Saturday, 18 December 2010

Spinning Dog Fur

I have a new challenge.  Has anyone out there worked with dog fur?  I have taken on a commission to spin some husky fur, this is not something I have tried before. 

I met the gorgeous Alaska last week.  Alaska was born in Battersea Dog's Home.  Luckily for Alaska, he was soon homed and now a few years later (it would be rude to reveal a gentleman's age) Alaska would like to give his human a present made from his fur.  Alaska's mum was allegedly a Malamute and his father is unknown.  Whatever the father was, he must have needed a step ladder.  I was expecting a great big scary wolf but the fellow who arrived at my door was about the size of a sheltie and extremely cute. 

Alaska has a double layered coat, the outer coat ranges from white through shades of grey to black, the fibres are quite long, straight and on the coarse side.  The undercoat is soft and fine, mostly white in colour and rather short.  The fur I have been given to spin is brushed out undercoat which Alaska has naturally shed, this means at the end of each hair there should be a small nodule, the root.  Fur which has been cut off the animal does not have this nodule.  Hair which retains the root is easier to spin as the nobbly bits help to hold the fibres together.

Wool fibres from sheep are a natural velcro, the fibres are barbed and will cling to each other, making spinning easy.  Hair fibres on the other hand are smooth and require coaxing to stay together.  Hair fibres, such as alpaca, mohair and angora, are often blended with wool, the wool locking the more slippery fibres into the yarn.  In this case, Alaska doesn't want his fur hobnobbing with any other animal's fibre so the challenge is to spin a pure dog yarn.       

As the fur is very short, I will need to use the long draw technique (explained in the post 'How does spinning work?').  The end result will then be a fluffy yarn with a halo effect.  I just hope I can produce a yarn which holds together and doesn't fly apart!  The next decision is whether or not to wash the fibre before spinning.  Any ideas?  The fibre doesn't smell too much but it does have a smell and I'm sure no one, however much they love their pet, wants to walk around smelling like a dog - sorry Alaska.  I do remember an article in the Reader's Digest many years ago about someone who had a tame wolf.  They spun the wolf's fur and made a jumper.  Whenever they went out wearing the jumper, other dogs either attacked them or ran away wimpering in terror.  

I'm worried that if I spin the fibre in it's raw state I may not be able to wash the finished yarn enough without damaging it to get rid of the smell.  On the other hand, the fibre may become matted during washing.   I think I am going to test wash a small amount of fibre and see what happens.  I have the very good Unicorn Power Scour which fellow ravelrers (is that the right word?)assure me removes the rather potent whiff of ram.  Anything which can clean a year's dirt and and grease from a sheep's fleece should be up to cleaning dog fur, after all, Alaska changes his underclothes regulary so his fur can't be anything like as bad as a fleece.     

Before he left, Alaska gave me his paw and we shook on the deal.  There's no going back now.  I will be recording my progress here so do return and find out how the washing and spinning goes!

1 comment:

  1. Hi, I think that Unicorn Power Scour will indeed take the dog odor out while dissipating the attached dirt & debris from the fur. If your tests show that Alaska's fur is too loose to work with, you might want to utilize Unicorn Fibre Rinse in the last rinse water. Just a teaspoon should do it. We created this product during our testing to create a pH balanced, anti-static bath -- it doesn't take the heart out of fibre, just makes it easier to work with. Could be an interesting experiment on dog fur. I'll follow your blog -- here and on Interesting trial. Anna