TNNA Winter 2011

The National Needlework Association @ Long Beach, CA

The National Needlework Show is the event from which we draw inspiration and creative energy for knitting, crocheting, needlepoint and other yarn-related crafts. Those of us that have a yarn addiction have been known to stand in front of a yarn booth and break out in a sweat and start to shake. The textures and colors are overwhelming and the model garments and other projects cause us to consider giving up our jobs and spending our days doing little but knitting. Then reality sets in and we realize that wouldn’t work because we wouldn’t be able to buy yarn!! Still, I did come home with a few treasures!

A Musk Ox

I have long been interested in the yarn spun from Qiviut fiber. For those of you not familar with this amazing fiber it is the undercoat of the wild musk ox.

As you can probably see by the photo here, they aren’t the most friendly of creatures – I wouldn’t want to be the one to remove their undercoat!

Qiviut (pronounced kiv-ee-ut) is one of the finest and warmest fibers on earth. It’s not easy to get hold of but muskox yarn is prized by many experienced knitters and spinners who appreciate its unique fiber properties such as fineness, warmth, softness and non-shrinkage.

Musk oxen are native to Arctic regions in Alaska, Canada and Greenland. During the 1850s they were hunted to extinction in Alaska, however a small herd from Greenland was re-introduced and they are now flourishing. Each year, this remarkably tough animal grows a dense layer of Qiviut over its entire body, protected from wind and precipitation by an outer coat of dark brown guard hair. The fine, dense underwool helps insultate the musk ox from tempratures that can go as low as -50F. Each Spring, the musk ox naturally sheds it coat so, unlike sheep, no shearing is necesaary to remove the fiber. Because shedding is fairly synchronous, large fleecy sheets of Qiviut can be combed from the shoulder and flank areas of animals.

Qiviut is a speciality yarn and isn’t widely available, however, if you make the effort you can get hold of Qiviut yarn from small specialty farms and suppliers in both Alaska and Canada.

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