12 February 2017

A rare and unusual fiber - yarn from my cat

Scarf in farrow rib pattern, cat and merino-blend yarn. 

Although not a hoarder, I have an aversion to throwing anything away if I think there might a use for that item or material down the road.  And, sometimes, I save things for no good reason at all.  A rational impulse to keep items out of landfills, combined with an irrational attachment, led my husband and me to save the clumps of incredibly soft fur generated from our nightly cat grooming sessions.  Our beloved cat, a 15-year-old Birman-breed male named Boffey, loves to be brushed, and, according to one veterinarian, he does have a beautiful coat.  So, without knowing exactly why, or what on earth we were going to do with it, we saved his fur for about ten years.

Boffey, with ten years worth of combing sessions.

Cue the internet, specifically the makers' site Etsy, where enterprising folks seemed to whip up things from just about any material you can imagine. Including cat hair.

I found ninelivestwine, the site of Pittsburgh fiber artist Theresa Furrer (how appropriate).  A textile polymath, Ms. Furrer processes animal fibers and spins the result into yarn.  I mailed the box of cat hair to her - 27 ounces of fiber - and Ms. Furrer very patiently explained the procedure, with cost estimates, for ordering yarn.  Because we hadn't stored the fur correctly - do not put into plastic bags - she had to "declump" it before spinning.

Two balls of Boffey yarn, ready to knit.

The cat fiber was blended with merino and the result is a lovely sport weight yarn which closely resembles a wool/angora blend.  The yarn I received, a few months after mailing the fiber, was beautifully packaged, labelled and needle-ready. Couldn't have been better!

Boffey, helping with home-made wedding floral arrangements, in 2014.

Farrow rib scarf:

Cast on 45 stitches. (Or any multiple of 4, plus one more stitch.)

Row 1: [knit 3, purl 1] knit 1

Repeat this row until scarf measures desired length - generally somewhere between 60" and 70".

Bind off loosely in pattern.

For the cat yarn, I used size 6 US needles. Makes a scarf about 7" wide.

UPDATE: After I had begun my scarf I found that the yarn had a strong tendency to felt,  which may be due to the qualities of my cat's fur.  In addition, it was difficult to unpick any mistakes. I'm not sure how to address these yarn characteristics - perhaps alternate the cat yarn with a regular merino yarn, so that the stitching can't form such a solid mat, or perhaps use much larger needles, to open up the yarn. Just wanted to give a word of caution to anyone contemplating using pet hair yarn.