Saturday, June 26, 2010

My Dog Hair Shawl

 Updated 3/2017 -- all links (except to my own posts) removed as many no longer active.

Early in my blogging life I wrote a post called: Hair of the Dog (May 28, 2007). Here it is followed by more of the story and photos of my dog hair shawl.
It will have been 4 years on May 30th since Ladybug was euthanized. She had osteosarcoma of the left maxilla. And no that isn't a cigar in her mouth. It's a rolled up rawhide treat. Ladybug was half-Rottweiler and half-Pyrenees. She was nearly 8 years old when she died. She was a charmer! She would sit with her hunches on the sofa and her front legs on the floor. She is missed.
The origins of the phrase "hair of the dog" seem to go back to "the Romans and many ancient peoples before them believed that like cures like. They would bind the hairs of a dog that had bitten someone to that very person's wound to make it heal better EVEN of the dog was rabid." It then morphed into referring to handover cures (no "hair" included in these).
Another use for the hair of your dog is to make something from it. Depending on your own dogs breed (and the Pyrenees is perfect), your dog may have wonderfully full, soft hair. Years ago while walking through 'Books-a-Million', a book caught my eye. The book was "Knitting with Dog Hair" by Kendall Crolius. It described the steps needed (comb and keep the hair in a dry paper bag until you have enough, spin into yard, and then knit). VIP Fibers provides the service of preparing the hair after you collect it. I saved the hair from Ladybug and my two Labradors, Girlfriend and Columbo (who died in November 2003 from an abdominal cancer at age 11). I have a lace shawl from their hair. It feels like mohair.
A short time ago, Dr. Smak uploaded a photo of the front of the "Knitting with Dog Hair" on Facebook which sparked two conversations. One on her post and another on the photo of my shawl I uploaded to show to her. So here is more of the story of my dog hair shawl.
Ladybug followed Columbo, Girlfriend, and I home one winter day in 1996 after finding us on our walk in the woods. We tracked down her owner who didn’t want her back. Ladybug was about 6 months old at the time and was still growing. She had outgrown her “cuteness” as a really small puppy. She ended up being a large 80-90 lb dog, but just as sweet as could be and a leaner (I loved that).
In the spring she would “spit” clumps of her undercoat as the weather got warmer. Girlfriend, a long haired Labrador, did the same to a much less extent. These clumps were very soft. I happened upon the book around the same time. I was a very basic knitter, had never processed wool, and knew nothing about spinning. Undeterred, I began to collect their hair. I saved only the hair brushed from them in the recent days after bathing them.
Once I collected half of a large paper bag full, I began a search for wool to mix it with as instructed in the book. I found a small yarn shop in Conway, Arkansas – Fiberworks. I bought some raw black wool (do not remember the type). This was in the spring of 2000.
I then searched the internet for someone to process the wool. I sent it to Ohio Valley Natural Fibers. I bought a drop spindle and took a spinning class to learn how to spin my wool. It did not work out. I wanted lace weight so I could have a shawl. Mine was more worsted weight and I was SLOW.
A nurse friend who circulated in the operating room said she would spin it for me. I offered to pay her which she refused. It turned out, she didn’t have the time to do it. So a couple of years after Ladybug and Columbo had died (they both died in 2003), I go up the nerve to ask for my dog hair/wool back.
I then searched the internet and found VIP Fibers . My old check as payment to them is dated April 2006. I got back --------- skeins with these wonderful labels.
During the intervening years, I had purchased a book titled "Shawls and Scarves" edited by Nancy Thomas. I made three shawls to learn how to do lace knitting, preparing for the time I had my dog hair yarn to use.
For my dog hair shawl I used the “lace dream” pattern by Eugen Beugler in the book. Here is a photo after re-blocking it.  It also shows the true color better than the one above.

Here is a close shot to try to show some of the detail.


Dr. Smak said...

Your work is so beautiful. What a breathtaking shawl. And a great tribute to friends now gone.

Anonymous said...

Truly a labor of love. I can't imagine a more fitting way to keep your companions close to you. The shawl itself is gorgeous, but the story makes it priceless, Ramona. I hope it gives you many years of warmth and comfort.

Chrysalis said...

Wow, Ramona!

rlbates said...

Thank you all.

Gizabeth Shyder said...

Amazing story - I am awed by your persistence (and so glad that lady didn't lose your dog's hair!). I remember you talking about your dogs in my backyard like they were your kids. I agree with Dr. Smak - breathtaking!

Stickhorsecowgirls said...

So lovely! I had the groomer shave my Wheaten Terrier one summer and told her to keep the fur for me, but alas, I eventually discarded it. She had the most amazingly beautiful fur. My plan had been to "hook" it just like fleece into a rug of a pattern I had found that featured a terrier in a garden of hollyhocks. The artist had hooked the words: "Comparison is the thief of joy" around the border of the rug. When my beloved Wendy, died last year, I had my husband clip a piece of her fur. I plan to hook this rug and use that bit of her fur in the terrier in the garden. It will be a special momento, just as your lovely shawl. Glad I found your blog via the Quilting magazine. We stick horse cowgirls live in your neck of the woods!

rlbates said...

Thanks, Cowgirl. Would love to see your finished rug.

SeaSpray said...

Hi Ramona - What a moving post. Sweet to. And I had no idea dog hair could be spun. I love the light, delicate look. I'm amazed actually.

I am also so sorry you lost two dogs in one year and you lost another one after that. No doubt they have a loving home with you.

I haven't been ready to post on this yet ..but we were shocked to have to put our beautiful German Shepherd, Bob down in January. He would've been 10 May 5. He was so healthy, agile, good weight and teeth was a shock. Turned out he had a hemangiosarcoma. I was so distressed over what transpired that morning I had to cancel my afternoon uro appt and I had to cancel the or/stent removal that Thursday ..or I would've been sobbing all the way into the OR.

They are like family.

he was the first large dog we had ..always mid size prior to that... and while we loved everyone of our wonderful dogs ..a large dog really has a presence. We all had our unique relationship with him. he was really younger son's dog and he was *always* so responsible and loving with him. I really miss hugging him around his neck and leaning into his big head. :)

My son ..for a joke ..has two lg ziplock backs stuffed with his hair. I am pretty sure if we opened them they would explode outward. One day he tried to out brush his loose hair. he could not. No matter how long he brushed him still came loose. :)

Thank you for this wonderful post. :)

I so very much want another dog, but my husband is saying no right now. i know he will soften. I believe the right dog will come into our lives when we are meant to have one ..we will know.

rlbates said...

Thanks, SeaSpray!