Qiviut is a word commonly used to indicate the delicate wool of the muskox. The word was originally used to refer to the down feathers of birds as well as soft brownish inner wool of the muskox. The muskox has a two-layered coat, and Qiviut refers specifically to the soft underwool beneath the longer outer wool. Qiviut is truly an amazing fibre. It is one of the most sought after fibres in the world because of its rarity, softness and warmth. The Qiviut of the muskox is perhaps the finest wool in the world. Qiviut is softer than cashmere and is light as a feather. It is valued for its use as a fibre as, unlike sheep’s wool, it does not shrink in water at any temperature. It’s an insulating fibre and is comfortable to wear in any climate. Qiviut is spun into wool and used to make warm woollen clothing, hats, scarves and mitts.
Processing of Qiviut fibre
Qiviut can be collected on the range of muskox during the spring and summer, when the muskox shed their coats. The wool becomes attached to bushes as the muskox walk by. An adult animal sheds between four and six pounds a year, which when packed down will fill a kitchen size garbage bag. The hand combed Qiviut from the farm is cleaner and softer than the underwool shed in the wild since the loose fibre is not subjected to the harshness of wind and weather, but stored and protected.
Qiviut fibre is then scoured in a four bowl system using a mild detergent, and ready for dehairing after it has dried. Dehairing is a special procedure that untangles and separates all the fibres. The fine down is caught, while the courser hairs, dust and debris are spun out. The dehaired fibre is then sent to a spinning mill where it is blended with oils to lubricate and open the fibres for carding. Mechanical carding can cause breakage and weaken and roughen the qiviut. So card settings are similar to those used in processing cashmere. After carding, the rovings is then spun into yarn and the yarn washed gently in warm water. The yarn may then be over-dyed, but bleaching and dyeing can weaken the fibre and reduce its softness.
Major properties of Qiviut fibre
Qiviut is a very rare fibre, and it is also one of the worlds warmest! It is eight times warmer than ordinary sheep wool, but the best thing is it will not shrink. Qiviut has also been described as “the cashmere of the North,” and is considered by experienced spinners to combine several of the best fibre properties, such as fineness, length, strength and warmth. Being so light, Qiviut has a very elegant drape. A garment made with Qiviut is softer and richer than cashmere or baby alpaca, and it won’t shrink when it gets wet or washed and dried! Pure Qiviut is non-felting and is often safe for people who suffer from sheep wool allergies, but it is not scratchy like wool. The garments can be worn in any climate that has the occasional chilly temperatures.
Qiviut closely resembles cashmere in its hand, luster and microscopic appearance. It has few and smooth scales, and consequently can withstand temperature shock and agitation without shrinking or felting. A finished garment is so wonderfully warm, soft and lightweight that the wearer is barely conscious of having it on. The naturally soft colour is complementary to nearly every skin tone, while the soft feel can be appreciated by people of all ages, from babies to senior citizens. It does not shed, is odourless and retains warmth even when wet.
Advantages of Qiviut fibre:
- Qiviut is eight times warmer than sheep’s wool
- Distinct colour complements any skin tone or colour scheme
- Soft and sensuous, even to delicate skin
- Will not shrink in any temperature of water
- Extremely rare
- Light as air
- It is hypoallergenic
- Odourless when wet
- Retains heat when wet
- Easy maintenance
- It does not crimp or felt
Disadvantage of Qiviut fibre:
- 100 per cent Qiviut tends to sag
- Qiviutis not able to retain its shape
- It is very costly
Blending with other fibres
Qiviut can be easily blends with other fibres such as alpaca, cashmere, wool and silk. Few popular Qiviut blends are as follows:
- 50 per cent Qiviut, 50 per cent mulberry silk
- 45 per cent Qiviut, 45 per cent merino, 10 per cent silk
- 80 per cent merino, 15 per cent Qiviut, and 5 per centsilk
Applications of Qiviut fibre
Qiviut fibre is better suited for scarves, shawls, sweaters, gloves, hats, scarves hats, gloves or mittens.
Caring of Qiviut fibre clothes
Garments made out of Qiviut will last forever, and are easy to care for. It can be washed with mild shampoo or wool detergent. Unlike most wool, Qiviut is not scratchy and will not shrink in any temperature of water. Hand wash and dry flat is advisable for longer life and Qiviut garment becomes softer after every washing.
Extremely rare, it is one of the most luxurious fibres one can choose for a garment. In contrast to wool, Qiviut is soft, non-irritating to the skin, and is very durable. It is also proven to be the softest natural fibre in the world. Qiviut garments are worn for years as it is durable. Garments made from Qiviut are very expensive, but well worth the cost.