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qiviut

n. The underwool of the Arctic muskox, used as a fibre.

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Qiviut

Qiviuq [sg] or qiviut [pl] ( ; Inuktitut syllabics, ᕿᕕᐅᖅ; Inuinnaqtun, qiviuq; Inupiaqqiviu or qiviuq sometimes spelled qiveut) is an Inuktitut word commonly used to indicate the wool of the muskox. The word was originally used to refer to the down feathers of birds as well as the inner wool of the muskox. It is valued for its use as a fiber as, unlike sheep's wool, it does not shrink in water at any temperature. (However, this means that it also is not useful for felting.) It is most commonly used for hats and scarves, and is among the softest wools. It is very expensive; a high quality knitted scarf can cost more than 300 U.S. dollars, but will last over 20 years with good care.

The muskox has a two-layered coat, and qiviut refers specifically to the soft underwool beneath the longer outer wool. The muskox sheds this layer of wool each spring. Qiviut is plucked from the coat of the muskox during the molt or gathered from objects the animals have brushed against; unlike sheep, the animals are not sheared. Much of the commercially available qiviut comes from Canada, and is obtained from the pelts of muskoxen after hunts. In Alaska, qiviut is obtained from farmed animals or gathered from the wild during the molt.

Qiviut is stronger and warmer than sheep's wool, and softer than cashmere wool. Wild muskoxen have qiviut fibers approximately 18 micrometres in diameter. Females and young animals have slightly finer wool.

Domestication of the musk ox was begun with the Musk Ox Project, headed by John J. Teal, Jr with the first domestic musk ox farm in Fairbanks. The project continues at the Musk Ox farm in Palmer, Alaska. Oomingmak, the Musk Ox Producers' Cooperative, was formed in the late 1960s by Native women on Nunivak Island, with the help of Dr. Teal and Mrs. L. Schell. It is a knitting cooperative that works with qiviut and is still in operation today. The cooperative has its headquarters in Anchorage and is owned by approximately 200 native Alaskans from many remote villages in Alaska. The name of the cooperative comes from an Inupiaq word, umiŋmak, "the animal with skin like a beard."