Spinning something new

Quite some time ago I posted about how I had gotten interested in spinning fiber on a drop spindle. Since then I have acquired a few spindles, mostly Turkish, and have gotten in a fair amount of practice.

Part of what appealed to me about spinning in the first place was the excitement of taking on a new craft, especially one that is so directly tied to knitting. Another part was that, early in the process, I naively thought that buying fiber to spin would be cheaper than just going out and buying finished yarn. I quickly found out that this is not necessarily the case! This lead me to two conclusions:

1) If I wanted to spin it would have to be for the fun of doing it and not because it was a cheaper alternative to buying yarn.

2) I wouldn't enjoy spinning things that are readily available in stores, but spinning unique yarns would keep me interested.

Some time later these two thoughts came together when I was perusing Ravelry. I saw some mittens that someone had knitted and they had incorporated dog fur into the yarn that they had spun for that project. At first I thought, umm, that's a little weird. But then again I'm a little weird, so I decided to research it a bit more.

While this was a new idea to me, I found that there are many groups on Ravelry devoted to spinning both dog and cat fur. Not to mention tons of websites with helpful information and even a few books specific to spinning companion animal fur. I decided what the heck, I'd give it a try. We have two cats (one black, one white) and a dog (tan) that we brush at least once a week anyway. Why not make use of all that fur?

So a few weeks ago I started collecting, washing, carding and storing. At this point I've only spun the fur from our black cat. It actually looks much more grey than black which is probably due to the more greyish undercoat she has. It will most likely end up as a two ply, sport or light worsted weight and seems like it'll make a really nice, soft yarn.

I actually have no idea yet what I may make with it. It seems like a lot of people use this type of yarn to make small keepsakes of their pets, for example, a small knitted plush heart. On a funny note, I told a friend of mine about my experiment. He immediately asked if I could make a hat for him from fur collected from their golden. I said, "Sure, I'd be glad to try it." We talked about how to collect the fur and store it until I could get it from him. He responded with, "Sure, whatever it takes, I must have that hat." He paused for a moment, thinking, and then said, "Wow, I went Cruella Deville really fast, didn't I?"

Take care guys!


Tallguy's picture

Yes, there are a number of breeds of dogs where the fur has been used for making yarns. I have spun Samoyed, collie, Sheltie, and others. I was once asked to spin up the fur from an Old English Sheepdog, which was grey and white. I was able to separate the white and make one skein, and I made several skeins of the grey. He also wanted a cardigan made from it, but I was just a new knitter at that time, and didn't feel I wanted to tackle that project. He did find someone else to make it for him, and I was promised photos which I never did get.

I also have spun long-hair cat from a cat my sister had. Short hair cats and dogs are not very good for this. Some other good breeds of dogs are the Great Pyrennes, Labrador, poodle, Pomeranian. The Salish Indians of the Pacific Northwest had a dog kept specifically for the fur which they spun for garments. After the white man came and introduced them to spinning wool, the breed became extinct, sadly. I would like to try Lhasa Apso, Shih Tzu, Maltese some day, but I don't see many of these around here. Sometimes I even ask people to save me some of the fur when I see them walking the dog!

I also think that I would blend the animal fur with some wool, just to give it a stronger base and to make the fur go further. Some animal fur is very, very warm, and would not be suitable for our environments these days. I think it is very good economy to use some of your own pet's fur to spin into something useful. A good keep-sake, yes, but also practical. Most animal fur is much warmer than wool and for some of us, we do need that extra protection.

When I show some samples of my yarn, everyone is so shocked to find that this lovely yarn they have been rubbing against their cheek is from a dog! "Eeeeww!" is the usual remark. But it is no different than any other animal fibre. And many dogs have very soft, luxuriant fur -- as some of you know that have long-haired dogs.

It is true that spinning is not cheaper than buying ready-made yarn. But for the times that I want a special yarn that I can't find anywhere, and for using fibres that are difficult to find, then I have to make it myself. And also, there is that pleasure that I get from spinning. Lately, I have been spinning with a spindle a fleece I got into very fine yarn, and enjoying it much more than anything else. I have spent the last several days plying (just for one skein) and already planning the knitting project I will make from it. But using today's minimum wage as a base for calculations, this item is going to very, very expensive!!

New York Built's picture

I am deeply impressed, Gentlemen, at the depth, reach and approaches to both of your spinning efforts and study!

