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Friday, February 11, 2011

Spinning Dog Fur: A Poodle Adventure

Meet Carl, the 80-pound standard poodle.  Before I learned to spin he was just a great, big, furry, lovable, happy pal.  Once I started spinning I began to eye him in a new way.



All those lovely black curls...

Tightwad that I am, I decided not to let Carl's coat end up in the groomer's wastebasket.

My first attempt at harvesting his coat was disaster, but I learned something important.  Wash dog first.  THEN clip.  I assumed I could treat a poodle coat like a fleece.  I clipped the dog and washed the fur very, very gently in shampoo.  It turned into a mass of black felt.  I salvaged less than half an ounce, spun a tiny ball of 2-ply, sent it to Spin-Off and got it pictured in the fall 2009 issue, but that was it.

Last spring I was ready.  I washed the dog FIRST.  Let him dry.  Combed out the tangles.  Then I clipped off the best parts of his coat - like a sheep's fleece, that was the neck, back, sides, and rump.  I didn't bother with the rest.  I took him to the groomer looking like an advertisement for mange and carried on with my fiber fun.

Despite how soft my dog feels when I pet him, his fur was somewhat wiry.  The crimp is open.  Because he is middle-aged there are now a lot of white hairs mixed in.  So I decided to blend the dog fur with natural black merino.  I carded up four big batts.

I don't remember why, but for some reason I had to set aside the project at this stage.  I laid the batts carefully over the back of an old sofa in the basement and decided to get back to it when I had time.  Fast forward to this fall.  When I went to finish the carding, half the fiber had felted, JUST from the summer heat and humidity of my basement.  I have never had t his happen, not even to rabbit angora.  I threw the matted junk away and re-carded what was left.  I carded it three times.

Here is what I ended up with - poodle/merino roving.



It was NOT easy to spin!  I swear the fiber WANTS to felt.  It felted when I looked at it.  It felted as I spun.   It was hard drafting but finally I finished the yarn - 400 yds of two-ply, just in time for our Fiber Guild meeting.  I skeined it and made it into a yarn twist.  That was less than two weeks ago.



Today I took the UNTOUCHED skein out of the closet.  The strands are felting together.  Can't blame humidity this time of year - it is dry, dry dry.



What I learned:
1. My dog's fur is great for felting.
2. I don't love spinning dog fur.
3. There is a reason sheep are the primary fleece animal in the world

I probably will not be spinning any more of Carl's fur.  But someone is going to get a dandy pair of felted slippers or mittens, courtesy of the family canine.

7 comments:

  1. Whoa. I don't blame you for not continuing in the dog-fur spinning vein. I'm planning to attempt spinning my Old English Sheepdog's coat at some point this year.

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  2. I love spinning dog fur. Great job. Word Lily I have spun Old English Sheepdog with great results..I made two scarves and a photo frame cozy for a client. She was in tears she loved it so much.

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  3. OMGosh I laughed while I read this blog entry! Thanks for sharing this. lol!!!

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  4. I also had to laugh...but I'm sure you were not! :D

    It WAS very interesting, despite the fact that I've had absolutely no desire to wrestle with a dog, to get it's fur in order to spin it...now, after reading your travails and being warned, I'll squash that idea flat immediately if it should ever arise. :D

    I do have an idle question, is the resulting doggie hair felt light and spongy like a mohair, or firmer and very dense like wool?

    --elizaduckie

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  5. The best dog fur to spin is the Samyoed. You have to be willing to brush out the undercoat to get it when they are blowing coat. This is what you want to use. It makes wonderful thread and when you use it to knit a sweater with it, it will be too warm for you to wear in anything but very cold weather. The poodle has hair that was designed to felt, just like dread locks. This is why is did that naturally. Just look at any old dog pictures and that becomes very evident. Double coated, fur bearing dogs are a much better choice when trying to use it to spin, but only use the naturally blown undercoat.

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  6. Thank you for this wonderful post. My daughter-in- law has a standard poodle and I was thinking of trying the same thing but after reading this I don't think I'll try. It answered my question about poodle hair. (darn!)
    Jan

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  7. I spun a sample of my poodle's hair last week and I too noticed that it felted almost immediately. Next time I will use the fur for felt slippers.

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