by Anniel 9/6/16
My friend Molly and I had met in a weaving class and then began spinning and dying our own yarns together. Molly loved exploring odd fibers to spin, while I am a bit of a yarn snob and there are some fibers I refuse to use. As I told Molly once, “I will spin anything I can stand to smell when it’s wet. I’m used to the smell of wet wool, but wet dog? Forget that.”
Molly moved to a new apartment and the downstairs neighbor had a large, Alaskan husky. His undercoat, which was quite silky, was almost white to a light grey. He was always shedding that undercoat in the hall and stairs so Molly would collect whatever of it she could find. She would wash out the dander and store the clumps to spin. When the neighbor realized what Molly was doing, she began saving what she brushed from the dog and gave it to Molly.
After several months I went to help Molly prepare the undercoat for spinning. We had to pick out the outer guard hairs using tweezers, and even put it under a microscope to find and remove the smaller guard hairs. Then, we didn’t exactly card the fibers, but kind of combed them with what is known as a flick carder.
As I recall, we had to prepare what seemed like monster piles of the saved fibers before Molly had enough yarn to knit a hat. I thought the yarn was kind of pretty, but I still couldn’t imagine how it would smell in a rainstorm.
It turned out that I needn’t have worried about it.
Molly tended to knit very tightly so it took her awhile. She finally called me to say the hat was finished and she had worn it to work that day. Everyone said they liked it and she was going to stop by and show it to the dog’s owner on her way home.
Oh boy, was that ever a homecoming to remember.
After ringing the doorbell, Molly entered the neighbor’s living room. The normally friendly dog ran towards her, stopped suddenly and began snarling and barking. Then it lunged at Molly and knocked her over backwards, bruising her bum. The dog then reached his mouth over and grabbed the hat off her head. He ran to his bed, snarling at both women, and dared anyone to come near him. He knew his fur when he smelled it, and that hat was his.
His embarrassed owner swore that he took the hat everywhere with him for the next month and would not let anyone touch it. He slept with it under his chin and his paws clutching it. When his owner walked him, the hat was in his mouth. And he never thereafter liked Molly.
If Molly were still with us she would be shocked at what some new yarns are made of. One year at Christmas one of my daughters-in-law sent me a big box of exotic yarns. Yarns made of bamboo, yak, eucalyptus bark, manzanita, elephant dung (don’t ask), camel, qiviut, and my all time favorite – milk. The milk yarn was shiny, silky and dyed a lovely aqua blue. I don’t have a clue how it is made and I laugh as I wonder if it’s edible should starvation threaten.
I am a definite yarn snob, but nothing compared to our cat, who steals silk yarn whenever she is able. When I bought a 12’x14′ wool carpet at an auction for a ridiculously low price, Bear and I unrolled it on the floor and the cat went crazy. She jumped on the carpet and looked like she was trying to swim in it. I felt it, definitely not wool. So we pulled a few fibers and did a burn test. 100% silk. Even the dog loved it.
Bear and I talked it over. We tried to figure what the rug was actually worth. Should we leave it out on the floor? In short, did we own the rug or did the rug own us? We decided to heck with it, we refuse to live in a museum. We would not protect it in any way. Our children, grandchildren, friends, dogs, and cats crawl on it, wrestle on it, spill on it, live their lives on it.
I still draw the line on dog hair, and elephant dung, but I think my friend Molly would approve.