The brownish-grey coloured musk ox wool, or qiviut as it is commonly known in North America, is considered one of the most luxurious fibres in the world. It is known for being softer than cashmere with a higher warmth to weight ratio.
It took one Greenlandic woman with a vision, Anita Høegh, to realize that the inner layers of the musk ox furs were worth a small fortune if treated properly. She pioneered the use of this untapped resource and spun it into gold in the form of musk ox wool.
LEARNING ABOUT THE MUSK OX
“The musk oxen are not native to West Greenland, so is it not part of the hunter’s traditional hunting practices. Back then, there was a hunting quota of 300 musk ox in the Kangerlussuaq area. As it was so new the Greenlandic people did not know how to use this animal – they used the meat but burnt the hides” Høegh explains.
That has changed since Anita learnt the techniques of how to treat the fur.
“The hide now provides a good side income for the hunters – but we had to find out how to make this happen,” Høegh says.
GOOD BALANCE BETWEEN TOURISM AND THE SEASONS
Anita had lived and worked in tourism in Kangerlussuaq for 10 years when she realized that the production of musk ox wool could benefit the settlement during the quieter tourism months of winter. So she learnt how to spin, and with that knowledge poured her efforts into learning how to produce musk ox wool.
“The first challenge was buying the musk ox hides from the hunters during the two month hunting season. There are so few raw materials, that there is a lot of competition.”
WOOL PRODUCTION CHALLENGE
“After that, we had to figure out the process of drying the hides at the right temperature and then separating the thick hair from the inner wool. It is a long, smelly process which takes time to perfect,” Anita explained continuing, “I had to do some research and also get some help from a friend in Edmonton, Canada before we were able to do this successfully. Today we have much greater knowledge.”