49 Voices: Vivian Osborne of North Pole

This week we’re hearing from Vivian Osborne in North Pole. Osborne owns Arctic Qiviut, the first fiber mill in Alaska.

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Vivian Osborne (Photo courtesy of Arctic Qiviut)
Vivian Osborne (Photo courtesy of Arctic Qiviut)

OSBORNE: So we are the very first commercial fiber mill ever in Alaska. We make our yarn from the qiviut, which is the under-wool of the Arctic musk ox. All of the products I make are from wild. I don’t get any domesticated. The wild musk ox produce a better fiber. You don’t want any guard hairs in it, so it’s very labor-intensive to get all of those guard hairs out to get that beautiful undercoat: the qiviut.

For the last 15 years, I’ve had to send out my raw fiber to have it processed into yarn to commercial mills in the Lower 48 and in Canada.

I contract out to local Alaskan knitters and crochet artists to make them into yarn-wear. Hats, scarves, smoke-rings, etc. All of my yarn I sell whole sale. I have 64 shops all over the world that sell my yarn.

So people, for instance, that live in Nome, where they’re gathering musk ox or their getting it off the hide. Then they can send it to me and I can process it into yarn for them, and then I’ll send it back to them. And then they can make their own products of their own yarn. Their going to be making the full profit of their goods that they’re making instead of just getting paid to knit something. They will get the full profit for the entire garment that they’ve made. That way, I’m actually increasing the income for the people that are out gathering it.

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