Photography by Erwan Fichou COUNTERCULTURE / May 2014

KNITTING WITH DOG WOOL

Photography by Erwan Fichou
Text by Dora Moutot

Who ever said that sweaters had to be made of sheep wool? No one, really. Why not make wool from other animals? Some ladies are actually knitting with dog wool. The French photographer Erwan Fichou photographed these women wearing their dog wool jumpers alongside their dogs.

To get to know the dog knitter community, Erwan Fichou went to visit dog wool spinner Doumé Jalat-Dehen in French Brittany. Since 1998, she she has been transforming dog hairs into wool balls that her clients send her.

 

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It takes about seven years for a client to gather enough dog hair for a sweater. And they can’t just pull the fur out. They have to brush their dog regularly and save what comes off. Then they mail their precious fur collection to Doumé and she returns it to them in a 50-gram ball of dog wool. It takes her 2 hours of work per wool ball and it costs 11 euros.

“ You need at least 800 grams of hairs to make a sweater” says Doumé. “ The hairs are carded, spun with a traditional spinning wheel, washed and dried before becoming a ball. A sheep livestock farmer taught her the technique. “ It took me a while to figure how to do it” she says. Surprisingly dog wool doesn’t scratch. “It’s really warm and soft. Softer than cotton! Actually it can be compared to angora. People tend to think that it smells bad, like a wet dog, but it doesn’t, it has no smell,” she says. When asked about the sentimental value of dog wool, she explains: “Most of my client want to save a souvenir of their dog for the day where the dog will be gone.”

 

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You might think that dog wool is a new alternative trend. It’s not: it’s an Eskimo tradition. Eskimos made use of it for its extreme warmth while Russian women used to wear dog wool socks and stockings to prevent rheumatism. Nevertheless, not all dogs hairs can be turned into wool. Poodles and Dachshunds can move to the sideline. In order to be transformed into wool, the dog’s hair must be long enough.

Dog wool knitting is gaining increasing popularity around the world with a range of websites offering services to transform dog (and cat) hairs into wool. The dog knitting community can be found on forums or on Youtube where they post videos documenting the techniques of dog hair spinning.

The fashion industry should probably take note and try to make wool out of animals used for fur such as rabbits.

 

➜ www.erwanfichou.org 

 

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Vice Magazine interviewed English dog wool spinner Kendall Crolius who also makes knitwear out of dog-hair. In this very interesting video, Kendall shows the process of making dog wool.

 

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