The Large Animal Research Station (LARS) has qiviut for sale. All our qiviut is combed by hand from live muskoxen. Proceeds directly support the animals and facility.
What makes qiviut unique?
Qiviut has been described as the "cashmere of the north," nd is considered by experienced spinners to combine several of the best properties, such as fineness, length, strength and warmth. Qiviut lacks scales and crimp which is found in sheep wool, so it is very soft and non-irritating and will not shrink or felt.
LARS is pleased to offer limited quantities of this high-quality unprocessed wool for private sale. If you would like to enjoy the luxury of qiviut without spinning it , we also offer lace-weight and fingering-weight yarns. Try it for yourself and see why qiviut is a favorite of northern spinners and knitters.
How do you prepare fiber for spinning?
This youtube video produced by LARS will take you through it step-by-step.
How is qiviut collected?
Qiviut can be combed from farmed muskoxen. If handled and socialized with people from an early age, muskoxen (females and castrates in particular) become very tame and easy to handle. Bulls respond equally well to early handling but as adults their behavior changes with the onset of the rut and they must be treated with a great deal of care at all times. Even though a great deal of effort is put into taming LARS muskoxen during the first year of life, we still secure them in an animal handling unit for both their safety and that of the comber.
The sequence of shedding in Fairbanks is fairly consistent and first evident in yearlings and 2 year olds (late April to early May), followed by adult males and castrates, with newly calved females the last to start shedding (mid-May to early June).
When the qiviut is ready to comb it has already lifted from the skin such that a long-toothed comb can be slipped between the qiviut and the skin and the qiviut can be slowly teased out through the guard hairs. Large ‘fleeces’ can be combed from the sides and shoulders such as seen in the pictures below.
Two people can comb the prime qiviut (neck, shoulders, side, back, and upper rump) in approximately 1 hour, if the muskox is patient and stands still. Usually, though, the animals are brought through two or more times to get all the qiviut.
A fleece can be ‘graded’ and skirted much like a sheep fleece. Matted, dirty qiviut and qiviut contaminated with vegetation can be easily pulled from the fleece.
Combed qiviut is extremely clean—normally very low in lanolin, it also has very few guard hairs and, with good management, it is also free from excessive hay and dirt contamination.
How much qiviut can a muskox produce?
Females produce around 4.6 lbs. Males produce 4.7 lbs. Juveniles (1-3 yrs) produce 3.1 lbs. The amount of qiviut that can be combed from a muskox depends on a lot of factors:
The health and condition of the animals is obviously of prime importance. Access to a high quality, balanced diet makes a big difference in both the quantity and quality of the qiviut.
How far shedding has progressed when the animals are brought in for combing will affect yield. If the qiviut hasn’t lifted completely it will pull during combing and bits will be left behind. This irritates the animals and makes them cranky and less cooperative.
The relative tameness of the animal affects the yield. It is much easier to harvest a lot of qiviut if the muskox stands quietly.
Cleanliness of the qiviut prior to combing is important. If the qiviut has started to hang in tatters from the muskox it quickly attracts dirt and vegetation and is very difficult to clean and can snag when combing. In addition, animals held in muddy conditions during spring break up will have dirty, matted qiviut that is difficult to comb through the guard hair.
Under ideal conditions, combing will produce the greatest yield of quality qiviut. However, not everyone has animals tame enough to comb. In these cases, qiviut is often picked up from the field after it has been shed. Good quality qiviut can be harvested this way, especially if the muskoxen are on clean pastures. Care needs to be taken to collect regularly and often—qiviut will quickly become brittle and bleached once exposed to the elements.