Wednesday, January 20, 2010

vicarious qiviut

and travel...

A while back, my friend Donna Druchunas invited me to be part of her blog tour. This isn't because I contributed to her forthcoming book (information below) or even because I'm an expert on lace. Instead, it's because we both share a joy in common. We love to explore fiber arts topics when we travel. Even better, we like writing about it so others can experience all this vicariously, from home.

This qiviut story starts at least 10 years ago. (qiviut comes from musk oxen, it's very very warm and soft.) See photos, shot by my professor, for what a musk ox is! While I was in graduate school, I had an email "penpal" friendship with a spinner in Alabama. This kind spinner Ellen decided I must experience qiviut. She filled up a plastic baggie with a sample, sent it to me in the mail, and gave me a fabulous gift. That qiviut was a spinning experience! I plied it with tussah silk. I knit it into a scarf for my brother-in-law, who was single at the time.

He declared it a "chick magnet" scarf. He was right and is now happily married. I asked his wife recently, and she said-absolutely--a seriously seductive scarf!

About five years ago, my professor went to a summertime biology conference in Fairbanks, Alaska. At first, he wanted me to come with him. Then we looked at the high season airfare and other costs. (outrageously expensive!) I explained that while I could skip Fairbanks, what I really wanted was to visit the Large Animal Research Station, where the university biologists studied musk oxen.

My professor promised me a vicarious trip. He shot these photos so I could "see" the musk oxen in action. He described it to me in detail when he got home. He also purchased me an entire pound of the fiber.

I was so stunned by this gift (it's very expensive stuff) that at first, I didn't know what to do. Then, I got a grip and sent it out to be dehaired by machine. After that, I sold a couple of the ounces, and this helped cover this enormous purchase. The professor pointed out that compared to paying for my flights to Alaska, the qiviut was a trinket. This is a very rare and precious fiber. I had a hard time seeing it as a trinket. :)

Today, the qiviut awaits me--but sometimes waiting is the right thing. When Donna's book Arctic Lace came out, I had the pleasure of reviewing it. When I met the professor's new department chair here in Manitoba, she mentioned knitting a qiviut tuque (hat) for her husband as the ultimate in warm luxury. The ideas I have now are as exciting as dreaming of adventure or fiber arts travel.

This blog tour post is to celebrate a few of Donna's special upcoming events (information below) but it's also to celebrate Donna's big wedding anniversary and her trip to Hawaii. She's currently having a tropical adventure right about now!

To celebrate, I'm giving away a signed copy of Fiber Gathering! I want to encourage some more vicarious travel. If you'd like to win a copy of the book, please leave a comment, and I'll do a random drawing on Sunday, January 24th. Make sure I have a way to contact you via your blog, email address, or some kind of smoke signal if you'd like to win!

Here's information about Donna's new book:
Successful Lace Knitting by Donna Druchunas will be released in May on the Musk Ox & Glaciers Knitting Cruise, where Donna will be teaching along with Lucy Neatby. The audio book edition of Arctic Lace will also be published at the same time, so cruise participants will be among the first to have a chance to see (and hear!) these two new releases.

To enter to win 2 balls of laceweight qiviut yarn, sign up for the cruise mailing list here:

Musk Ox & Glaciers Knitting Cruise

Finally, if you don't need a signed copy of Fiber Gathering, but just want to say hello, that's good, too. Please say hey in the comments and remind me (no book please) not to enter you into the drawing! Thanks!

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Blogger Willow said...

I'd love to own a copy of Fiber Gathering! Several years ago I visited Victoria, Canada on Vancouver Island which is the home of Cowachin yarn. Because of a connection I have to the First People there, I was invited to tour the back room of a souvenir shop and found pounds and pounds of cowachin fiber. I bought some, spun some and now I'm knitting it in to a sweater. Isn't unusual fiber a fantastic souvenir of travels?

Willow at willowscottage dot com

January 20, 2010 at 10:07 AM  
Blogger Kathy said...

I'd love to be entered into your drawing. I'm just starting to realize how nice "souvenir" yarn can be -- I get double pleasure: the yarn, and the memory of where I got it.

kanderson321 @ gmail dot com

January 20, 2010 at 10:22 AM  
Blogger Nancy said...

