A new twist on the ole’ classic farm dog, some fiber artists who want to grow their own wool for spinning are looking at dogs instead of sheep. Wool from dogs, known as “chiengora,” is a beautiful fiber, lofty and warm. Not every breed of dog grows wool appropriate for spinning, but many do. Even if the only space you have for farming your own fiber is inside your apartment, you can take advantage of this luscious fiber.
Any dog with an undercoat that is more than 2″ long can be brushed out for fiber that can be spun into yarn. Samoyed, Chow, American Eskimo, Pyrenees, Keeshond — these are some of my favorite breeds for spinning. I was known as “the dog yarn lady” for a few years, as I would take people’s dog wool and spin it on commission. (The last one I did talked me into the knitting portion as well. She was in on every stage of the planning of her vest, but when it was finished she didn’t like it. She wanted me to unravel the delicate yarn and reknit into something else. Don’t try that. Dog wool yarn is fuzzy, and it doesn’t hold up well to unravelling.)
Although you can spin the wooly undercoat of many dogs, their use doesn’t end there on a fiber farm! Livestock Guardian Dogs can be invaluable companions and protectors of a wooly flock. Some breeds are happiest being a companion to their human but still take their job very seriously, too. Great Pyrenees are one of those who bond with their human families and protect the sheep vigorously. Other breeds, such as the Akbash, tend to bond more closely with their flock without so much need for human interaction.
Herd dogs can be another fantastic addition to the fiber farm. Intelligent, active and personable, herd dog breeds like Border Collies can make a shepherd’s job much easier when properly trained.
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