Using Your Dogs Hair
Dog hair (called chiengora) can be spun into yarn, much like
sheep's wool, alpaca, or any other animal fiber. The process is
the same. Dust and oils can be washed out of the spun hair, so
there is no "doggie odor." Amazingly, the spun yarn is warmer
than wool, easy to care for, and has an angora-like fluffy
texture. Until recent times, most dog owners didn't realize the
beauty of the colors and texture of their dog's hair could be
used in the manner of sheep's wool.
It's really as easy as brushing your dog. There are some
guidelines to getting the best and softest yarn possible. When
brushing your dog, be sure to collect from the parts where the
hair is the longest and softest. This is undercoat. Hair must be
2 inches or longer for best results. Hair should be clean and
dry, with no grass or debris in it. Brush the hair from the
longest, softest parts of the dog, saving only this hair. It is
the undercoat you want, not the coarse top coat. Clippings will
not work well for spinning with dogs that have double coats.
There is too much guard hair, and the yarn quality will not be as
nice as the pure undercoat.
Remove dog hair from the brush and save it in a paper bag.
Save hair that is completely dry, and as clean as possible. (Do
not attempt to clean it once it is brushed off the dog!) Bathe
your dog first, and brush when the hair is dry. Paper allows the
fiber to "breathe" and not be trapped with oils in a plastic bag.
The best way to store the hair from brushings, is in a paper
sack, or cloth bag, such as a pillowcase. Despite what your
mother or grandmother used to do, NEVER USE MOTH BALLS! Moth
balls contain a toxic chemical that is dangerous to breathe, and
it is impossible to remove the mothball smell from the hair. How
much do you save? It depends on what will be made with the
finished yarn. Most small projects use about 6 ounces of
Transforming dog hair into yarn takes much time and care.
First, the yarn is evaluated for spinning. Depending on length,
and how the yarn will be used, I determine if the hair needs
blending with a soft merino wool. Blending minimizes shedding
out, and produces a more durable yarn. Although most people want
100% of their dog's hair to be used in a product, this isn't
always possible. The dog's color can still be seen and the fluffy
texture is still present in the finished yarn.
From this point, the process is the same as spinning sheep's
woolI use a drum carder for the blending process. This carder has
metal teeth on it, that comb the wool, so the fibers are lined up
and ready for spinning. The fiber is lifted off the drum carder,
loosely rolled up, and set aside by the spinning wheel.
The yarn is spun into single strands on a spinning wheel, and
then plied for strength. The yarn is then cleaned by hand, using
a mild conditioning detergent or dog shampoo, and air dried. It
is then wound into balls or skeins and is then ready to be
knitted or crocheted into a scarf, hat, ornament, and many other
Because it is handcrafted, and personal, a chiengora gift
makes a sentimental remembrance. It is better to begin collecting
hair while your pet is healthy and younger. People have often
told me that it is comforting to have a soft, "pettable" scarf,
hat, teddy bear, or other item made from their dog's hair, and it
brings back happy memories.
Fran Pike spins and knits with luxury fibers, including
angora, alpaca and "chiengora." She founded Rover's Comb to
enable people to have beautiful keepsakes made from their dog's
long, brushed hair. Her work is showcased at http://www.roverscomb.com
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