If you share a house with a dog that can shed enough hair to create another dog, the thought of putting all that fuzz to a useful purpose has probably crossed your mind at one time or another. Kendall Crolius has written a book to answer all your questions about what to do with those mountains of dog fuzz.
Why a Dog?
A brief look at the history and properties of dog hair as fibre. It has an angora or alpaca quality when knitted, and although not as elastic as wool, it is warmer.
Collecting the Raw Material
Not a problem if you own an Alaskan Malamute, when they blow coat it’s like you’re own personal snowstorm. If you’re smart enough to have chosen a dog that doesn’t seasonally blanket your house with fur, then you’ll have to rely on collecting hair from your regular grooming sessions. And if you have a short haired breed, like a Boxer, you can still get collect the fibres and blend them with a longer fibre. Cat owners aren’t left out either, but it may take a bit longer to harvest a decent amount.
Preparing the Fuzz for Spinning
Now you’ve got you’re fuzz collected, you have to prepare it prior to spinning. The fuzz needs to be carded — which aligns the fibres in the same direction making them easier to spin, it’s also used to blend the fibres. If you have shorter dog fuzz, you’ll need to blend it with a longer fibre at this stage — Dalmation/Samoyed, Rotweiller/Cashmere, Rhodesian Ridgeback/Alpaca, the possibilities are endless.
Spinning the Yarn
Spinning is nothing more than making a heap short fibres into one long strand of yarn.
The cheapest way to do this is to use a drop spindle — instructions are included to make your own. The other option is a spinning wheel — a far more expensive venture and only worth considering if you are really serious about converting large amounts of dog hair to yarn. The book gives good instructions for the use of both.
If you don’t want to immediately purchase a spinning wheel it’s worth checking with your local Spinners and Weavers Guild to see if they hire out equipment, badgering your hobbyist friends and family members for a loan of a wheel is another alternative. And then there’s the always the classifieds — you’d be surprised the amount of hobby equipment that turns up there once the initial excitement of a new project wears off.
Electric spinners are also available, they aren’t cheap, but are a good option for both large lots of fibre and the much smaller space required by the machine. But if you feel all this hands on work is beyond you, you can always send your fibre off to someone who’ll spin it up for you.
Finishing the Yarn
Now you’ve spun your yarn, you need to ply it by twisting several strands together in the reverse direction of the original spin — this makes for a stronger yarn. Next comes skeining the yarn — have a volunteer stick out their arms. The yarn is then washed to set the twist, this also gets any remains dog smell out of the fibres.
Dyeing Your Pet Yarn
The writer is a tad biased when it comes to dog hair and prefers its natural beauty. There are a few rudimentary instructions listed, but if you really want to dye your dog hair I’d recommend looking for another source of information.
Making Things from Your Pet Yarn
Now you have your yarn, what are do you plan to do with it? There are suggestions and tips for knitting, crochet, needlepoint, embroidery and weaving.
If you haven’t already got a project in mind, the authors have included several. From the quick and simple; scarfs and hats requiring small amounts of yarn, to jumpers for the serious spinner and the quirky; a Pug sized jumper made from Newfoundland fuzz.
Care of Your Finished Garment
Because it isn’t as elastic as wool, dog fibre products will deform if not washed by hand and dried with care. If you own products knitted from alpaca or angora you’ll know what to expect.
The Spinner’s Guide to Dog Breeds
A good resource for checking how to proceed with your breed of dog and a great guide for experienced spinners.
If you’re not ready to go it alone just yet, there’s a listing of spinner’s for hire throughout the US. But if you do want to get you’re feet wet, check out the list covering both US and foreign spinning suppliers.
Knitting With Dog Hair is written with the complete novice in mind, but also has information that will benefit a seasoned spinner. Even if you’re not interested in spinning, any dog lover will get a kick out of it. It is a well written and engaging book, that takes a humorous look at turning your favourite beastie into a hat, mittens or even a jumper — better a jumper from a dog you know and love than from a sheep you’ll never meet.
Some breeds are more suited than others for making that jumper, but you should be able to find a project to suit your particular dog.
The guard hair on my Malamute is very scratchy, but the undercoat is amazingly soft. It looks a bit weird in the hank, but when it’s knitted — even a 50/50 wool blend — you would swear it is Alpaca.
I’ve encountered the horrified friends already. The big question is Doesn’t it smell? Not when you wash the fibre using the same stuff you use to wash your dog, and as sheep are far more aromatic than even the stinkiest dog this is not a concern. It is, however, far more pleasant to work with clean fibre from the start.
Another way of finding dog hair enthusiasts is to talk to people at dog shows or hit the internet via the many dog related mailing lists available.
There are more out there than you would think.
It is worth getting an experienced spinner to show you the ropes. It’s not hard — it’s actually a quite mindlessly soothing activity to do while watching the idiot box — but it does take a little practice when you first start.
I ended up doing this when my family turned on me after years of my grandmother refusing their requests to spin up Malamute fur. The good thing for me is that I’m borrowing Nan’s wheel and didn’t have to shell out the initial expensive to get started.
The only problem with taking this up as a hobby, is that all your friends will now give you bags of Rover’s fuzz to convert into fibre and garments.
International Weavers, Spinners & Dyers Guilds
Build Your Own Spinning Wheel
Published Epinions — 15.11.2000
Book available from Amazon and Amazon UK.