Messing around (literally) with dog hair

First, it did snow last night. We got about an inch—not enough for me to pull out the showshoes, but great for highlighting the neighbors' presence.


Lots of chickadees, some sparrows, a couple of tricolored blackbirds, a blue jay, crows, and some Steller's jays. I don't have my bird glasses with me . . . sort of wish I did, but the point is to get work done, not enjoy the environment.


[Addendum: Kit, who can see better than I can, says she thinks we have two kinds of juncos. Based on coloring and behavior, I'll bet I just saw a woodpecker across the road. The folks who own the cabin left all the liquor but there are no bird glasses in the two cases I've found. They must have intuited which distraction is the greater threat to my productivity.]

But it's impossible not to enjoy being here. This is the "other" sun room (the one that I have not set my office up in), with my yoga mat:


This is a close-up of the mat. Isn't it a fine location for morning yoga? Yes, that's a cardwoven strap (5/2 mercerized cotton). I wove it before I started doing yoga, and I've been doing yoga since 1977. The band has had a lot of earlier lives, including one as a guitar strap.


One of my fellow writing-retreat-ers is in that sunroom now, filling her morning pages.

Ah, yes. Work.

I warmed up yesterday by doing some writing about wool, and by spinning samples of dog hair:


Left to right, those are Big White Dog (livestock guardians, mostly Akbash, maybe a little Kuvasz), our Tussah (likely Australian cattle dog and Golden retriever, but who knows?), and our Ariel (mostly Border collie, with some spaniel in the ears and the coat quality).

Samoyed is the quintessential, exquisite dog fiber to spin. I don't have any. But there's lots to play with in what I do have.

The Big White Dogs are double-coated. It was unthinkable to even consider separating the fiber qualities, and thus impossible to either blend or draft evenly. The combination of outer- and undercoat makes a terrific textured yarn (see the next photo).

Tussah (the light brown) was hardest to spin—all undercoat, and short! fine! Again, impossible to get an even preparation or smooth drafting. I almost gave up, but as of the next day I'd consider doing some more.

Ariel (the near-black) was easiest, because while her hair is fine it also has some length to it.

None of the resulting skeins smells like dog. Only the Big White Dogs had, in part, the stiff hairs that I expect to hold the odor, and even their skein just smells freshly washed.


Ariel was the only one who didn't leave me looking like I'd been sitting under a shedding dog for a month. Fortunately, I also brought this:


The next photo demonstrates one of the reasons that black sheep have been anathema to people who grow lots of wool to sell for commercial processing:


A bit of Tussah and of Big White Dog got spun in with Ariel (in this case, it's the red and white "contaminating" the black, instead of the more normal black "contaminating" the white). Even one off-colored fiber can ruin a yard of high-priced fine white wool fabric. Large growers keep the black sheep on different pasture to avoid the addition of stray odd-colored fibers, and they also would probably welcome all-white herding dogs (all-white livestock guardians are easier to find).

Those of us who love the wools of unusual colors and textures need to keep the market for them going. Mass production isn't going to warm to them any time soon, if ever. Depending on our moods, our needs, and the availability of the materials, we can hand-process unusual fibers and we can make sure part of our stash includes breed- and flock-specific yarns.

I'd better get to work. The cabin was cold last night, but once I got my pallet on the floor all cozy it was hard to leave the nest of comforters. I ended up dashing out at about 6 to get my computer and  wrote a bit in bed for a while. And then I fell back asleep for another hour.

The question is which rare sheep breed I'll enjoy today. . . . Let's see. . . .