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Pet Yarn Chic and the Critter Knitter Guild give a whole new meaning to 'dog blanket'

Carly all three

For 11 years, Cindy Briggs had been collecting her golden retriever Carly's fur in plastic bags and storing it in the closet. She had no specific plans to use it, but something kept her from throwing it away. The dog kept shedding, and Briggs kept brushing and collecting. Over those 11 years, she moved the fur to three apartments, and always took care never to squish it. "I didn't know why I was doing it," she said, "but it turned out to be a blessing."

Briggs' beloved dog has been dead for two years, but the dog trainer from the suburbs of Washington, D.C., has a memento of Carly's presence right in her home. Through the Pet Yarn Chic website, Briggs had the fur she collected spun into a fuzzy golden yarn. With the yarn she had an afghan knitted, and it now sits on top of a side table in her living room with a piece of glass over it.

"I can touch it any time I like," she said. She had originally planned to drape it over her couch. The only problem was, it shed.

The Pet Yarn Chic website was founded by N'ann Harp, a brand manager from Asheville, N.C., and the owner of a long-haired cat named Tyler who "shed like a porcupine blowing quills."

"I was going out of my mind," she said.

In an attempt to manage the fur deposits blowing through her house like tumbleweed, Harp began following the cat around with a plastic bag, stuffing it full of the tufts he left behind. On a whim, she took the collected fur to a local knitting and fiber arts store, Asheville NC Home Crafts, to see if the owner could spin it into a yarn. She said yes, and a new business was born.

Because most pet owners do not have access to spinners (they are quite hard to find), Harp has set up two websites to connect the two. For the spinners -- usually stay-at-home mom hobbyists -- she founded the Critter Knitter Guild, a loose association of spinners who get paid to spin yarn.

And for pet owners who have been hoarding dog, cat or bunny fur, she founded Pet Yarn Chic: You send her $49.95 and she sends you back a handbook, shipping supplies and hair collection instructions.

The cost to spin the yarn varies, depending on the pet's hair and any special care and handling it might need, but prices start around $10 to $12 per ounce. If you are not a knitter, you can pay an additional fee to have a garment knitted for you.

Pet hair can be difficult to spin, so Harp has had to work hard to find experienced spinners. Dog and cat fur tends to be shorter and more slippery than wool, requiring more twists per inch to help it stay together, and dog fur in particular tends to be stinky due to a natural lanolin in the dogs' skin. And, of course, not every animal's fur will work. Only long-haired cat fur and the fluffy undercoat of a dog can be spun into a yarn.

Still, Marie Hendrix, a spinner for the Critter Knitter Guild and co-owner of the Asheville NC Home Crafts store, thinks dog and cat fur can be used to create beautiful yarns. "It is a very soft hair, so it develops a halo around it like Angora does, almost an aura," she said. "It is a very comfortable, lovely, luscious fiber."

-- Deborah Netburn


Photo credit: Pet Yarn Chic

 
Comments () | Archives (11)

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Not all spinners are stay-at-home Moms! There's an 80-member spinners guild in Los Angeles, and most members are working people -- and not all women. Furthermore, many of those who've come to knitting in the last 10 years have begun spinning as simply an extension of knitting.

Not all spinners are willing to spin pet hair. But we're not all that hard to find. Look for a guild in your area.

FREAK !!!

I've made fishing flies out of my dogs fur for decades. The dogs may be gone but every they still get to enjoy the river like they used to and every time I release a trout I kind of smile knowing which dog it was that helped land it in the first place.
I got the idea from an old 1700's text that said that a Scots officer in the British army had a fly tying kit that consisted of "11 colors of spaniel fur".

spectacular case of "Goldfish Syndrome" - which is that pathology in which persons with an excessive interest in their pets think others want to hear about their pets

to bill and 2 cents
Don't pass judgement on those of us who have cared for and loved our animals and who might want a reminder of them after they have died. Anyone who has truly loved a pet knows that they are more loving, giving, selfless and trustworthy than most humans. Who are you to judge Cindy Briggs or anyone else?

VIP Fibers, in Texas, has been doing this for ages: http://www.vipfibers.com/ They did a great job with the undercoat of a Belgian Tervuren I used to have. They also spin cat fur, rabbit fur, alpaca, llama, coyote, Bengal tiger (should you happen to have one...), etc.

I was brushing one of my cat sitting clients today, and I looked at the resulting ball of hair and thought how it would be funny to make a little blanket out of it for one of my niece's dolls. What I crazy thought, I said to myself. Then later in the day I happened to stumble upon this article. Guess it wasn't such a crazy idea!

My art teacher, Miss Goto, used to use poodle hair to make fantastic crocheted car blankets. That was in the early 70s.

People are strange. I wonder if there are people who love their wardrobe so much that they collect dryer lint and save it in a bag somewhere. You never know...

Don't knock the creativity or frugality of spinning animal hair into yarn which can be turned into beautiful fabric. People have been doing it for thousands of years.

Wonderful, I know a woman who would spin her Malteses hair and then knit it into little jackets to give her dog extra warmth in the winter. Much better than buying synthetic items for them.


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