Spinning a cat hair comforter …

Two funny little cats, Eggy and Ilsa, came to live with us some 18 months ago …Unlike any other kits I have had (and I’ve had quite a few in my time) they need constant grooming. This isn’t surprising really as they are half Persian and half Exotic Shorthair, inheriting from their Persian father a gloriously luscious outer coat and a dense, soft undercoat. Left unchecked, this undercoat matts badly – so they need the regular grooming to keep their coats shiny and silky.

It occurred to me last summer that I might well be able to spin this undercoat. Why I had quantities of it available! The very cream tones are from Ilsa (on the right above) and the darker colours are from Eggy (on the left).But it’s not exactly a long staple, being just a couple of inches at most.  Sometimes there are guard hairs too, but mostly what I was getting from grooming sessions was the soft grey you can see by my fingertips below.I decided the best thing was to blend it with some of the Cornish alpaca I still had spare. This is a beautiful creamy lustrous fibre (once washed – it was almost grey with dirt and dust when I first acquired it), but similar in texture to the cat hair, so I expected the fibres to blend well. On with the alpaca to the carders then …Followed by the rather grubby cat hair (this I didn’t wash – full explanation to follow) …It carded very well together …Giving a beautiful silver grey rolag …Actually there were lots of tones in the rolags, reflecting the different colours of the cat hair.  I rather like this variation, being true to the original cats …What did the kits think of my work?  Were they at all interested in this processing of their hair?  After all it must smell of them … And they were about much of the time as I was busy carding and spinning …Ah yes! Look at Ilsa in seventh heaven padding away at my rolags!  Can you see the little bits of alpaca fluff floating up and catching in her whiskers? And Eggy keeping a sharp eye behind?!Eggy had her heavenly moments with the rolags too.  This looks like pure cat bliss to me too …Happy summer days …Why I was even tempted to card straight from source (as it were) …!Time to start spinning my rolags …With my not-so-helpful kitty companions … I spun the mixed cat hair and alpaca fiber very fine with lots of twist to hold the cat hair and fluffy alpaca in place.  Any relaxation of the twist and the yarn easily broke …Then the cat hair/alpaca strand was plyed with pure alpaca …Giving me a yarn that was 25% cat and 75% alpaca … (pure white alpaca in picture here to show the colour difference) …Time to get knitting! I wanted a very simple pattern, so adapted my knit from this Viewfinder cowl in Alexa Ludeman and Emily Wessel’s Road Trip. I’ve knit it before as a cowl, but this time wanted to knit a comforter ….. Are you familiar with the term?!  Well, it is the best word – in my opinion – for a shawl or scarf.  Time to consult our wonderful 1891 Webster’s! A knit woolen tippet, long and narrow. Just so – thank you, Mr Webster.  Only I would add: something to offer the physical warmth of succour … a woolly hug, perhaps … You see this comforter was planned as a gift for my daughter whose cats these really are.  They no longer live with her, but with the unwashed (now you see why the cat hair wasn’t washed!) comforter, she could wrap herself in comforting almost pure cat … So effective was it (and so pleasant to knit), that – having plenty of yarn still – I knit another comforter …You can see the catty variations in the spin quite clearly …And laid out you can see how the lacey stitchwork has distorted the rectangular comforter into something quite shaped with pointy ends …I decided to dye the second comforter, mixing up a vibrant fuchsia colour from my Easyfix AllinOne Dye powders …Such a pleasing result!Was I influenced at all by the colours of the season ….?You can see quite clearly the distorting effect of the lacey stitches as the comforter dries …The resulting knit matted a little bit in the process – but that’s not a bad thing as it stops the comforter shedding cat hair so much …And boy, is it cosy and comforting to wear!(Not mine for long as it’s off to give comfort with its predecessor …)

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kaydeerouge

Lost - and found.

10 thoughts on “Spinning a cat hair comforter …”

  1. Love this! I love it how the cat hair will have a purpose and how the comforter has a beautiful story. Not only did the cats provide the material, mum then spun and knit up the finished object – an heirloom object for sure!

    I actually have some poodle hair being stored for me that I’m waiting to spin someday. Yay for pet hair upcycling ideas 😀

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    1. Thank you so much, Leonor! I think it is one of the best things I have ever made – the resulting comforter is so very soft, and it truly does wrap you round with affectionate little kitties! You’ve definitely got to go for spinning up that poodle hair – look forward to seeing the results! 🙂

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  2. This project is all kinds of genius! The results are fascinating and incredibly attractive. As a spinner, that undercoat would have been just too intriguing not to spin. Brava to you and the cats.

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    1. Thank you, Rebecca! It was amazingly successful – I’m just surprised and delighted with how well the soft cat hair undercoat combines with the alpaca. In fact I’m now knitting up my third comforter (which I am planning to dye emerald green, and definitely keeping for me!)

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  3. Such a clever idea. Very pretty scarves and I imagine they are effective insulators due to the open knit. Helen looks very comfy in hers. Never heard of a rolag, or guard hairs – always something new to learn in your blogs. Alfie’s soft grey hair accumulates on the feet of our dining chairs. Happy to save this for you though somehow the idea of knitting with dog hair is not appealing. Cats are much cleaner creatures!

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    1. Thank you for the Alfie hair offer! It might not be suitable …. with the kits it’s only the dense undercoat that is suitable for spinning. The outer (the guard hair) is too tough. I’ll check Alfie out when I visit next!

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    1. I agree – terrible to waste good resources! Kits still producing more undercoat than I can spin so I’ve taken to wandering round the garden, tossing the fluff into the air and muttering “come on birdees – excellent nesting material, freely available”! Mad cat spinning lady indeed 🙂

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