After getting Snowy our
first Airedale, I heard that it was possible to have wool made from dog hair
that was it I became a woman on a mission. A couple of years went by with no joy
then with the wonders of the Internet, I found a “Spinners, Weavers & Dyers
Guild”. I contacted them asking if someone could spin my Snowy’s hair, the woman
was extremely helpful and suggested I tried spinning it myself. One of their
members lived nearby and offered to come to my home and teach me how to spin. A
lot of spinners don’t like using dog hair because the amount of work involved
Sheep fleece has a natural crimp which makes it easier to spin; dog hair does
not have this that is why I find it is best to use a 50/50 mix of dog hair and
fleece. When washing a woollen item it will more or less go back into shape, dog
hair on its own will not do this. Also dog hair does not breathe; it would be
too warm for comfort on its own.
Before I started spinning
I just thought wool was just wool, it was made from a sheep fleece and didn’t
think much about it. When I started spinning, I was amazed at the different
types of fleece and the variety of colours, lengths and textures.
Rather than start dying
fleeces, I decided, I wanted to use natural coloured (rare breed) fleeces.
Dying wool is another subject: For example, using onionskins you could dye wool
that would resemble the Tan hair of an Airedale.
I normally use Manx
Loghtan fleeces which are ginger in colour, very similar to the Tan Airedale
hair and for the black hair any black fleece can be used.
When using fleece, it can
be washed prior to blending to remove the dirt and lanolin or it can be used raw
as it comes off the sheep. I prefer to use raw fleece but it can be a rather
dirty job however I do find it blends better.
Before spinning, the
hardest part is blending all the fibres together. I use a pair of Carders,
similar to giant wooden slicker brushes. I put a layer of fleece then dog hair
then another layer of fleece and continue this process, drawing one carder
against the other until all the fibres have been transferred from one carder to
the other. I then repeat the process, until the fibres have been well blended.
This is then removed from the carder and is called a Rolag. When I have enough
Rolags I spin them onto a bobbin. Once I have filled two bobbins I put them
onto a holder called a Lazy Kate, this is a frame that holds the bobbins for
plying. Plying is where two or more spun yarns are twisted; this is done by
spinning the wheel in the opposite direction to which they were spun. Similar
to rope or string, this gives added strength to the wool. I then ply the spun
wool from the bobbins.
it has been plied it is then wound into hanks.
The hanks are then washed, to remove the dirt and
lanolin. It is then washed in a wool hand wash soap solution, such as Stergene,
Lux Flakes then put in fabric conditioner. Once it is dry, it can be wound into
balls ready for knitting.
How to collect hair for
When collecting dog hair
for spinning make sure it is at least an inch in long. In addition to this
please keep the colours separate, for example with an Airedale, keep the saddle
(black hair) separate from the legs (Tan hair). O.K., you may want a garment
made in one colour, I advise you to then just use one colour from your dog.
When mixing all the colours together you lose the colours of your dog.
If you have a black and
white dog, you don’t want to end up with grey wool. It is lovely to have
something made from your pet, but even nicer when it resembles like them. This
is why I match up the fleece colours to the dog hair, i.e. Manx Loghtan with the
Tan Airedale hair then you end up with gingerish coloured wool.
It is also important to
make sure that their hair is clean as I have to spend a lot of time handling the
hair. Please ensure there are no remnants from their walk in along with it such
as grass, plants or any surprises they pick up on their way. Also that there is
no flea powder in the hair, this is for health reasons.
If you go to a Groomer
tell them that you want the hair left long in length. Please don’t get me
wrong, Groomers do a good job but their job is to cut the hair away. They don’t
realize the hair needs to be kept long for spinning, so they do their job and go
in with the clippers repeatedly until the hair has gone. With the result you
end up with loads of hair about half an inch long. So you must let them know
that you want the length kept.
You can use hair cut from
your pet or hair collected from a brush. The best hair to use is the short
undercoat, the fluffy stuff collected on a slicker brush. The final product
depends on how soft your dog hair is.
The hair is best stored in
paper bags. Dog hair will sweat and smell if stored for any length of time in
plastic. When sending it in the mail, wrap it in newspaper and put it in an
envelope. Should the envelope tear, the newspaper will then prevent it falling
out of the envelope.
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