Looking for a super-warm, fine yarn? Qiviut fibers might be the perfect choice. I explore what qiviut yarn is, and ways to use it for knitting.
I reviewed, fact checked and updated this post on May 16, 2023.
Table Of Contents
- What Is It?
- What Do You Use It For?
- Common Blends Using This Fiber
- Where To Find It
- Interesting Facts
What Is Qiviut Yarn?
It’s an animal fiber sold at expensive prices. This fiber isn’t popular because it’s not well known, however, it’s warm, luxurious, silky, and insulating. They’re light and great for winter projects. It’s available in natural colors and dyed options.
Where It Comes From
It’s from the undercoat of the arctic musk ox, not the guard hair. It’s one of the finest and softest natural fibers. (It’s pronounced “kiv-ee-ute.”) The muskox (scientific name Ovibos moschatus) is a large, shaggy-haired mammal closely related to the sheep. Its Inupiaq name, Oomingmak, means “the bearded one.”(1)
The muskox roams the arctic tundra in small herds, and the animals are found in Alaska, Canada, and Greenland. They’re important to the First Nations people of Canada, and have been hunted for their meat and fur for centuries.
The downy undercoat layer is used to make this luxurious yarn. This means it’s in limited supply, and rare.
How It’s Made Into Yarn
The process is long and difficult. The down is cleaned and dehaired before it’s spun into yarn. Most small suppliers employ hand spinners, which makes the yarn more expensive, but with a lovely lofty quality. The qiviut is hand-dyed before it’s finally ready to knit with!
Here’s a video by the University of Alaska Fairbanks of a person combing Scarlett, a 16-year-old female musk ox.
Scarlett seems to enjoy the process, and it doesn’t hurt she’s being fed some delicious snacks.
How To Wash Qiviut Yarn
Here are the care instructions for pure qiviut fibers. Handwash it in cool water with a mild soap, and lay flat to dry. Always check the yarn label for instructions specific to the yarn you’re using.
Does It Shrink When Washed?
No, qiviut gets softer when it’s wet, and won’t shrink.
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What Do You Use It For?
It’s often used for projects and things like shawls, wraps, hats, mittens, socks, scarves, rugs, blankets, and throws.
Historically, and today, especially by the Oomingmak Cooperative, the First Nations people made nachaqs. A nachaq (which means hat/hood in the Iniut language) is a tubular garment like a cowl, worn around the neck.(3)
Common Blends Using This Fiber
Here is a list of common blends using this yarn, and why they’re created. Qiviut yarn is often blended with other fibers to make it more affordable, and increase its durability.
- Qiviut/Merino wool
Where To Find It
Here’s where to find this yarn: at a yarn store in your area, or in online brand shops. Here are brands or manufacturers of qiviut yarns to try: Windy Valley Muskox, Nunavut Qiviut Yarn, Aurora Yarns Of Alaska, or Tribe Yarns.
What’s The Price Like?
Why Is Qiviut So Expensive? This yarn is rare and difficult to find. It’s also time consuming to process, resulting in a high price tag for this yarn.
Want to know some fascinating tidbits about this material? Impress your friends with these.
- It’s eight times warmer than wool
- It’s softer than cashmere
- The word “qiviut” comes from the Inuit language, and means “down”
- They developed their warm wool because they need to survive the harsh polar winter
- It’s so insulating, snow on their back doesn’t melt!(4)
FAQS About Qiviut Yarn
Is Qiviut Fiber Safe For Babies?
Yes, it’s safe for babies because of its softness and it’s not scratchy for their sensitive skin.
Is Qiviut Fiber Ethical & Eco-Friendly?
Some muskoxen are harvested as a food supply for First Nations people. From those muskoxen, the fibers are taken to make yarn. However, farms raise them for education and First Nations advocacy/outreach programs, like The Musk Ox Farm.
Muskoxen shed their fiber (fibre) in April and May, and the ones at the farm are combed.(2) It’s cleaned, then sent to the mill to be made into a skein, then returned to the farm and they sell it in their online store. Musk oxen are kept in small numbers to prevent overgrazing and excessive water consumption.
What Can I Make With Leftover Qiviut Fiber?
You can make a lot of things with leftover qiviut fiber, like a headband, gloves or mittens, wrist warmers or socks.
Is Qiviut Fiber Itchy?
No, it’s not itchy or scratchy because the fibers are so fine.
Is Qiviut Fiber Good For Clothes?
Yes, it’s good for clothes because it’s so warm and soft. It’s often used to make sweaters, hats, mittens, and scarves. However it’s expensive, so it’s not used that often.
Is Qiviut Fiber Good For Winter?
Yes, it’s good for winter because it’s so warm and insulating.
Is Qiviut Fiber Good For Summer?
No, it’s good for summer because it makes you feel too hot.
Do Qiviut Yarns Pill?
No, they don’t pill.
Can You Dye Qiviut Yarns?
Yes, you can.
Qiviut Vs Sheep Wool
Qiviut is much warmer than sheep wool, and doesn’t shrink when wet. It’s also softer, and more delicate. Qiviut is more expensive than sheep wool, but they’re often used together in a blend. Several stores online carry it.
Happy crocheting or knitting! Hope you enjoyed this article. Do you have questions? Please leave them below!
- “Mission.” n.d. Muskoxfarm. Accessed October 20, 2022. https://www.muskoxfarm.org/mission.
- “Qiviut.” 2022. In The Fairchild Books Dictionary of Fashion. Fairchild Books.
- “Oomingmak – Smokerings, Nachaqs – Alaskan Qiviut Handknits.” n.d. Qiviut.com. Accessed October 20, 2022. https://www.qiviut.com/shop_smokerings.cfm.
- “What Is Qiviut?” n.d. Uaf.edu. Accessed October 20, 2022. https://uaf.edu/lars/qiviut/whatisqiviut.php.