Wildlife photographer Florian Shultz took these extraordinary pictures of Arctic Musk Ox in the far northern reaches of Alaska. Hunted to the very edge of extinction a few decades ago the Musk Ox have been repopulated and reintroduced into the wilds of both Alaska and Canada where only the First People are allowed to hunt them.
Of particular interest to us is the downy undercoat of the Musk Ox called Qiviut (pronounced kih-vee-uht) that keeps the animals warm and protected during the brutal onslaught of the Arctic conditions they live in most of the year. Native people used to gather the Qiviut in the spring when the Musk Ox would rub against trees and stumps to shed their winter coats. They knew then as we know now, how warm and insulating the fibers are when incorporated into clothing.
Qiviut is 8 to 10 times warmer than wool and one of the softest animal fibers on earth. A single fiber is also nearly invisible to the human eye and takes highly specialized processing to turn it into yarns or threads that can be worked into clothing. Due to its scarcity and difficulty of processing Qiviut remains hard to find and pricey when we do.
The alpaca is a member of the camelid family and originated as a high altitude, cold climate animal which developed a coat with microscopic air pockets in its fibers to protect it from the Andean winter extremes. These tiny air pockets inside the fibers create an extraordinary amount of insulation for the alpaca; an insulation which is retained in the yarns and make it perfect for warm winter clothing. Alpaca has 7 times the warmth of wool and 12 times the strength so clothing made from it is protective, easy to care for and can last for generations.
Alpaca yarn is strong and resilient while still being soft and comfortable for wearing next to the skin. Superfine and Baby Alpaca yarns rival cashmere for their luxurious softness but are far more durable which makes them an ideal choice for our caps and Nekkers.
There are 22 different natural colors of alpaca fiber ranging from black on up to a snowy white with the greys and tans being especially rich and beautiful. Some of the shades of alpaca are so unique that they aren't found in any other natural animal fiber.
Our Samoyed fur yarn comes from Canada and is spun from the fibers of the Samoyed sled dog to which a small amount of Australian ultrafine merino has been added for strength. The Samoyed Fur yarn is a BeanieCapGuys exclusive and you'll see it in various caps in various ways.
Each spring the sled dogs are shorn and their fibers sent to a small mill for processing into yarn. This is no way harms the dogs and in fact makes them more comfortable for the warm summer days.
One of the amazing things about Samoyed fur yarn is that after a couple of wearings it starts to bloom and will eventually create a halo both on the inside and the outside of the cap. Samoyed fur is highly insulating, exceptionally warm, downy soft and perfect for our caps and Nekkers.
When we talk about wool from sheep, Merino is the standout - the softest sheep's wool known. The finer grades of Merino are great for wearing next to the skin - none of the scratchiness or discomfort that we typically associate with wool. The yarns spun from Merino wool are soft and almost buttery while the handspun Merino yarns, in addition to their softness, have a wonderful squish to them because of the thick/thin nature of the spinning.
Cashmere derives its name from the region of Kashmir in northern India and southern Pakistan where the fiber was first collected and spun into yarns. Cashmere isn’t a breed of goat but rather the name for the downy undercoat that comes from the various kinds of goats who produce it. These goats are often referred to collectively as cashmere goats while maintaining their distinctive breed names.
Inner Mongolian cashmere goats now divide into five strains: the Alasan (Alashanzuoqi), Arbus and Erlangshan breeds, all of which grow the finest cashmere fibers.
Possessed of one of the softest furs of any animal on earth, the Angora rabbit periodically sheds or molts its silky coat which can then be gathered and spun into yarn. More often though the fibers are shorn or plucked and sent to a mill for processing into yarn.
Angora fur has a hollow chambered fiber that provides natural insulation while allowing body moisture to escape, keeping the wearer dry as well as warm. It's eight to ten times warmer than wool but infinitely softer and lighter; in some cases even more so than cashmere.
The long horned, shaggy coated yak is one of the hairiest species of cattle. It's also one of the few animals able to thrive on the barren Tibetan plateau where the air is icy and thin. Herds of wild yak, each up to a thousand, once roamed the desolate high country of central Asia.
Because of over hunting probably only 500 wild yaks remain today. The domestic yak is numerous however and plays a vital role in the lives of the tribes that live in the mountains north of the Himalayas.
Yak fiber is soft and smooth with a wonderful hand. It exists in several colors, including shades of gray, brown, black and white. It's combed or shed from the yak and then dehaired with the result being a soft downy fiber similar to that of the camel.
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