Soft underwool of muskox spun into highly-sought-after luxury yarns

Nunavut Qiviut produces a fine, warm yarn that the business is named after, supporting traditional lifestyles and Northern businesses.

Soft, warm and colourful, qiviut is easy on the eye and keeps you warm on long, dark, winter nights. photo courtesy of Nunavut Qiviut

Made from the soft underwool of muskoxen, the down-like fur beneath their rougher guard hairs, qiviut is soft to the touch and it retains warmth like no other animal fibre, as the mammals have to survive long periods of time in the Arctic winter.

Near the beginning, Nunavut Qiviut had support various groups to help them get started, from the Kugluktuk Hunters and Trappers Organization, the Hamlet of Kugluktuk, Nunavut Development Corporation and the Department of Economic Development and Transportation under the Government of Nunavut, helping kick-start this business.

“When you hold just a small amount of soft qiviut in your hand, your hand heats up quickly. These qualities of softness, beauty and great warmth are what make qiviut a luxury fibre, used to create high quality rare yarn for knit and crotchet artists around the world,” wrote Geoffrey and Natalie Clark in an email to Nunavut News.

Herds of muskoxen that roam near Kugluktuk are a part of the traditional diet for many of the people in the area and maintaining conservation levels is essential to the long-term health of the muskoxen population. Hunters are an essential part of Nunavut Qiviut’s business, the two form a mutually beneficial relationship.

“We noticed that people sometimes had extra muskoxen hides each year, so we started purchasing hides from hunters. This new source of income to the hunters supports them as they follow their passion for being on the land and for providing their families with healthy traditional food. By the end of 2019, Nunavut Qiviut paid Inuit hunters and local Inuit employees more than $79,000.

“This brings additional money into the Arctic economy, supporting members of the community who are contributing to food security,” they wrote.

After obtaining the qiviut from local hunters they make it into yarn, dying the different bundles into various colours, they then sell the yarn to various artists all over Canada and around the world. About a quarter of their yarn is sold within Nunavut, international customers make up 60 per cent of the customers while Canadians make up the other 40 per cent. In addition to the artists, yarn retailers also make up a part of the customer base of Nunavut Qiviut.

“The idea took root in our imaginations over many years. One day in 2014, we decided to try to make something with our own raw qiviut. It took a long time, but we were eventually rewarded with an incredibly beautiful scarf.

“We were so delighted with the scarf and we realized that there was an opportunity to contribute to food security and traditional lifestyles by making qiviut yarn,” the two wrote.

“We are looking forward to seeing all the new, wonderful creations that will be made by artists in the years to come.”

If you want to check out Nunavut Qiviut’s products you can find them at www.nunavutqiviut.com, where you can also purchase qiviut yarn online among other related products for yourself or someone you know.

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