I had little idea of such research...however, I did have a chance to use Jade Sapphire's Mink Yarn...It is amazing as a hand-made knitwear material, but suffers from the same issues as camelid yarns like alpaca, camel and vicuna...little holding power under individual ply tension, slow stretching over time under stress, high heat insulation ability, low stitch definition and such.

Pure materials often better mixed with other fibres.

I also have seen fur yarns from other critters...so dog and cat yarns are of little surprise. I applaud your efforts and glad to read here.

As to the "Eeeeuuuuuuhhhh!" factor...well, in many parts of the world, mention dog or cat and human salivary glands start pumping...here in the US, North America and elsewhere, thoughts are of beloved, pampered pets or soulmates.

As for me, my precious Lambie-Pie is a princess, with pastry potential!

Every person I encounter teaches me more about myself. Without whom not.

KenInMaine's picture

Yes Mark, I will most likely do a blend of wool with my friend's dog due for the hat. What I've done with the "catgora" from our black cat has been 100% just that, but I'm not planning on making a wearable item, so I think it'll be fine. This first yarn's an experiment anyway and I'm sure I'll learn a lot in making and knitting with it.

ronhuber's picture

Ken, I really admire your skill.

CLABBERS's picture

I look at what we brush of our cat and what we vacuum up and wish our cat didn't shed so much. I have also thought about using it but have opted not to. So, if you want me to start saving some for you I can do that. Better yet, I'll send you the cat! LOL

Seriously, I think what you are learning is amazing. It will add an entirely new dimension for you in the fiber arts.


KenInMaine's picture

Thanks, Mark. I guess I'll pass on you sending me the cat, though! ;^)

Joe-in Wyoming's picture

Great looking yarn, Ken. I have a Turkish spindle that I bought many years ago and it is my favorite.

One tip I can offer that may make it spin even better - one I learned many years ago and apply to all my bottom whorl spindles - is that you spiral the yarn up the shaft as part of the winding on, then anchor it before you start spinning again. 99% of the time it makes for better spinning as it cuts the resistance factor and all that other technical stuff I don't really know about. I just know it makes my spindle perform better and I've seen old drawings of spindles in action where the spinner did the same.

As for the golden and the Cruella Deville - at least he isn't planning to skin the dog first. Seriously, though...it should make a great yarn and could be very warm.

Books, knitting, cats, fountain pens...Life is Good.

KenInMaine's picture

Hi Joe. Thanks for the tip regarding spiraling the yarn up the shaft. I have not been doing that with the Turkish, though I used to when using a traditional bottom whorl. So yes, it just make sense, right?

Joe-in Wyoming's picture

Yes, it does. In fact, that factor is what makes my Turkish the best spindle I have...before spiraling up the shaft it had a wobble whenever I was spinning yarn. Now, it seems to go forever.

Books, knitting, cats, fountain pens...Life is Good.

BuduR's picture

It's beautiful!

I just can't get the hang of spinning on a spindle. I'm pretty sure I'm the reason they add "drop" in there. I can only dream of being able to spin so evenly.
I often play with the hair after brushing Her Royal Highness Lady Fluffy Butt. I would like to be able to knit her hair into something one day, except that the roomie keeps throwing away my piles of fluff :(

MWK's Token Estrogen-American

KenInMaine's picture

It took me a long time and numerous failed attempts before I could say that I got the hang of spinning. I'm still a beginner, but when I look back on where I started, I can definitely see the progression!

BuduR's picture

I got a video, the same woman that wrote respect the spindle. I did for awhile improve, but then I had a long time that I just didn't have the time to practice and when I picked it up again I was back to square one and couldn't find the video. I know in my child time my aunt taught me some on a Navajo spindle, she says I was fairly proficient with it. I don't remember any of that though. I was apparently pretty good at weaving as well....who knew?

MWK's Token Estrogen-American


I see this as a great idea. We use angora (from rabbits) even possum (first i saw this I couldn't believe my eyes) both dogs that I have owned were big shedders. At the retreat I went to in November several of the guys are spinners. This might be something I might like to try.
Something about ancestral voices calling me too. I know several of my male ancestors were tailors and weavers. I am sure some spinner as well.

KenInMaine's picture

It seems like there are a fair amount of spinners on here. So you'll be in good company if your decide to give it a try! If you do, keep us informed on how you make out!

AKQGuy's picture

Typically, the "possum" you see in yarns is both the North American opossum. It is another marsupial from Australia that made it's way to New Zealand and is now decimating native bird species as an invasive species with no natural predators. They treat them like we used to treat wolves in America; shoot on site, and utilize their cushy soft hide for furs and yarns to make the practice a little more lucrative.