As I was running around in the rain the other day, connecting hoses to sub-pumps in an attempt to prevent our basement from flooding, I was struck by an idea. I wondered how wonderful it would be to grow a fine fur coat like my dog. With such coat, I could stay warm in the rain and simply shake the water off once I was back inside. Unfortunately, genetics are not so kind. I have to strip down to my skivvies in the kitchen and then dance in front of the stove to warm up. However, a question had been planted — can you spin dog fur into “wool” to make a sweater?
WHAT BEGAN AS A DREAM…
Later the next morning, once the rain had stopped, I finally had an opportunity to get some sleep. I dragged myself as far as the living room couch where I fell in an exhausted heap, grabbing the dog’s (freshly laundered) blanket to keep me warm.
When I woke to the smell of bacon and pancakes, I crawled off the couch and found myself (perhaps not surprisingly) cover from head to toe in dog hair. Hearing my dismay, my Mum came into the living room and handed me a cup of tea and a lint brush. A half hour later, I was seated at the kitchen table, eating pancakes with one hand and staring at the collection of dog fur in my other.
It wasn’t long before my mind turned back to the question of dog fur as an ethical textile. I knew you can spin sheep’s wool into yarn, but can you spin dog fur? If you could, would it make a lovely eco-friendly dog sweater?
STARTING TO RESEARCH…
Before I went and sheared my poor dog to make myself a sweater, I figured it best to do two things. One — learn how to spin. And two — find out if it is possible spin other fibres beyond the traditional sheep, llama and alpaca. I was excited! With so many dog fashion pieces of clothing out there in the modern day marketplace, I felt like I was on to something new.
As luck would have it, I have a friend who knows how to spin wool. After a quick call and a promise of an appearance in my article, I was soon sitting beside Ashley Kowalchuk, local “spinster” as she jokingly calls herself.
ASKING AN EXPERT…
She explained to me the various pieces of a spinning wheel. She also explained the process of taking wool from the back of a sheep, to the yarn in a finely knit sweater. Not only did I learn how to spin wool, but that you can also spin flax. Flax, however, requires a slightly different spinning wheel. It needs a larger wheel that has a spindle with great big spikes to grab the flax. (Fun fact: it’s on a flax spindle that Sleeping Beauty pricked herself in case you were wondering).
I watched Ashley work. She effortlessly kept her foot in rhythm and fed carded wool into the spindle. I asked the question pressing at the back of my mind: is it possible to spin dog fur? She replied that she had heard of people spinning dog fur. But she couldn’t say for certain if it could be done.
THE DOWNSIDE OF DOG FUR…
She went on to explain that sheep’s wool is barbed and grabs at itself, which is what makes it so great for spinning into yarn. Dog fur, on the other hand, isn’t barbed and as a result isn’t the easiest to spin. She did concede that you could probably make a blend of sheep and dog fur, and then spin that with fairly good results.
With my ego still bruised from my last run in at the library, I decided it was best to do a little more research from the safety of home. So away I clicked, the findings very much supportive of the statement, “Yes, you can spin dog fur!” The trick is to have fur that is longer than two inches, otherwise it needs blending with wool or another similar fibre.
It’s also important to note that dog fur is non-elastic, unlike wool, and garments should be measured as though you are using a cotton thread or yarn. Like other yarns, dog yarn can be plied to give you a thicker thread. Plying takes two strands of yarn and winds them together.
AND THE ANSWER IS…
Some of the best results for dog yarn come from dogs with a nice undercoat. When grooming your dog, simply keep the shedding furs from the brush. Separate the undercoat from the coarser guard hairs. Wash and clean the undercoat, card, spin, then knit! Soon you’ll have your very own humane and eco-friendly fur knit sweater! Or, if you’re like me and enjoy a little irony, you could sheer your dog. And then knit them a sweater to keep them warm! Providing you can handle a pair of knitting needles, of course. (Joking, joking!)