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Barbara's Blog - Hair of The Dog & other Freebies

A wonderful source of free wool is from dog fur. It must always be the groomings from the brush and NOT the clippings or you will end up with an itchy garment. Short or the hard fur like on a Jack Russell Terrier isn't recommended either. Best results come from blending with some wool - the shorter or fluffier slippery fur needs more wool added than say a long haired Old English Sheepdog (OES). Some dogs, like the OES, have long outer fur and soft underfur which means you can spin pure or with just a tiny bit of wool. OES when spun up is indistinguishable from black mohair. Shorter fur does have a tendency to moult if not enough wool is blended, or if spun too loosely. Dog fur can also be dyed quite successfully, but be careful as the soft fur does felt easily. Any doggy smell can be got rid of with by washing carefully in detergent, or Borax if more stubborn.

I found that you can get chatting to the owner of a dog with suitable fur, and then most will save you the groomings, especially if you offer to spin up a sample skein or two for them

Always the experimenter, I have tried rabbit which is OK so long as it doesn't have any short hard hair in it, but it only comes in small quantities.I even tried feathers as someone said it was possible, but that was a dismal failure. I even did a small amount of cat which came out similar to rabbit. Adding my own hair was another experiment and worked very well if only a little bit blended with wool. Looked identical to Apricot Poodle!! I found all my samples still in the loft, so quickly took some photos this morning.

L to R: Sample skeins of West Highland White Terrier blend, Apricot Poodle blend, Pure Synthetic Stuffing, Pure Samoyed, and 2 different rabbits blended.

Here are Top row: Samoyed blend, Westie blend, Apricot Poodle blend. Bottom row: Scottish Terrier blend, my hair blend and brown rabbit blend.

Here are 2 balls of OES that I spun in the 1990s which were dyed with fabric dyes. It takes the dye really well, but has faded a little bit on the outside of the ball. The other ball was spun up last night and inspired me to recount my experiences with dog fur.

I thought I would write about other free or cheap sources of fibre. I am currently fraying out an old silk scarf and saving the silk fibres to blend with wool. The fibres are crimped from being woven, and are lovely and soft and shiny. It is tedious and maybe not best use of time, so I can only do a small amount each day. You have to try these things and I think the results are going to be very successful. I also want to explore the possibility of teasing out other fibres to blend with wool.

I might try my luck at a few bootsales for more silk scarves or maybe a sari. These are a good place to cheaply buy up bags of unwanted wool and other peoples' UFOs. I have also got a very good collection of knitting needles, mostly bought second hand.

I may have mentioned that you can spin up some knds of stuffing from old cushions, pillows and toys.

Here is Synthetic stuffing plyed with brown Jacob and Cream Jacob - lovely and soft.

Another rather odd freebie is to make knitted pan scourers from old plastic carrier bags. Cut your carrier into strips about 1/2" wide and knit them up into rectangle about 4" x 8". Fold in half lengthwise and sew round the edges with a big needle threaded with a carrier strip to form a double thickness 4" square. The strip is also good for tying up plants in the garden instead of string, or maybe you could knit a hanging basket from it..

I'm now going to sit and listen to some more of Kelley's podcasts and maybe unpick some more silk.

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Comment by Susan the Blue Lake Knitter on October 2, 2009 at 9:52am
Again another excellent blog post. I suppose depending on the consistency, you could knit with any animal fur. Your experimentation, and samples are very interesting, along with your narrative. It really sounds like you just love spinning and knitting. --Susan

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