Defending a thesis and knitting with qiviut

Hello!

There are two big reasons why I haven’t posted lately; here’s the first one:

Defense poster

Whew! Now that I’ve defended my thesis (and passed – woohoo!), I just have to complete the revisions that my advisory committee has recommended, and then turn in the final written draft to the Graduate School. In order for me to graduate this August, I have to turn it in before August 1, but so far it looks like I’m on track for that.

Preparing for the defense (which consists of an hour-long public seminar, followed by an intense two-hour-long questioning session with one’s advisory committee) took up a lot of time, and that didn’t leave me much free-time to knit, much less blog about knitting! But now that it’s over, and I’m well on my way to finishing my revisions, things should be getting back to normal (i.e. I’ll actually have time to knit again!).

The other reason for my absence is quite a bit more interesting:

Muskox!

That’s a muskox right there! I’m working at the UAF Large Animal Research Station (LARS – or just simply, the Station) for the summer as a “tour-facilitator”, which means that I give 45 minute presentations to visitors on the biology and natural history of the animals that we have at the Station (muskox, caribou, and reindeer – although technically, caribou and reindeer are the same species).

Here’s me, doing my job:

Workin' hard

So the great thing about working at the Station (there’s a lot of great things about it, actually, it’s a fabulous place to spend the summer) as a person-interested-in-knitting-and-fiber (and by interested in I mean obsessed with) is that muskox produce qiviut. Qiviut is the downy inner-wool that they have in the winter-time, and shed in the spring. It’s kind of like their down jacket – it’s what keeps them really, really warm in the winter, and it allows them to survive and thrive on the Arctic tundra, where they live in the wild. At the Station, we comb the muskox when they’re shedding their qiviut naturally in the spring, and then we sell it in it’s raw form at the gift-shop (to hand-spinners, mostly), and we get some of it spun up into yarn, which we also sell at the shop. And qiviut, it turns out, is one of the most fascinating fibers in the world (in my humble opinion, anyway!). It’s finer and softer than cashmere, and seven times warmer, by weight, than sheep’s wool. So it produces delightfully soft, light, and, above all, warm yarn. Hats or other objects knitted out of it will keep you warm at 40-below, a situation that’s not unusual here in interior Alaska.

Of course, there’s a catch (isn’t there always a catch?). Because qiviut is such an amazing fiber, and because it’s so rare, and because there aren’t any domesticated muskox in the world (several farms are currently working on domesticating them, but that’s a thousands-of-years-long process of selective breeding; at the Station, our animals are considered to be in captivity, but still wild), qiviut is very, very expensive. So I haven’t bought any for myself yet (gotta save up those paychecks first!), but I have been so lucky as to have been asked by my boss to knit up some swatches of our yarns, so visitors can see what they look like when knitted up. And let me tell you, this stuff is nice! Nice to knit with, nice to touch. Our yarns are all lace-weight (most qiviut yarns are – anything thicker would be prohibitively expensive, not to mention way too warm to make wearable garments from), so it can be a bit fiddly working with tiny needles and tiny yarn, but overall it’s a pleasure (photos forthcoming in a future post, I promise!).

So if you happen to be passing through interior Alaska any time soon, stop by the Station! It’s worth a look around, and you’re welcome to touch the yarn.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Defending a thesis and knitting with qiviut

  1. Torgeir

    I would agree with you that qiviut is the finest thread in the world, but i have a few of the facts to dispute. First is that there are only two farms that are currently trying to raise Musk Ox. One is LARS and the other is the Palmer Musk Ox farm. The Palmer farm has been at domesticating Musk Ox since 1969. I am lucky enough to work at OOmingmak, native Co-op that producers items out of the qiviut from that farm. For more info please go to http://www.qiviut.com. The second is the fact that qiviut is eight times warmer than sheep’s wool. Nice Article and glad yu have time to knit again.

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