Qiviut and Muskox

Qiviut
Microns: 10 - 18
Color: gray-brown
Staple length: 3.5–7 cm (1.5–3 inches)

Click to Read About Qiviut. . .

Qiviut is a remarkable fiber! It blooms beautifully, swelling and becoming softer the more it is handled and washed. Pure qiviut yarn does not have memory like sheep wool. Pure qiviut yarn makes yarnwear that flows such as scarves, smokerings, gaiters and shawls. If you double your ply of pure qiviut yarn and use smaller needles you can make gloves, sweaters, dresses, vests and other yarnwear. Blending in a small amount of fine sheep wool, such as merino, will add “memory” to sweaters and yet will retain the wonderful softness and warmth of qiviut. Qiviut also blends well with other fibers such as angora, alpaca, cashmere, silk and nylon.

Muskox naturally shed in the springtime. Qiviut wool commands a high price due to it rarity, softness, warmth and light weight. Qiviut grows from every part of the muskox including the face, belly, ears, hooves and under the horns. A mature male muskox produces around 6 to 8 pounds of muskox fleece raw fiber a year. After processing 6 pounds of muskox fleece raw fiber, you will yield about 3 to 5 pounds of cleaned qiviut fiber that is ready for spinning into yarn. Muskox grow a new layer of qiviut in the autumn.

Farmed muskox fiber is combed out in large sheets. Qiviut from wild muskox falls off in clumps or is rubbed off by muskox on the ground or bushes. Qiviut found on the ground or bushes from wild muskox is hand collected. Wild muskox fibers are approximately 18 micrometers in diameter. Females and young animals have slightly finer wool. After the qiviut fleece is removed or collected it is cleaned by hand or machine cleaned to remove vegetation and foreign matter and then dehaired of all guard hairs. Then it is carded, pindrafted, and ready to spin into yarn. Qiviut production is extremely limited because muskox herds are few in number and are usually very remote and isolated. Qiviut yarn is eight times warmer than wool and is softer and more valuable than cashmere. Qiviut yarn and qiviut yarn blends are a knitters, crocheters and weavers dream to use to create their yarnwear.

Click to Read About Muskox . . .

The muskox is not an ox; this large hairy mammal dates back to the last Ice Age, and is most closely related to sheep and goats. The Inuit name for muskox is “Umingmak” meaning the bearded one. Muskox adapted to the life in the Arctic tundra. They have been an integral part of the Inuit lifestyle for centuries as an animal that provides a great amount of nutritious meat, warm hides and soft insulating underwool to knit into clothing.

Muskoxen thrive in Canada, Alaska, and Greenland. There are smaller herds in Norway and Russia. On rare occasions white muskox have been seen on Queen Maud Gulf Bird Sanctuary. There are two subspecies: the Barren Ground Muskox which weigh between 500 and 900 pounds, and the smaller Greenland (or white faced) Muskox which stand a foot shorter and weighs no more than 800 pounds. The two subspecies have been bred together in captivity so as to ensure their genetic diversity. Breeding season begins during late summer, mating takes place during the fall from August to October. A single calf is born once a year in April to June, weighing 22 to 31 pounds to cows that are two years or older, and can nurse for a year. An average life span of a muskox in the wild is 12 to 20 years. The muskox is an herbivore. They eat food like grass, willows, Arctic flowers, mosses, lichens, aspens, birch shoots, berry bushes, sedges, leaves, twigs and even tree bark.

Muskoxen run in small and large herds. Both bulls and cows have horns, although the bulls’ are noticeably larger. Muskox horns are sharp and pointed at the tips, almost meeting in the middle of the head to form a large horn boss, which curves outward and upward at the sides. The bosses are up to one foot wide and four inches thick. The boss protects the bulls’ skulls from damage during the head smashing and fighting that takes place during the rutting season. The horns are also used to defend the herd from attacks by predators. In the winter, muskoxen use their horns to break up layers of ice in search of plants. Occasionally, a muskox is killed when the force of the impact drives the horns back into its head.

Muskox enemies are wolves, Grizzly bears, Polar bears and mosquitoes which bite their noses. Muskoxen do not run from their predators, which are mainly wolves. Rather, as a defensive posture they will form a circle around the calves and fight any invaders. Males are extremely possessive of their harem of females.