is owned by 250 native women who knit with Qiviut by hand to support their families. They have a store in downtown Anchorage.

For more information about Qiviut check out:




For your reading pleasure check out "Arctic Lace" by Donna Druchunas

Nazanin S. Fard

Needlecraft University

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