You know what’s the most irksome thing about a pet dog, it’s the hair it leaves on the sofa and carpet! If you have a pet dog, you’d know it requires some doing removing these stubborn strands from the furniture and carpets. It’s well-nigh impossible to think there’s any other way than vacuuming and brushing these clouds of dog hair. Surprisingly, there is. Collect them and knit them into garments!
This is exactly what Jeannie Sanke of Evanston, Illinois is doing. In fact, so serious is she that she has opened her very own company called Knit Your Dog. Says she, “I’ve been brushing my dogs since I was very small and I was raised by Depression-era parents, so I grew up frugal and just throwing out all that hair seemed so wasteful.”
Sanke’s ‘eureka’ moment came while watching Kendall Crolius promoting her book ‘Knitting with Dog Hair’ on TV in 1995. Even though at that point in time she wasn’t conversant with spinning wool, but she did begin to save her dog’s hair. It was only a matter of time before she found someone who could spin it into yarn.
The first item that Sanke produced was a turtleneck sweater from her pet dog Buster’s chiengora. Incidentally, chiengora (‘chien’ is French for dog)is what dog hair is actually known as! The sweater became an instant hit with people who knew Buster well.
So, how does chiengora compare with other yarns from animals, such as alpacas, angora rabbits, sheep, and yak? Sanke explains, “The wool is beautiful and has an incredible halo, so it’s really very striking when it’s worked to its advantage.” It’s also 30 to 50 percent warmer than sheep’s wool and has an angora-like halo. Unlike sheep or alpaca whose wool is sheared, a dog’s fur is brushed and combed off its coat. This makes it an ongoing activity. However, good fiber is only obtained from dogs that are healthy, well-nourished and unstressed.
As far as caring is concerned, chiengora doesn’t require any special care. Once collected, it’s washed by hand, excess water is squeezed out, without wringing. Afterward, it’s shaped and dried flat. You don’t have to go into all these hassles since Sanke has an Etsy shop, where you can place custom orders.
However, it takes Sanke over eight months to make one garment, as of now. Once she employs more spinners and knitters, the turnaround will be faster. According to her, dog hair items are in demand. And why not, this light wool is incredibly warm and its halo is just stunning.