By Neeto da Silva
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 a fine fur 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.
Later the next morning, once the rain had stopped and we had stemmed the flow of water, I finally had an opportunity to put down the shop-vac and get some sleep. I dragged myself as far as the living room couch where I fell in an exhausted heap, grabbing the dog’s blanket from the floor to keep me warm.
When I at last 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 my desire for a fur covering. I knew you can spin sheep’s wool into yarn, but can you spin dog fur? Before I went and sheared my poor dog to make myself a sweater, I figured it best to one; learn how to spin, and two; find out if it is possible spin other fibres beyond the traditional sheep, llama and alpaca.
By Neeto da Silva
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 seated beside Ashley Kowalchuk, local “spinster” as she jokingly calls herself.
She took great pains to explain to me the various pieces of a spinning wheel, and 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 spin flax. Flax, however, requires a slightly different spinning wheel, a larger one that has a spindle with great big spikes to grab the flax (by the by, it’s on a flax spindle that Sleeping Beauty pricked herself in case you were wondering).
As I watched Ashley work effortlessly at the spinning wheel, keeping her foot in rhythm and feeding carded wool into the spindle, I asked the question pressing at the back of my mind: is it possible to spin dog fur? She took a second before admitting that she had heard of people spinning dog fur before, but couldn’t say for certain if it could be done. 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 probably wouldn’t be 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 in having fur that is longer than two inches, otherwise it has to be blended 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.
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.
 By Kevin Mogk