Monday, October 30, 2006

Arctic Lace & Armchair Travel

a musk ox, who is probably much warmer than I am, this morning...

Well, we returned from Florida to our house last night--which doesn't have heat, for some, I'm waiting to hear from the nice furnace repairman. However, in the meanwhile, it puts me in a perfect mood to talk about Arctic Lace, Donna Druchunas' new book.

When Donna Druchunas gave me the chance to be a part of her Arctic Lace blog tour, I jumped at it. My reasoning was shallow—Finally, a way to figure out what to do with the qiviut! When the biologist husband went to Alaska for a conference; he came home with the ultimate spinner’s gift. A quantity of raw qiviut, straight from the Large Animal Research Station in Fairbanks is too precious to waste—I’d been waiting for inspiration.

After having this treasure dehaired, and even selling off an ounce or two, I still have plenty of fiber to spin. Arctic Lace isn’t just a book about lace patterns and musk oxen, although the patterns are lovely, flexible and useful. In particular, I’m excited about adjusting the Mobius Scarf pattern to my own needs, and I love all the swatches of lace ideas in the back, too. I’m itching to start working up qiviut as well as handspun cashmere, Fleece Maiden Seasilk, and Habu mohair/silk into those pattern ideas…but-

What’s most special about this book is how it allows knitters and fibery folk to explore Alaska--to be armchair anthropologists. No only do we learn about a fascinating animal, the musk ox, a knitting cooperative, and its designs and techniques, this book accesses a part of Alaskan rural culture that is unavailable to most of us.

Donna sensitively explores the issues that Native Alaskans, Yup’ik and Inupiat Eskimos, face in a fast evolving culture. How to earn money now that native foods and the native lifestyles are changing? What to do about the fast-melting permafrost that affects (and even floods) villages? How does one explain a native culture to tourists who never even visit rural villages? How does knitting fit into these lives?

The Oomingmak Musk Ox Producers’ Co-operative created a tenuously balanced way, dependent on varying amounts of Qiviut grown each year, for Native Alaskan knitters to earn money while maintaining their rural lives. Donna Druchunas writes about the story of the co-op, and a little about the knitters, without compromising their privacy. In Alaska, visitors fly into rural areas by small plane. There aren’t guest rooms or hotels, or even indoor plumbing. These places aren’t accessible to the average tourist, nor would I want them to be.

To me, the best knitting books aren’t just filled with patterns, but with stories that keep us thinking while the patterns grow beneath our fingers. Donna’s book, Arctic Lace, gives just that chance and it’s worth every penny. Invest in people who write thoughtful, intelligent knitting history as well as patterns…and invest in the future of musk oxen, qiviut and the chance for Native Alaskans to support themselves and their environment in the future. Knit luxury fibers just once. Knit Qiviut.
Buy Donna’s book here:

To buy qiviut, check out the Large Animal Research Station in Fairbanks:
To immediately learn more about qiviut or about muskoxen, check out their website: Large Animal Research Station

To check out Donna’s website, go to:
Sheep to Shawl

I'll end this post by pointing out that I'm sure I'd feel warmer just now if I already had a qiviut lace scarf or shawl made! This should motivate me for the next time I'm huddled by the space heater!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, you need to *wear* some of that qiviut! It makes a huge difference in warmth. I'm discovering that. The gaiter from the book is perfect to keep breezes out of coat openings when walking dogs. The fingerless gloves can be just the thing for typing in an unheated office. Enjoyed your write-up a lot. Thanks.

October 30, 2006 at 4:20 PM  
Blogger Donna D said...

Also, if you haven't had time to knit it yet, you can just wear the qiviut skein around your neck for extra warmth!

November 3, 2006 at 7:39 PM  

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