Pets are family, and when they pass away there's no real consolation — but here's one lovely way to remember them: You can spin their fur into yarn for a keepsake. It's a sweet way to memorialize a beloved pet, whether it's a dog, cat, bunny or any other kind of furry animal. One idea is to knit the yarn into a heart and frame it in a shadowbox, but you can do anything you like with it. Here are some ideas for how to get started.
Collecting the Fur
If you'd like to have your pet's fur spun into yarn when the time comes, start collecting it when you groom your fuzzy friend. You'll need several ounces. Many pets shed most of their fur in the spring when they're getting rid of their winter coat, so this is a perfect time to get out that brush.
Don't use a plastic bag for storage: Any moisture in the fur will collect inside the bag, resulting in felting or mold. Use a cloth bag instead, which can adjust to the humidity and temperature of the room, season by season.
Washing the Fur
Once you've collected enough of your pet's fur to spin into yarn (at least four ounces), you'll need to wash it. But there's no point in doing that until you've gathered enough, so plan to only go through the washing process one time. Washing the fur will protect it and get rid of dirt and odors. Since some types of fur (like angora rabbit or fine cat fur) will felt easily, make sure you don't expose the fur to too much agitation or extreme temperature variations.
Spinning the Fur
What You Need
- A large bowl
- Warm water
- Soap (dish soap without oxy-ingredients or pet shampoo)
- A strainer
- A towel and a countertop for drying
Fill a large bowl with warm water. Because pet fur doesn't have grease or lanolin, the water won't need to be as hot as it would be if you were washing wool. Keeping the water warm instead of hot will help prevent felting. After the bowl is full, add a squirt of plain dish soap (without oxy-ingredients, which damage fiber) or your favorite pet shampoo.
Use your hand to swish the soap until the water feels slimy. Be careful not to create lots of bubbles, since they can prevent the fur from sinking into the water.
Gently slide the fur into the warm water and immerse it for 15 minutes. Then grab a strainer and strain the water from the fur.
Now put the clean fur back into the bowl. You might need an extra rinse or two with warm water to make sure the fur gets clean.
Lay the fur out on a towel on your counter top and let it dry. Then, store it in a clean cotton bag.
A coarse, short fur (the kind many domestic dogs tend to have) is almost always too short to spin without being blended with another animal fiber. So if your pet's fur length is under two inches, consider what fiber you'd like to blend it with. If you have a black dog, you could consider blending the fur with black wool or alpaca. Or blend it with white wool or alpaca for a heathered look.
You could also blend your pet's fur with wool dyed in your favorite color, or the color of your pet's favorite leash or toy. There's no wrong color choice for blending; it just depends on your preference. If you're blending the fur yourself, you can buy the fiber you need. Then you can use dog combs from a pet store as hard cards to help blend the fibers together.
If you've never spun yarn before, it's a good idea to learn to spin with wool first. That way you can practice without getting frustrated or using up your precious pet fur. One idea is to buy a drop spindle and take an online or local spinning class. You can also learn from a spinning book.
You also have the option of hiring a professional spinner to process your fur into yarn. Many spinners do custom projects, and can even wash, blend and knit your pet's fur for you. Then when you receive it in the mail, it's all ready for framing or using in any commemorative project you have in mind.
Whatever you choose, your keepsake will help keep the pet you love in your heart forever.