What is Qiviut?

Qiviut is the soft, warm inner layer of muskox wool. Indigenous peoples of northern North America have long used it to make warm fabric and clothing. In Alaska, the best place to purchase qiviut products is through Oomingmak, a co-operative of Alaskan Native women who hand knit products.

Key Takeaways

  1. Qiviut is a natural animal fiber from the Muskox, an Arctic hoofed bovine native to Alaska.
  2. It is the soft, insulating, inner layer of Muskox, which they shed each spring.
  3. Native Alaskan women use it to make hand-knit products like scarves, hats, and tunics.

Understanding Qiviut

Often overlooked for other, cheaper Alaskan souvenirs, qiviut is one of the most luxurious items you can bring home for yourself or a loved one. It is the soft, inner layer of muskox wool; Alaskan Native women across the state use it as a natural fiber to hand-knit products.

For those not familiar, let’s start with the muskox. The muskox is a species of hoofed bovine – like cows. But unlike cows, muskox are indigenous to the Arctic. While they went extinct in Alaska, they have thrived since reintroduction in the 1930l.

Muskox are occasionally domesticated in North America, including in Alaska. They have two layers of wool, and each spring they shed the insulating inner layer of their wool: qiviut. This wool can be collected and spun, then knit into insulating layers like hats, scarves, sweaters, and hoods.

In Alaska, the best place to purchase qiviut products and souvenirs is from Oomingmak. This is a co-operative of Alaskan Native women across the state who create handmade products. There is an Oomingmak shop in downtown Anchorage. Be prepared though: it’s a luxurious product and comes at a corresponding price.

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