Dan General, This Land of Ours

It can cost several hundred dollars to wear, but it could be just what one state needs to jump-start its Agriculture. Cathy Isom tells us about Quiviut (kiv-ee-utt), a fiber that said to be softer than cashmere and warmer than wool and won’t make you itch and scratch. That story is ahead on This Land of Ours.


From: Modern Farmer

This Season’s Hottest Fiber: Qiviut, the Undercoat of Musk Oxen

“The oft-cited fact is that it’s softer than cashmere and eight times warmer than wool, though nobody can find the actual citation for the eight times warmer than wool stat,” laughs Avril Freeman of the University of Alaska. She’s talking about a fiber known as “qiviut,” made from the fluffy undercoat of the musk ox.

QuiviutThere are only two farms actively producing qiviut (kiv-ee-utt) in Alaska and none in the rest of the country, but its fantastically soft and warm qualities—plus the economic benefit it can provide Alaska—make it one of the most interesting and promising new fibers out there.

The musk ox is a gigantic bison-looking animal, though it’s actually more closely related to goats than it is to bison or cows. It’s a native Arctic animal, living in the coldest regions of North America and Greenland, but thanks to hunting for its pelt, was wiped out of Alaska in the late 1800s. Starting in 1935, though, the US government began reintroducing musk oxen back into Alaska, where now there resides a population of a few thousand.

Qiviut is not a musk ox’s wool, exactly; instead, it’s the soft, fluffy undercoat, which serves as a protective element during the long arctic winters. Each spring, it’s shed all at once. “We notice when their coats start shedding, we bring them into the barn, and we have a squeeze shoot for them so they stay nice and still,” says Freeman, who works at the university’s Large Animal Research Station, studying Arctic mammals like the musk ox and reindeer. “Then we take an afro pick to pull out the qiviut from the long guard hairs.” It’s pretty nuts: That combing process basically results in pulling what looks like an entire sweater out from within the hairs of a musk ox.

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