New Uses for Dog Hair: An Afghan Afghan?

Putting the woof in wool via "chiengora" yarn

Until he died two years ago, I had the distinction of owning the most shedding-est dog in America. A mix of collie, German shepherd and God knows what all else—“wolf” was frequently suggested by strangers—my Homer was a 120-pound ball of fluff. When we petted him out of doors, vast clouds of fur rose into the air and drifted off on the wind. If I sat in a park and gave him a good rubdown, it looked like a dozen rabbits had been torn to death on the spot. At home, we vacuumed daily—sometimes more often. You entered my car wearing dark clothes at your own risk.

I frequently thought, as I emptied the vacuum canister or licked my hand to remove hair clots from upholstery, that there ought to be some use for all the fur I was gathering. After all, it kept Homer wonderfully warm in winter, stood up to daily river-washings, and felt nice and soft when one’s nose was buried in it. Granted, it stank when wet, but I’ve known some pretty stinky sheep in my time, and yet my wool sweaters don’t smell like them when I’m caught in the rain.

While Homer was still alive, I did some googling and discovered plenty of Internet instruction on how to turn your beloved Afghan into an afghan, along with places that will do the spinning for you, in case you’re not all Little House on the Prairie. What I wasn’t aware of until I read this piece in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal was that there’s a market for articles made out of other people’s pets’ “chiengora,” which is the new, chic term for dog-fur yarn: “Eager to make their mark, chiengora artisans are peddling their dog-hair mittens, scarves and cell-phone covers in galleries and craft fairs across the region. They’re teaching classes on dog-hair spinning and holding public demonstrations,” the WSJ reports.

I can see, sort of, wanting a keepsake of a mourned pet, even if the notion does have some of the “eww” factor of Victorian hair jewelry. But I really don’t get paying money for anything made out of some other person’s pet’s hair. Two years on, I’ve just about got the last of Homer’s out of the cushions on the sofa. I’ll pass on paying several hundred bucks to buy myself a poodle sweater, even one that’s hand-knit.