Spinning Dog Hair

by Ragtimelil

Is your dog shedding and you wonder what to do with all that hair? Spin it into some lovely Chiengora.

For most of my life, I’ve had multiple dogs in my house. The truth is, dogs do shed. Brushing them is the best way to keep it off the floor and furniture. I’ve collected bags of the stuff.
Now that I know more about spinning, I’ve experimented with using dog hair as a spinning fiber. I’ve discovered that it has some great qualities, similar to Angora rabbit. In fact, one name for it is “Chiengora,” - chein being the French word for dog.

But Doesn't it Smell Like Dog?

dog hair bearDog hair for spinning is washed several times during the process. Washing will remove the smell and the dander that most people who are allergic react to. I have to smile when people who are introduced to one of my dog hair items immediately put it to their nose to sniff it. They are amazed that it has no doggy odor.

 

Here's a little bear I knitted out of 100% dog hair. He gets cuddled a lot and doesn't smell a bit like dog.

 

To Blend or Not to Blend.

Spinning dog hair is similar to spinning Angora. It’s a slippery fiber with no scales to catch and link together. It needs to be spun rather tightly to hold together.  It usually doesn’t need to be carded unless you are blending it. For most of my dog hair spinning, I do blend in a little sheep wool to help bind it together. While you can spin pure dog hair, it has to be spun tightly to keep it from pulling apart. If you only use a little wool such as 25%-50%, it will hold together better and the wool will hardly be visible in the final product. Another reason to blend is that dog hair doesn’t have the elasticity that wool has. A garment made of 100% dog hair might stretch and sag.

 Sheltie BagThis is a little bag I knitted from Shetland sheepdog hair and wool.

Breeds of Dogs

Almost any long haired dog produces hair that can be spun. If you look closely, you’ll see that Bernese Mt. Dogthe dog produces two types of coat. The outer coat is coarser and stiffer than the soft, downy undercoat. The undercoat is what sheds off the dog and what we want for spinning. I imagine you could use the outer coat the same as some outer coats from other animals for such things as rugs and rougher use textiles. We’ll focus on the undercoat here.

A fiber of two inches is the easiest to work with, but most dogs that have shorter hair also have an undercoat. A few don’t such as the Doberman. The shorter hair can be spun but it must be blended with wool. It also may shed if the hair is too short.

Some favorite breeds of dogs for spinning hair are Great Pyrenees, collies, Shelties, golden retrievers, old English sheepdogs, Newfoundlands, Samoyeds, American Eskimos.and my personal favorite, the Border collie.These are only a few of the breeds that provide spinning fiber. Mixed breeds can provide spinnable hair too.

Wash and Spin

To start your dog hair project, you first need to collect the hair. It’s nicer if the dog is kept clean. You can spin it first and then wash it, but the hair can be washed when it’s off the dog too. You can put it in a mesh bag and wash gently.

Hair that has been brushed off the dog is better than hair that has been cut. You don’t need a lot of hair for your smaller projects. One or two ounces can be blended with wool and be enough for a hat or mittens. A sandwich bag stuffed with hair weighs about half an ounce.dog hair

Now you are ready to blend and spin. If you’re using hand cards, one little trick is to put the fiber on in sections. If you are blending 50%, load half of the card with dog hair and the other half with wool. It will be mixed as you transfer your fiber from one card to the other.

Abused Yarn

Dog hair, like Angora, will “bloom.” It creates the soft “halo” by actually working its way out of the yarn and shedding. Some people like the halo, but some aren’t so crazy about the shedding. 

I have done what is called “abusing” the yarn with my Angora yarn and imagine it would work the same with dog hair. I have experimented with felting dog hair and it worked the same as Angora.I know it sounds terrible, but it hardens the yarn slightly and reduces the shedding.

Wash the yarn, not too gently in warm water and a bit of dish soap. You can actually shock the yarn by having a pot of really hot water and cold water and dipping in one and then the other. Rinse clean and squeeze the water out. Take the skein by one end and slap it hard on the counter a few times. Reverse the skein and slap the other end. Do this a bunch of times and then lay it out to dry. Now you can knit or crochet away.

If you decide that spinning dog hair isn't for you, you can find plenty of spinners like me who will do it for you for a nominal fee.

Now that you've got that spinning wheel, you have to learn how to use it. Here's a basic explanation of how to spin on a spinning wheel.
Have you thought of getting a spinning wheel and relaxing to the feel of wool turning into yarn? There are a few things to consider before putting out money for a wheel.
Once you’ve spun your yarn, you must decide whether to leave it as is or whether to ply it. Here's some ways to make two or three-ply yarns.
Always thought you'd like to learn how to spin, but didn't want to spend the money on an expensive spinning wheel? Try learning on a spindle first.
Updated: on 08/20/2012, Ragtimelil
 
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Dog Hair Questions and Comments


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Ragtimelil on 08/27/2012

I'm sure you could too. Let me know how it comes out.
Yes, there are quite a few people who do keepsakes.

Guest on 08/27/2012

My dog is an Australian shepherd-Border collie mix. Or was that cattle dog? I am a beginning spinner, but I am sure I can add his hair to my spinning. When I was with a guild, there was a member who did nothing but spin and make projects out of dog hair. She always kept busy because people wanted keepsakes of their dogs. When she was done spinning, she either gave the yarn to the owner or created a knitted or woven project of dog hair for the owner.

Ragtimelil on 08/26/2012

You don't need much. Go for it. What kind of dog?

TiaMariaMartini on 08/26/2012

What a fantastic idea this is. I wonder how long it takes to collect enough for a pair of mittens?

Ragtimelil on 08/20/2012

I took a picture of a hat I made of dog hair and angora. Decided not to use it this time but it was REALLY fluffy and too warm. And too attractive to one gnaw-happy puppy...

2uesday on 08/20/2012

I think Dustytoes is right some people would find having a teddy bear made from the hair, a nice keepsake. It is surprising how fluffy the yarn is when you see it in the photos.

Ragtimelil on 08/19/2012

I've made some cute little hearts out of dog hair. I just can't find 'em right now.....now where would they be....

Dustytoes on 08/19/2012

That little bear is adorable! I'm thinking that people who are very attached to their pet dog would love to have a keepsake made from his or her hair. I think this could be a new business for you Ragtimelil..!

Ragtimelil on 08/19/2012

Dog hair for spinning has a pretty long history. Dogs were sheared in the British isles along with the sheep and Northwestern Native Americans raised a little white dog for their hair.
Ack dog meat. My dogs are my family. That's like cannibalism to me....

Tolovaj on 08/19/2012

Wow, I have heard about dogs breeding for meat, but never thought about dogs hair as possible material for... Well, just anything. I bet it can be used as isolation too!




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