Throughout history people have made clothing and blankets from the hair and fur of animals, including dogs. Native Americans used the hair of goats and dogs along with wool and bark fibers to make household products, and modern-day animal lovers collect the hair of their dogs and have it hand-spun into yarn which they call "chiengora," and from which they make keepsakes and mementos.
Making the Yarn
Collect the hair from brushing your dog until you have enough to have it spun into yarn. The best type of fur is from dogs such as huskies, border collies, elkhounds, Maltese and others with long, thick hair and soft undercoats.
Separate any coarse hairs from the pile, as these will make your blanket hard and prickly. Store the fur in an open, well lit area and avoid allowing it to be compressed. You will need around 45 pounds to make enough yarn for a cardigan, so aim for 100 pounds for a blanket.
Wash the fur in water at room temperature using mild, chemical-free laundry soap for delicates. Rinse it and dry it by rolling it up in a towel to absorb the water and then laying it out flat. Avoid using hot water as this could cause matting.
Straighten the fur. This is called "carding" and is done using metal dog brushes or wooden carding paddles. Alternatively, you can send it to a wool manufacturing company to have it carded. This helps to separate the hairs ready for spinning.
Make the fur into yarn by spinning it using a spindle, or by holding fur in your one hand and twisting a piece of it with the other. Continue adding tufts of hair and twisting, and you will create a length of yarn. Alternatively, have it spun professionally which will give you more even yarn.
Making the Blanket
Decide whether you are going to knit or crochet your blanket. Yarn made from pet fur is up to 80 percent warmer than wool, so you could combine the yarn with wool to make the blanket lighter and less hot.
Select knitting needles or a crochet hook that is at least two sizes larger than the yarn. This will create an open, lightweight blanket that will allow the yarn to fluff out and create a "halo" through its use preventing it from becoming too dense later.
Knit or crochet the blanket, or make squares of similar size that can be stitched together to create a quilt. Alternate these with fabric squares and stitch or tie the squares together using the dog yarn.
Care for your blanket as you would for a fine cashmere item. Hand wash and dry it regularly the same way that you did the original fur.
Love and cherish it and touch it frequently and the halo will develop into a soft, furry blanket that feels just like the dog the fur came from.
Items You Will Need
- Spindle (optional)
- Chemical-free soap
- Knitting needles or crochet hooks
- International World History Project: American Indians or Native Americans
- VIP Fibers: Collecting and Storing Your Pet's Fiber -- How Much to Collect?
- Cornell University Animal Science 3800; "Wool Processing;" "First and Second Projects, Learning to Spin and Felt;" J. L. Hartnagel
- For the Love of Yarn: Keepsakes from Your Beloved Pet
- VIP Fibers: How to Use Your Fur-Ever Keepsake Yarn -- Project Ideas and Suggestions
- Apple Tree House/Lifesize/Getty Images