If you have the money to spare and want to indulge in a truly luxurious yarn, you would be hard-pressed to consider a more opulent choice than qiviut yarn. Qiviut (pronounced KEE-vee-uht) is fiber drawn from soft underbelly of the musk ox. The musk ox is a fascinating animal with a very long history. In fact, this arctic mammal existed alongside long-since extinct prehistoric animals like saber-toothed tigers and woolly mammoths. It is native to North America (primarily Alaska and Canada), Greenland, and Siberia. By the 1800s, the musk ox had gone extinct in Alaska. They were reintroduced from wild herds in Greenland in the 1930s and since have thrived, with a population of approximately 150,000 worldwide. Today qiviut fleece and yarn is available from only a small group of suppliers. This makes sense because the musk ox is a wild animal, native only to very harsh and remote climates, and only recently has begun to be domesticated. Musk oxen shed every spring, and this shedding must be carefully combed and separated to remove the fine down from the long guard hairs. It is the down that is referred to as qiviut, and it has remarkable qualities.
The Ultimate in Luxury
The two qualities of qiviut that make it such a sought-after fiber for yarn are softness and warmth. Softness: Only vicuna yarn rivals the unbelievable softness of qiviut. Unlike sheep’s wool, qiviut does not have scales, so it can be worn quite comfortably next to the skin. Not only that, but qiviut actually gets softer with washing and handling. Warmth: As would be expected of fiber from an arctic animal, qiviut is almost unsurpassed in its warmth. As a point of comparison, it is actually eight times as warm as wool by weight. It also retains its warming properties even when wet. Qiviut is not precisely the perfect fiber, however, because as heavenly as it feels next to the skin, it is an inelastic fiber. That means that unless qiviut is blended with another fiber, such as wool, it may not be the best choice for garments like hats or sweaters that require shaping. It also tends to stretch when wet, another reason why pure qiviut is not the best choice for fitted garments. It is, however, a wonderful choice for scarves or shawls, or even baby blankets! Qiviut can also be a little tricky to knit with, because it is a very slippery fiber. You may want to use bamboo or wood needles. But if you’re a fan of yarn that feels heavenly while knitting, you won’t want to miss the opportunity to knit with qiviut yarn!