Yarn Along: Oomingmak Musk Ox Producer's Co-operative and Qiviut

Guess what? SCHOOL IS BACK IN SESSION! I can't say I'm excited about my girls being gone all day and I'm anxious about the time commitment I'm making to homeschool my kindergartener, but I am THRILLED to be back on a regular schedule after a summer of vacations and exciting visitors. It has been wonderful to finally get my children and me in bed at a regular hour so I have my early morning quiet hours to myself again. Yay!

And hopefully I'll have time to write all the blog posts I've been meaning to all summer. We will see about that. :)

But here is one to start. I've been wanting to post this since this summer when I returned from Alaska. While I was there I went to downtown Anchorage and visited the Oomingmak Musk Ox Producer's Co-operative shop.  It is a small shop that is mainly for tourists but the idea of the Co-operative is fantastic. It has been around since 1969 and has produced amazing Qiviut knitted items, (pronounced "kiv-ee-ute") which is the downy-soft underwool from the Arctic Musk Ox. On a side note as a child my father hunted a Musk Ox whose head currently hangs on their living room wall (check out my Instagram photo of that). Now that I know how expensive Qiviut is and how amazingly soft it is, I REALLY wish Dad had kept that fiber for me. Didn't he know 25 years later I would be a spinner?!?

Anyway the Co-operative is owned by 250 Native Alaskan women from villages all over Alaska who knit and sell the items to help with their subsistence living in remote villages. Each village has a signature pattern from traditional aspects of their village life and Native culture. The women don't design but just knit the patterns and the Co-op only sells the finished goods or yarn kits, no fiber. Mostly they sell scarves, smoke rings, hats, and one tunic ($625).

They had a board up at the shop with swatches from every animal product you can imagine and Qiviut is BY FAR the softest, most amazing fiber there. But considering that the kit for a baby hat was the cheapest thing in the shop at $90 I couldn't really buy my Alaska souvenir there, only these 2 postcards above.

I wanted to take pictures in the shop but it felt awkward because it is so small and personal. You walk in and there is a front counter where you place your order and one table off to the side where a woman was blocking a smoke ring. So I didn't whip out my camera. But I did take this blurry photo from their brochure because I thought it was a brilliant way to block a cowl, on one of those dress making boards that my mom used when I was a child, only a smaller version. I'm not sure what those kind of boards are called. Mom use to measure and cut her fabric on it but it can't be used as a cutting mat with a rotary cutter because it is kind of made of cardboard like material. I want one to block cowls.

I talked with the man working the counter at the Co-op about the Musk Ox. He said they have a Musk Ox farm in Palmer, an hour from Anchorage, where they get about 50% of the fiber they need. And there are also a few wild Musk Ox herds in Alaska out by the villages where the woman can get fiber. He said that some women chase the Musk Ox into the woods on 4-wheelers and then stop and pick up the fiber that sticks to the trees as the Musk Ox run by. Quite an adventure. The whole place was really fascinating. Someday I want to buy a smoke ring there, when $185 doesn't seem like too much money to spend on a piece of amazing clothing for myself. :)

I've been finishing up a design this week and I finishing Julie of the Wolves. It is a Newbery Medal Award winner, which I am interested in reading these lately as they are clean, easy, but interesting reads. Julie is a young Alaska Native girl and it is about her experience living alone on the Artic Tundra. I thought it was really good. And a fitting book for me this summer.

My design is a cowl, in the beautiful Dyeabolical yarn in the colorway King of the Pond. It is really a fantastic yarn. It is a single ply aran weight but I am using it held double and loving how soft it is. It will be nice and warm for snow sports this winter. My pattern is currently with the test knitters. I am planning to release it next week. As always there will be a discount code here for readers on the release date. Stay tuned!

Sharing with Nicole and Ginny and Andrea.

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