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Yes you can! Throughout history, people have made clothing and blankets from the shed fur of animals, including dogs and cats. Native Americans used the hair of goats and dogs along with wool and bark fibers to make household products, and modern-day animal lovers collect the hair of their pets and have it hand-spun into yarn from which make keepsakes, mementos and even clothing or household items.
The following is a very broad overview of the steps required to create yarn using your pet's hair. If this sounds like a process you'd like to explore further, click on the reference links below for more detailed instructions.
Breeds with Suitable Fur
Dog breeds with the right kind of fur for spinning include the Siberian Husky, Samoyed, Malamute, Golden Retriever, Newfoundland, American Eskimo, Great Pyrenees, Collie, Afghan, chow chow, poodle, Yorkshire Terrier, English Sheepdog, cocker spaniel, schnauzer, and any other dog with a long, soft undercoat.
Easily "spinnable" cat fur can be collected from the Angora, Persian, ragdoll, Himalayan, Maine Coon, Manx, Birman, and Oriental longhair breeds. Fur from shorter-haired cats can also be spun into yarn, but it will take longer to collect enough fiber to spin.
Items You'll Need:
• Shed fur from long-haired, soft-coated animal
• Chemical-free soap
• Carder and spindle (if spinning the yarn yourself)
Step #1 - Collect the hair from brushing your dog until you have enough to have it spun into yarn--at least 4 ounces. The best type of fur is from dogs such as huskies, border collies, elkhounds, Maltese and others with long, thick hair and soft undercoats. The best time to collect fur is in the spring, when animals are shedding their thick winter coats.
Step #2 - Separate any coarse hairs from the pile, as these will make your yarn prickly. Store the fur in an open, well lit area and avoid allowing it to be compressed. Don't use a plastic bag, as you want the moisture in the hair to evaporate rather than being trapped in the bag which can lead to felting and/or mildew.
Note: Since it takes a lot of fiber to make larger projects such as sweaters or blankets, many people blend their pet's fiber with sheep or alpaca wool (or another widely available natural fiber). Also, blending dog or cat fur with wool produces a yarn that creates a less "saggy" fabric that holds its shape better.
Step #3 - Wash the fur in water at room temperature using mild, chemical-free laundry soap for delicates. Rinse it and dry it by rolling it up in a towel to absorb the water and then laying it out flat. Avoid using hot water as this could cause matting.
Step #4 - Separate the fur fibers to prepare it for spinning. This is called "carding" and is done using metal dog brushes or wooden carding paddles. Alternatively, you can send it to spinners who specialize in spinning pet fur such as Jumaka and CustomDogFurSpinning.com to have it carded and spun Watch this video on how to card fibers using a hard carder.
Step #5 - Make the fur into yarn by spinning it using a spindle, or by holding fur in your one hand and twisting a piece of it with the other. Continue adding tufts of hair and twisting, and you will create a length of yarn. Alternatively, have it spun professionally using businesses like the ones mentioned in Step #4.
By Tracey Sandilands
Craftsy: How to Spin Pet Fur Into Yarn
VIP Fibers: Collecting and Storing Your Pet's Fiber -- How Much to Collect?
For the Love of Yarn: Keepsakes from Your Beloved Pet
VIP Fibers: How to Use Your Fur-Ever Keepsake Yarn -- Project Ideas and Suggestions
Jumaka; Handspun; Yarn from Pet Cat and Dog Fur; Judy Kavanagh
Woofspuns: Collecting and the Hair
International World History Project: American Indians or Native Americans
Cornell University Animal Science 3800; "Wool Processing;" "First and Second Projects, Learning to Spin and Felt;" J. L. Hartnagel
About the Author
Tracey Sandilands has written professionally since 1990, covering business, home ownership and pets. She holds a professional business management qualification, a bachelor's degree in communications and a diploma in public relations and journalism. Sandilands is the former editor of an international property news portal and an experienced dog breeder and trainer.