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Posted on Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 6 a.m.

Chiengora is gaining popularity as a unique textile - but would you consider it?

By Lorrie Shaw


The fur from "northern" breeds, like this Siberian husky, is commonly used to spin chiengora.

Flickr photo by Jasen Miller

A topic that is jokingly approached by pet owners (including myself) whose dogs have a seemingly endless supply of fur that they shed is to put it to good use — perhaps with spinning it into a garment of some sort.

"My dog's fur would certainly make a warm sweater," is an often-repeated comment.

I've laughingly said that a pair of mittens knitted from my Gretchen's abundant fur would be ideal. With the time that I spend outdoors with clients, they would be put to use everyday. Gretchen is half Saint Bernard, so the mittens would be super-soft and warm, and she wouldn't miss a strand at the rate that she sheds sometimes.

As it turns out, using dog fur to create warm, even stylish garments isn't something that is just a comical idea — according to Wikipedia, it's a practice that has roots in prehistoric Scandinavia and for a time, it was the main fiber that was used in North American Navajo Indian culture for textiles.

Today, there are talented textile artists who spin raw fibers into wearable items, and will even implement the use chiengora, as it's referred to in spinning circles, to help create one-of-a-kind garments for dog owners.

No word on if cat hair, which most of you will agree is equally abundant, has been used in this practice.

A few people have noted that they have saved shed fur from a beloved pet that has passed and have had it spun a sweater or otherwise. The physical reminder is of comfort to them in more ways than one. Check out some images of people wearing items created from chiengora, from a recent post on F Stop Lounge.

Some liken this idea as weird, or creepy, just as they have with the practice that I've written about recently — creating wearable jewelry out a deceased pet's cremains.

The question is have you done this, or would you consider doing this with your pet's fur? Share your thoughts.

Lorrie Shaw leads the pets section for Catch her daily dog walking and pet sitting adventures or email her directly.



Fri, Feb 1, 2013 : 6:27 p.m.

My Alaskan Malamute, Bree, sheds mountains of fur. It is the very soft white undercoat for the most part. It would make a beautiful garment. Do you know of any area spinners who would be interested in using it come summer?

Sarah Rigg

Mon, Jan 21, 2013 : 2:22 p.m.

Loved the F Stop Lounge photo essay. It gives a new meaning to the old saw about pets and owners looking alike...


Mon, Jan 21, 2013 : 12:43 p.m.

Would something like this go with my cat pelt clothes and parakeet feather hats?


Mon, Jan 21, 2013 : 1:09 p.m.

Yes! But only if you're wearing horse hair briefs.


Mon, Jan 21, 2013 : 12:34 p.m.

As a spinner I can tell you that some spinners learn to spin for just this reason, so they can spin their pets fur. I must admit that I've spun up samples of my Australian Shepherd fur just to see what it would be like. It has it's drawbacks: the guard hairs should be removed, the fur must be washed without felting it, and it really should be mixed with another fiber preferably wool to improve its memory and general wearability. Dog fur is very good as an insulator and that can make items made from it too warming. It also lacks memory and so if you don't want it to "grow" with each wearing a bit of wool will help. All of that being said, very few spinners want to spin dog fur and even fewer want so spin fur from pets other than their own. There are just so many other lovely fibers out there. So if you want an item made from your dog or cat fur expect to pay a premium for it.


Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 3:08 p.m.'s still a dog hair sweater....


Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 4:50 p.m.

Right! And it might be quicker & cheaper to use your sweater to sweep up the fur and wear it for a day. Heck, it may look like I'm already doing that.


Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 2:41 p.m.

I'd hate to smell like a wet dog if I got caught in the rain..... How different is it from an alpaca or sheep that you don't know? Hmmm.

Lorrie Shaw

Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 3:18 p.m.

LA: I thought the same thing. Sadly on a rainy day, people can smell me a mile away if I've been working with clients. As I understand it, the raw chiengora is washed prior to spinning, so there is no malodor. Also, those typically allergic to pets can wear the textile as spinners note that since the raw fiber is cleaned and free from the offending dander -the cause of allergic reactions. Some wool spinners prefer "spinning in the grease" (spinning freshly shorn fleece without washing it, retaining the valuable lanolin), but from what I can tell, chiengora spinners do not adhere to that practice. Thanks for chiming in!

Elaine F. Owsley

Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 1:34 p.m.

My chow/corgi mix represents two shedding masters. Some say that the corgi, believing that there are too few of its kind, sheds enough hair in a week to build another corgi. Some of the fur that our chow/American Eskimo mix released when I combed her outside, lined a bird's nest built in a wreath on our porch. My guess is that it was a really cozy nest, since the bird came back and moved into it the next year as well.

Lorrie Shaw

Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 3:29 p.m.

Elaine: We are in the same boat it seems! And Gretchen's fur is so luxe! I too, have witnessed the birds in our yard creating lovely (and much-coveted!) nests from casted off dog fur. Can you imagine the warmth?


Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 1:21 p.m.

All my clothes are machine washed & dried. If a garment can't handle that, then it's discarded. I suspect a Chiengora garment would fall into the "delicate" category requiring a gentle wash cycle and being laid flat to dry. I just don't have the time & patience for sensitive clothes. Besides, my memory cells are full of incredible memories of pets past & present. I get warm fuzzies just thinkin' about 'em. Who needs a sweater?

Lorrie Shaw

Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 3:07 p.m.

RunsWithScissors: From my research, chiengora can be quite delicate and requires hand washing or dry cleaning. I don't think that I could deal with that, either.