musk ox

anita chew, textile holidays

Textile Adventures: Alaska Part 1

I’ve been thinking about holidays a lot this week. In amongst panicked thoughts of how much money I need to save for adventures at the end of the year, I’ve also been thinking I should finally write some posts about a few of the amazing trips I’ve taken. For me, a big part of the delight of discovering a new country is learning about its textile story. (And when I say learning, normally that actually means buying. Hence the need to save for holidays.)

I thought I’d start with Alaska because… well, it’s pretty special.

I’d done my textile research before we left so I knew there was one very very special thing in Alaska I wanted to find and that was musk ox yarn or qiviut (kiv-ee-yute).

Qiviut is considered the softest wool in the world, softer than cashmere, and is extremely warm. It’s also really rare and is one of the most expensive yarns in the world dubbed ‘the qolden fleece of the Arctic’. The musk oxen naturally shed their underdown fibre (qiviut) each spring, up to 2.5kgs per year, which is collected to produce yarn. 

The Itchy Little Musk Ox by Tricia Brown. Illustrated by Debra Dubac. 

The Itchy Little Musk Ox by Tricia Brown. Illustrated by Debra Dubac. 

While there are still wild animals, there are also a few musk ox farms around the state which you can visit at certain times of the year. Instead we visited the Alaskan Wildlife Conservation Centre and while everyone else headed off to see the bears I excitedly went to visit the musk ox herd. In my head I thought they’d be a similar size to a bison, but they were so much smaller. I loved them.

Musk Ox - Alaskan Wildlife Conservation Centre

Musk Ox - Alaskan Wildlife Conservation Centre

And yes. I bought qiviut yarn. Of course I did. And yes, it cost a lot.

Stay tuned for more textile holiday adventures including more from Alaska.