Dog hair (called chiengora) can be spun into yarn, much like sheep’s wool, alpaca or other animal fibres. The process is the same. Dust and oils can be washed out of 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 airy texture. Until recently, most dog owners were unaware of the beauty of the colors and textures of dog hair that could be used in the same way as sheep’s wool.

It’s really as easy as brushing your dog. There are some guidelines for getting the best and softest yarn possible.

When brushing your dog, make sure to gather from the parts where the hair is longest and soft. This is underwool. Hair must be 2 inches or longer for best results. The hair must be clean and dry, without grass or debris in it. Brush the hair from the longest, softest parts of the dog, saving only this hair. It’s the undercoat you want, not the rough top coat. Scraps 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 fine as the pure underwool.

Remove dog hair from the brush and store it in a paper bag. Save hair that is completely dry and as clean as possible. (Do not try to clean it after it has been brushed by the dog!) Bathe your dog first, then brush when the hair is dry.

Paper allows the fiber to “breathe” and not get trapped with oils in a plastic bag. The best way to store hair from brushing is in a paper bag or cloth bag, such as a pillow case. Despite what your mother or grandmother used to do, NEVER USE MOTH BALLS! Mothballs contain a toxic chemical that is dangerous to inhale, and it is impossible to remove the mothball smell from your 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 hair.

Transforming dog hair into yarn takes a lot of time and care. First, the yarn is assessed for spinning. Depending on the length, and how the yarn is to be used, I decide whether the hair must be mixed with a soft merino wool. Blending minimizes shedding and produces a more durable yarn. Although most people want 100% of the dog’s hair to be used in a product, this is not always possible. The dog’s color can still be seen and the airy texture is still present in the finished yarn.

From this point the process is the same as spinning sheep’s wool. I use a drum carder for the mixing process. This carder has metal teeth on it that comb the wool so that the fibers are aligned and ready for spinning. The fiber is lifted off the drum card, loosely rolled up and set aside by the spinning wheel.

The yarn is spun into single strands on a spinning wheel, and then plowed for strength. The yarn is then cleaned by hand, using a mild 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, ornaments and many other things.

Because it is handmade and personal, a chiengora gift provides a sentimental memento. It is better to start collecting hair while your pet is healthy and younger. People have often told me that having a soft scarf, hat, teddy bear or other item made from dog hair is comforting and brings back good memories.

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