FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions about Knitting Dog Hair
When will you start accepting new orders and samples?
We are beginning to accept new samples and orders now. Because of the corona crisis, we weren’t able to hire or train new workers and the volume was overwhelming. We weren’t happy about it, but we just could not hold any more. We were completely out of storage space. Now that we are able to work with other people again in close proximity, we are bringing down the backlog much, much faster. We are notifying interested customers in turn to make sure we are not overwhelmed (which would just cause another backlog). If you want to be notified, contact us and we will add you to the list. Until then, store your hair loosely and make sure it’s completely dry at all times.
The amount of hair needed depends upon a few factors:
- whether the yarn will be pure or blended
- what type of pattern and stitch are used to knit the item in question
- the finished dimensions — a pullover sweater requires 1200 to 1500 yards of yarn, on average. Scarves vary in length and width; a lacy scarf requires less wool than a tightly knit scarf.
To give a more general idea of how much one can harvest from a dog: my Chow Chow Buster lived over 15 years. I lost 5 grocery bags of hair; otherwise, I saved everything I was able to brush over his lifetime. Once that hair was washed, carded and spun, I had 2800 yards of two-ply yarn. I knitted a turtleneck sweater in a very tight stitch with small needles, a dog sweater for one of my smaller dogs, three women’s scarves using larger needles and a lace pattern, and one man’s scarf in a tighter stitch, with just over 360 yards remaining. So that is from one rough-coated dog. My second Chow Chow produced enough for the lace shawl you see on the home page in less than one year. Meanwhile, my Pekingese dogs hate to be brushed, so over 12 years, I only collected a handful of hair from one dog and three years in, I have twice as much from the other (so about two handfuls!)
Every dog’s hair is different and yield can vary a lot. This is one of the main reasons why we require a sample before proceeding to an order. For a general calculation, you can figure that one ounce of hair by weight will produce about 60-70 yards of yarn by length. That’s definitely more than one brushing, but it’s still enough to make something beautiful!
If you do, I envy you. (!) Some groomers, but not all, will collect the hair they brush out for you. Ask in advance. If your dog has a skin condition, it is best to bathe the dog and dry thoroughly before brushing; excessive skin flakes render the hair unusable. It’s also helpful if they collect the hair for you before clipping your dog’s nails. It’s not fun trying to remove nail clippings from hair.
What if I vacuum up my dog’s hair? Can you use that?
Not for spinning. Only hair that is harvested with a brush, comb or rake should be used. Furminators and shedding blades have sharp edges that damage hair shafts. They work by scraping the hair and creating a static charge that make the loose hair come out faster. It’s very efficient for removing hair, but the hair is really unsuitable for spinning. Yarn spun from hair that has been “furminated” feels very brittle and scratchy.
What makes the best yarn?
The healthier the dog, the better the wool. Premium nutrition makes a huge difference, and health factors such as the dog’s heart and endocrine system can have a tremendous impact. Regular brushing also improves the skin and coat of any dog, and please note that once hair is matted on a dog, no one can undo that. So if your dog is matted, and you want a garment from your dog’s hair, you will need to get the coat in shape first. Mats cannot be spun, and if mats need to be cut or clipped out of a dog’s coat, it will take a while for the cut hair to be shed and replaced with full, healthy hair shafts.
The longer the undercoat, the better it spins. Chow Chows, Samoyeds, Golden Retrievers, Newfoundlands, Kuvasz, Keeshonds, Afghans, Bernese, Great Pyrenees, Pekingese, Briards, bearded and rough Collies, and other long-haired undercoated breeds spin very well. Huskies and Malamutes spin well if the undercoat is long enough (if a hair shaft is 1.5″ or longer); if it’s a shorter coat, it will need to be blended with a longer fiber to ensure that the wool remains intact.
I have a Rottweiler/Lab/Beagle. Can I get my dog’s hair spun?
Not really, but there is a workaround. It’s called sprinkling. If you can collect your brushings , then that hair can literally be sprinkled into another spinnable fiber during the spinning process. Be warned, however: sprinklings will shed out of the garment over time; they’re just short. You will want to add them to something that will not have to endure heavy wear.
Some clipped dogs have hair that may be OK to spin. Read about that here.
No. Once the hair has been properly washed before spinning, there is no doggy smell. Just like your merino sweater no longer smells like a sheep, or your cashmere no longer smells like a goat.
Why does the yarn look like a totally different color than my dog does?
Remember: the guard hairs, the shiny outer hair that you see, cannot be spun. It is the undercoat that is spun, and undercoat is very often an entirely different color than the outer coat. Look at the photo of Leo on the About page of this site; Leo (may he rest in peace) was a rich, beautiful red, but his undercoat was creamy white.
Can I get a different color yarn from my dog?
Chiengora can be dyed, but that is not a service we provide.
Can I get an Irish fisherman knit sweater from my dog’s hair?
The type of article you get from your dog wool should vary according to the individual nature of the yarn itself, and you won’t know what kind of yarn you will have until it is spun. We will work with you not only to create a beautiful yarn, but to help you determine how it will best be used. Aran knitting is best done with a heavier weight of yarn, and many patterns are lost in the “halo” of chiengora; if your heart is set on a fisherman knit, a blended yarn might be best for you. Also important to note: chiengora sweaters are VERY warm, and chances are that a cable-knit sweater will be just too warm to wear.
What if I want to knit or crochet something myself?
Enjoy! We will gladly share our experience with you to help you in your choice of pattern, but we would never deny anyone the pleasure of knitting or crocheting their dogs’ most lasting gift! Info on spin-only orders is here.
I wish we could give you a simple answer, but we can’t. Cost depends on:
- how much yarn we can get from your dog’s hair (and dog hair is as unique as the dog)
- whether the hair can spin on its own or must be blended
- whether the hair requires special processing
- the size of the item you want (telling us you want an “average scarf”, for example, doesn’t tell us what you think “average” means. We need measurements.)
- the complexity of the knitting involved.
Until we have sampled the hair and/or knitted a swatch, we just don’t know. We have no basis for the calculations. Every order is genuinely custom.
Questions? Comments? Click on the “Contact Us” on the edge of this page!