Enter me, too, please, in your drawing! I always stop at fiber places along the route of our travels, too! This vacation coming up in a few weeks is to include several LYS' as well as an alpaca farm in Alabama!!! What a wonderful DH you have....

January 20, 2010 at 10:39 AM  
Blogger eight feet said...

Thanks for a wonderful giveaway! I have peeked at Fiber Gathering and would love the chance to read it from cover to cover. A virtual festival crawl is a fabulous idea for those of us who can't travel as much as our twitchy fiber fingers would like. Can't wait to see what you decide to do with the qiviut.

January 20, 2010 at 11:05 AM  
Blogger dianemulholland said...

Wow - what a trinket! A have a little ball of qiviut blend yarn, a souvenir from a very expensive yarn store in NYC. I can't bring myself to knit it!

And if I happened to win a signed copy of your book I'll happily pass along my completely inferior unsigned copy to my mum ;-)

January 20, 2010 at 12:13 PM  
Blogger Nancy Nordquist said...

What magnificent beasties! Thank you for sharing those pictures. I am just learning how to spin with a drop spindle (and learning about new fibers), and I would love to have a vicarious tour of festivals with your book.

January 20, 2010 at 12:17 PM  
Blogger Christine said...

OH, please enter me in your drawing too. I would love to see the book and OOOOOHHHHH I've got to find a way to get my hands on some quiviut someday.

All our trips are mapped out with fiber shops/yarn shops/farms along the way. You meet such neat people (and enhance the stash) along the way.

January 20, 2010 at 3:40 PM  
Blogger Alison said...

Wow! Cool! (I've already got the book, thanks.) Just the thing to read while staring at my ball of handspun qiviut, trying to figure out what on earth pattern to use for it.

--AlisonH at

January 20, 2010 at 7:45 PM  
Blogger GrandmaMoo said...

I'm sitting here in Ohio, reading your blog and thinking about your trips being my vicarious travels!
Please enter me in the book drawing; I would love to show it off in our knitting group!

January 20, 2010 at 9:09 PM  
Blogger Geri said...

I'd love to be selected to have 'Fiber Gathering". Please enter me in your draw. Pick me! Pick me! Pretty please?

January 20, 2010 at 11:03 PM  
Blogger Vermont Grand View Farm said...

Goodmorning Joanne! Please do enter me in your book contest! Qiviut....heavenly!
I too drag my family to the nearest fiber farm while on vacation. This past summer, while in PA, we had to make a 2 hour detour to an angora goat farm!

January 21, 2010 at 7:10 AM  
Blogger Melanie said...

Me me me! :) I've been wanting to get my hands on the book since I read Clara's review at KR. How nice of you to give it away!

A friend of mine will be on that cruise. I hope to experience it vicariously through her. (I rely on her husband to take many many pictures, since he won't be knitting.)

french DOT knits AT gmail DOT com

January 21, 2010 at 6:34 PM  
Blogger HapticTraveler said...

Your book sounds interesting, and the fiber luscious! You can contact me @ tcgawthrop at


January 22, 2010 at 8:45 PM  
Blogger Steph said...

I'll play! would love to win a signed copy.

wow, your prof is awesome!

January 23, 2010 at 9:14 AM  
Blogger mamaross said...

Hi Joanne:

As much as I would love a copy of your book, I'm really commenting because when I opened the library copy of your book and read "About the Author" I learned that, like me, you graduated from Cornell with a degree in Near Eastern Studies. In the 20+ (yikes!) years since I graduated, this is the first time I have come across anyone else with that major.
caralynross at yahoo dot com

January 23, 2010 at 10:15 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I would love to win a copy of your book!

I also have 2 questions: How big is a one pound bag of quiviut fluff/ and how do you pronounce quiviut?

Pamela at pmck57 at yahoo dot com

January 23, 2010 at 6:36 PM  
Blogger Joanne said...

Contest ended at 1:33 pm CT--winner's information to follow!

January 24, 2010 at 1:34 PM  

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