If you have a long-haired dog who requires a lot of grooming, you know what it's like to have collect bags of hair around.
It may seem like a waste to throw away all of that soft, pretty fur, and in fact, there are plenty of uses for it.
Chiengora, yarn made from dog hair, is highly desired by knitters, as dog hair is warmer and more durable than other forms of fibers.
What is chiengora?
Chiengora is usually made from the soft undercoat of breeds like Samoyeds, Siberian Huskies, and Alaskan Malamutes. These snow dogs have very dense, long fur that lends itself well to being spun into yard.
Hobbyists and professionals collect the hair and, using traditional spinning wheels or spools, spin the hair into yarn. It is extremely useful to make warm clothing, particularly for brutally cold climates. It is up to 80 percent warmer than wool, so most people limit chiengora to making scarves or gloves rather than a full sweater, because it would be too easy to get overheated.
Chiengora has very little flexibility, so it is often carded and spun with other fibers, such as wool, so it will have more give and be less warm, as well. Then it can be used to make other garments, like hats, without the wearer getting too hot.
Chiengora can be dyed to change the color, making vibrant and bright garments. The resulting items are so beautiful, people would never guess it's actually made of dog hair.
It does take a great deal of hair to get enough yarn to make a garment. If you have one dog, it can take several weeks or even months of grooming to collect enough hair. However, if you have multiple double-coated dogs, you may find it all too easy to collect all the hair necessary during the coat-blowing season.
How is chiengora created?
There are several steps necessary to create the yarn:
- Raw dog hair is collected and washed to remove all debris and any hint of smell
- The clean fibers are carded to ready for spinning
- A traditional spinning wheel is used to spin the fibers to the desired thickness
- A skien of fiber is created, washed again, and hung to dry
Where can I find chiengora?
If you're an avid knitter but do not spin your own yarn, you can find chiengora yarn on Etsy, eBay, and specialty craft stores. On Etsy, you can also find ready-made garments like scarves, hats and gloves made of fur. Even home decor items, like accent pillows and throw blankets, can be found.
Chiengora yarn and garments can be very expensive, as it is not very common and extremely labor intensive to create for hobbyists. But the fiber is so warm and soft, the luxurious feel justifies the cost.
Chiengora is not going to replace common yarns any time soon, but for hobbyists, collecting their dog's hair and spinning it into yarn is a fun way to keep part of their pet with them and create something beautiful and enduring.
All photos courtesy of Chiengora Fibers.