Monday, January 23, 2012

Hair of the Dog

For the past couple of years now, I've been collecting dog fur.  Yep, you heard me right.  Got my dog fur collection sitting on the shelf in the living room right next to the teacup collection.  Okay, not exactly.  It's actually smashed in a box in my sewing room (the dog fur, that is, not the teacups).

Gunther, May 2000 - July 2011
 Being a spinner, I'm always conscious of fibers that can be spun.  And being thrifty, I couldn't bear to simply toss out those soft, fluffy wads of fur that I combed out of Gunther in the Spring.  And all through the Summer, actually.  Why don't dogs ever stop shedding?!  And once word of my collection got around, fur started showing up from family and friends.  My mother-in-law gave me bags of white fur from her Great Pyrenees.  My brother-in-law gave me tiny bags of rabbit fur from the pet bunny at the daycare where his wife works.  My mother gave me fur from her Red Heeler.  A bag of long, white goat hair was given to my mother to give to me from a neighbor of ours from 25 years ago.  Sheesh, word really got around!

Well, after a couple years of smashing fur into that box in the corner of my sewing room, I decided it was time to see if this was even a viable idea.  Let me tell you how lovely dog fur smells after being closed up in a box for two years . . . pretty much like the dog himself was in that box, only a bit dustier. 

Well, I persevered.  Out came the dog fur, some washed wool and the carding combs.  I mixed together all the colors of fur I had, added a bit of wool for strength and went to town.  For those of you who are not familiar with carding combs, they are essentially a pair of paddles with rows of teeth on them.  Very similar to a wide, flat hairbrush. 

The combs untangle the fibers and remove any knots or debris that hasn't been picked out.  It's important to have the fibers all running in the same direction to create a smoother yarn.  If you're trying for a cottage-y, homespun look, you can comb less and spin those nubbies into the yarn for extra texture.  Combing will, of course, blend all your colors together for a more uniform look.  Here, my white, black and brown all combined to give me a dark grey with a bit of brown flecking.

This the view I have while sitting at the spinning wheel.  I hold the combed fibers with my left hand and draw them out with my right hand.  While I pump my feet, the wheel turns, the fibers are twisted and pulled into the orifice (that's the official term) and wound onto the spool.  Voila!  Dog fur yarn!

Admittedly, the yarn turned out much more attractive than I had expected.  It's soft and heathered and still smells like a dog.  When I have a full spool, I'll take the skein off and wash it in the dog shampoo that groomers use.  Then perhaps a sweater or hat?  And when I get rained on, I'll smell like wet dog.  And I'll be very popular at the city park.  :)  Who knows.  I'll keep you updated when I actually work up something, but for now, I'm back to spinning . . . and brushing the dog.  Oh Bosley . . . where are you?


  1. That's pretty itchy...I mean interesting.
    And...for people who may be allergic to dogs I guess, they'll just have to settle for Angora. HA!

    I must say KUDOS for trying it. I can't wait to see what you make out of it.
    I've never spun anything--so you know I'm certainly no expert, you are far more experienced than I am!

  2. Awwwwww! Gunther was an adorable little guy. I had a best friend until April 2010 whose name was Jack Gunther, and he always had that same, up in your grill look on his face. I think the idea of spinning your dog's hair is great- you'll have a conversation piece for sure. I look forward to seeing what you get from your spinning efforts.

  3. As a person who just loves wool fiber, I have always wondered about this. I have two big labs, and they have quite a bit of fur themselves, one can't help but wonder about all that fur when you are done brushing them if it could be woven. What a cool experiment! How wonderful that you can spin, that would be something I would love to try. :)

  4. I had a Great Pyrenees and boy did she shed some great hair I have heard of many Pyrenees owners having sweaters made. I had considered but there was always the wet dog smell to consider. Well now I miss my dog.

  5. being a fiber kinda mama I had to smile at your combs and wheel. I have always wanted to try spinning dog, I might try it...


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