Monday, September 26, 2011

Qiviut on the Hoof

On Saturday I went to the Calgary Zoo.  It's been decades since I visited a zoo.  The last time was in Basel, Switzerland in the early 1990s.  It was very enjoyable, especially with a 20-month-old toddler who is fascinated with the animals.  I paid for a membership and I'll be back from time to time, so there was no need to see everything in one day.  For this visit I wanted to see the Canadian Wildlife section.

It was amazing to be so close to grizzly bears, moose and more.

Grizzly bear, above.  Moose, below.  Scroll down to see the muskox!

However, my goal was to see another animal from Canada, from the high Arctic, one I've never laid eyes on before:  the muskox.  How can a knitter resist seeing the animal that gives us such wonderful yarn, qiviut, made from the undercoat of the muskox.  And so, there they were, basking in the warm sunshine.  I wonder if they were missing the cold of the northern tundra.

I've been lucky enough to knit with qiviut quite a bit in the past.  I've made scarves and a cowl.  It's a wonderful, soft yarn, often referred to as "cashmere of the north".  It is hypoallergenic, eight times warmer than wool, doesn't shrink or shed, odorless, durable, and rare.  The current retail price is $90/oz!!

I still want to go to Alaska and the Arctic and learn more, but for now, one more thing has been checked off my knitter's list of things I want to do and see.  Now that I'm living in a colder climate I must dig out the Muskox Mitten kit that I bought (online) years ago from Folknits.  A must-have knitting book about qiviut is "Arctic Lace" by Donna Druchunas.  It's an interesting read and the patterns are beautiful.  I was lucky enough to do a bit of knitting for Donna and read the manuscript-in-progress.  If you're interested in all things qiviut and you're in the Banff, Alberta area, you must visit the Jacques Cartier store. 

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