When working with dog fur, she starts off by spinning the fur first and then washing it multiple times to remove dirt and dead skin cells.
It all began with a poodle named Mango. Marion Wheatland—who introduces herself as "Canadian by birth Australian by heart" to her social media followers—was hosting a spinning workshop when Mango's owner, May, approached her with an unusual proposal. "She said can you spin my dog because I don't have a memory of my other dog, I want to get this one while this dog is here with us," Wheatland told ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). As she already had some experience with spinning other "exotic" fibers, including that of Arctic musk ox, bison and camel, the yarn enthusiast was more than up for the challenge.
Fancy a jumper made from your fur baby's fluff? Marion can have it made https://t.co/ZgGLlWxmdn— ABC Hobart (@abchobart) September 11, 2022
Since that day several years ago, Wheatland has spun dozens of breeds of dog fur into yarn and even some cat fur. When it comes to spinning pet fur, she explained that vegetable matter tends to be the main issue. "When the fiber has lots of sticks, twigs and all sorts of things through it, I have to sit there and pick it out with my fingers," Wheatland said. "Alpaca is notorious for this." Sharing some insight into how she works with the fur of dogs, she explained that she starts off by spinning the fur first and then washing it multiple times to remove dirt and dead skin cells.
This cleaning process takes care of the "doggy smell" and then the yarn can be used for knitting, crocheting or anything else the customer might want to do with it. Because short-haired dog fur is difficult to work with, Wheatland asks for a minimum length of about 50 millimeters. "Anything shorter than that is really difficult," she said. "So, anybody with a pug, don't call me." The pet fur conservator admitted that her work invokes a range of reactions—from disbelief and astonishment to heartfelt thanks—from people. However, for Wheatland, the only reaction that matters is that of pet owners who trust her to do justice to their memories with their furry friend.
"One lady sent me her husky fiber and she was crying on the phone telling me the story and crying at the post office sending her precious dog fiber to me," Wheatland said. "When she finally received it in the mail, she was crying on the phone again and saying how much she really appreciated it." The Melbourne College of Textiles graduate's latest challenge is spinning dingo fur. Although the animal's fur goes against her length rule of no less than 50 millimeters, Wheatland said she couldn't resist an opportunity to work with fur from the ancient breed of dog.
"It's short and a little spiky, but I think it will spin reasonably well," she said. However, due to its short length, the dingo fiber will be blended with sheep wool to successfully spin the fur to create yarn. "It's going to be a bit of an experiment that I'm going to enjoy," Wheatland added. "All pet owners and animal lovers know the special feelings of joy, friendship and warmth with which our animals provide us. What if you could carry that feeling with you wherever you go? Spinning Pets Yarn gives you the opportunity to purchase unique handmade yarn made from your pet’s own fur. Our expert spinner can work with a wide variety of animal fur from coarse-haired horses to woolly dogs or fluffy kitten fur. By blending sheep wool with your animal’s fur, Spinning Pets Yarn is able to create a sturdy, soft and easy-to-use thread suitable for a wide range of applications," her website states.