I bet you could spin....
(originally published Aug. 8th, 2020)
We are a family that includes a pair of really adorable "go-with" dogs. Meet Ilkay the Akbash (aka Miss Moon-dog) and Gamanrunar the Icelandic Sheepdog (aka Runi.) Our adventures together in the past have included craft fairs, fiber festivals, the county fair and more. Any time and place that I'm likely to be out spinning in public at least my big girl will be with me.
Spinning in public will always draw a bit of a crowd, while I feel like our numbers are pretty strong it's still not a common art. There are two common comments I get that are both cute, and annoying at once. "Look! She's weaving!" - opps! Wrong craft and tool folks! - and mostly from men - "Look at that! I bet you could make yarn from your dog!"
As you can see in the photo above, yes! Of course! I absolutely could! Miss Moon-dog would be the obvious choice, but her fur when brushed is quite short, and the guard hair sheds equally with the undercoat. Which brings us to the puppy. Runi is now a whole year old! His coat only sheds the undercoat and is downy soft, something I'd actually enjoy spinning.
Enter one basket of puppy fur. My spouse creature suggested when we got this little fluff that maybe I could make a skein of yarn to remember his puppyhood. We brush him once a day to keep him at his most magnificent, and throughout his first year Jules stashed away the fur. On his first birthday I washed it, and believe me, even if you think you're keeping your dog clean you want to wash it. Dog fur, sometimes called "chiengora" in the spinning world (a combination of the French word for dog "chien" and angora) is a fiber that I wash the same way I wash alpaca. There are few, to no oils, nothing as heavy as lanolin in wool, to remove, so a much less harsh soap is needed. After a cold water soak I used a bit of regular dog shampoo and rinsed a couple of times. You wouldn't believe the amount of dirt that was in there. As with alpaca, the soap is necessary! Just soaking and rinsing will leave quite a bit of yuck still in the fiber, and then twisted into your yarn.
As far as the spinning goes I treated the fiber more like I do angora. There was some variation in the length of the fiber, since it had grown out over a year, and it was a bit too flyaway for me to have much success using hand cards. I instead would take a small handful, pull it all apart until there was plenty of air in it, and then spin one handful at a time woolen style, I used long draw for this project. When I was taking a spinning class from Kate Larson she described the way to hold fiber for spinning this way "as if you were holding a baby bird." Spinning from fluff instead of a prepared rolag is a bit more challenging, but the "baby bird" image served me well. If you should find yourself spinning this way try not to grip it too tightly!
We now know the answer to the question, how much yarn can be made from a years worth of puppy fluff ? At least for myself, spinning my standard go to weight yarn - I ended up with 66 yards of a two ply sport weight. Over all since it's nearly all undercoat it is a bit lighter than Runi's Sable "blond" coat color. It's very soft, and has an angora like halo to it. Honestly I can see the appeal to the yarn. While it doesn't have much elasticity to it, almost none at all in fact, dog fur is very, very warm. Washing it, I found it to be no more dirty than just about every alpaca blanket I've come across, and spinning it was pretty pleasant.
What will we do with it now? I'm not really sure. I admit I almost have a mind to bring it with me everywhere. Anyone who jokes about making dog hair yarn has to touch it, like a fee. I'd be amused and most folks who did would probably be surprised. Runi, however, doesn't quite know what to think of it.