Chiengora – The Middle

Adventures in spinning continue in the Furry Beastie Home. Turns out, spinning and knitting and all the steps along the way are a bit of a rabbit hole. I thought this would be a bit of fun, but it’s a touch all-consuming!

Rabbit hole? What’s this about a rabbit hole?

Never mind Mr. Snowy. Your fur is a little too short to spin well. Newfoundland fur is just perfect though, especially when blended with some wool.

Daisy and Diana have spent lots of time supervising as I prepare and spin dog fur. Sometimes they find it a little confusing.

Mum? What is my fur doing on a chair? This is supposed to be attached to me!

Diana gets quite interested in the washing and drying stages. All fur is hand washed, dried in the sun, and blended with wool before spinning. I spun two singles of chiengora and then it was time to ply them together to make a stronger, more balanced yarn.

My drop spindle filled with yarn after plying. It got a little heavy to work with!

Plying the two single yarns together was more complicated that I anticipated. Once I got the hang of keeping tension on both my single ply balls and stopped dropping the spindle every few minutes, it went fairly quickly.

Actually, that’s true of this whole project. It’s way more involved that I thought it would be. I have great admiration for the artists who create beautiful yarn and who have been so willing to share their knowledge. I have thoroughly enjoyed every step even with the mistakes and the inevitable tangles along the way.

One more bath

The last step is soaking the yarn in hot water to set the twist and then hanging it to dry. It dried quickly in the Texas sunshine, unlike Daisy and Diana who take many hours to dry after a bath. Then I wound it into a ball to make it easier to use.

Ta-da! One ball done.

Finally! A finished ball of chiengora yarn. It is so soft and fuzzy! It’s not perfect, but it’s a great start. I will definitely keep spinning. Maybe with a spinning wheel to speed things up a little.

Next step – Knitting. Getting closer to having a Furry Beastie Hat of my very own. Okay, even after all the work, that still sounds a little weird. But I cannot wait to see how it’s going to come out!

Chiengora – The Beginning

Living with Furry Beasties means living with dog fur. Everywhere. Vacuuming and sweeping helps of course, but inevitably there is fur on my clothes, in my food, and definitely on my floors. It’s worth it for the sweetness of my Furry friends.

Newfies frequently generate enough extra fur to create a bonus dog!

Wandering through the internet one day, I came across an article on chiengora. Chiengora is yarn made from dog fur. Similar to angora, chiengora is soft and warm with a sort of furry halo around it, but it is made with dog fur instead of fur from Angora rabbits. Immediately I pictured myself wearing a warm chiengora Furry Beastie hat. After all, I certainly have enough raw material!

I started saving the fur that I brushed out of Furry Beasties with the theory of one day sending it off somewhere to be spun. Clippings aren’t great for spinning but Newfies shed hair pretty much constantly. They also blow their coats a few times a year which means daily brushing and lots of loose fur. Each time I brushed my Furry friends, I shoved a few handfuls of dog fur in a bag and stuck the bag in a drawer. Before I knew it, I had overflowing bags and the drawer was stuffed full. It was time to go a little further in my plan towards a Furry Beastie hat.

Source A – Daisy likes to be brushed. Happy times.

Turns out many people who spin dog fur have a backlog of clients. Since I’ve had some spare time at home the past several months due to Covid restrictions, I decided to try doing it myself! Full disclosure – I am in no way a textile artist. I read some blogs, watched some videos, thumbed through a few books and then just gave it a go.

Source B – Willing to accept bribes for brushes. Sometimes.

Okay, so when I say I’m not a textile artist, the truth is I didn’t even know how to knit. That seemed like the place to start. I started teaching myself and made some scarves, hats, and dishcloths. Turns out, knitting is pretty fun. And soothing too!

Next step was ordering a drop spindle and some wool top and learning to spin wool into yarn. Dog fur can be tricky to work with and starting out with wool seemed like good practice. Spinning feels like meditation. Creating a bit of order out of chaos. I liked it immediately. I learned how to pinch, spin, draft. I got better at keeping my yarn thickness consistent and dropped the spindle less often. There are a few steps after that to set the twist and so on, but in the end, I created my first ball of spun yarn.

Dog fur stored in paper bag, spindle, helpful booklet and wool top.

It was time to get out the bags of dog fur. I washed and air-dried several ounces of prime Newfie fur. Diana was fascinated by this part. She thinks all future washing of dog fur should happen after the fur is off the dog. She’s not a fan of bath-time!

Carders full of dog fur and wool

Then I bought myself a pair of carders and used those to create a batt of dog fur/wool mix (80% dog fur and 20% wool). Next, came the spindle again and in no time at all, I had spun some chiengora yarn.

A good start!

Okay, so the whole process is a little time consuming. I definitely enjoyed it more than I thought I would! There will be lots more washing, carding, and spinning to do before I have enough chiengora to start knitting my lovely warm Furry Beastie hat, but I am definitely getting closer to my goal.

What will the dogs think when they see me wearing Chiengora? I’m not sure if they will be thrilled that I have embraced their Newfie-ness or if they will be creeped out by the whole thing. Updates to come.