Qiviut (pronounced kin-ee-ut) is the Inuit word for the extremely fine, soft, downy underwool produced by muskoxen. The insulating warmth of qiviut is one of the principal reasons muskoxen can survive arctic winters. These relics of the last ice age neither migrate nor hibernate to escape the winter. Instead, they live on the open tundra, exposed to the harsh, cold extremes of the polar night. Their pelage is uniquely adapted to arctic winters: An outer coat of long, coarse guard hair protects the underwool from the wind and snow. Snow can rest on the back of a muskox without melting. The guard hair keeps the warmth, trapped in the qiviut, near the body.
Like many species, muskoxen shed their underwool every spring and grow a new insulating layer during the short arctic summer and fall. The underwool is shed in a highly synchronous manner—it lifts from the animal over a very brief period (approximately 2 weeks). Like a thick blanket the qiviut works its way out through the guard hair to hang in ragged tatters from the animals. They will rub the qiviut off on the ground or any convenient rubbing post or let the wind shred and scatter it. Enterprising Northerners follow muskox herds when they are shedding and collect the qiviut from the tundra. Care needs to be taken though, as qiviut quickly bleaches and becomes brittle when exposed to the elements.
Visit our online store to purchase LARS Qiviut Supply products!
Raw qiviut – as combed from the muskox - is available for the hand spinner. The best quality qiviut is reserved for hand spinning. Although it doesn’t need carding, raw qiviut does need some preparation prior to spinning to bring out the best qualities of the fiber.