Wandering through your local big-box bookstore, there is much to find mildly repulsive. The inconsiderate jerkface who leaves his half-empty frappe mocha venti concoction on top of a stack of hardcovers. The gaggle of teenage girls wearing neon thongs and low-rise jeans. Tuesdays with Morrie. When you walk into a Barnes and Noble, you steel yourself against these things. But last night I was not expecting to happen upon this:
No, not really with your cat. Out of your cat. Author Kaori Tsutaya and translator Amy Hirschman recommend brushing out all of that excess fur in order to create small, felted cat figures to use as finger puppets or decorations for book covers and coin purses. One project: a jaunty brooch fashioned out of Trixie’s shed pelt. And all that fur your good cat Socks is leaving around can, apparently, be transformed into a portrait of Socks. Very meta.
I snatched the book off the shelf and ran to find Danny, who was thumbing through some art books on the other side of the store. Without a word — but with my best WTF? face — I showed him the cover.
“No,” he said.
What I didn’t know at the time was that crafting from pet hair is a thing — an art much defended by its practitioners. Crafting with Cat Hair has garnered seven positive reviews on Amazon, a fair showing. But apparently cat owners are indifferent to the opinions of others — typical — while dog-hair knitters are quite vocal about their craft. See: Knitting With Dog Hair: Better a Sweater from a Dog You Know and Love Than From a Sheep You’ll Never Meet, by Kendall Crolius and Anne Montgomery, an instruction manual that includes 25 reviews, 23 of them positive (or mock-positive). Some highlights:
“Be very careful with this book. Thinking myself clever, I shaved my dog, then knitted him a sweater using his own fur. I believe this paradox may have ripped a small hole in the space-time continuim. My son seems to be now aging in reverse, causing me to deduct one star from this review. Otherwise a very informative book.”
“When all the sheep have been swept away or encased in rogue glaciers, what will be left to make our clothes from? Dogs, that’s what. Man’s best friend will stick close by our side through the emergency — begging for Snausages, most likely — and will happily provide raw material for our shirts, hats and scarves in the aftermath. Because they won’t know any better.”
And, perhaps my favorite: the disgruntled Knitting with Dog Hair customer: “My only complaint is the cover is misleading, there is a picture of a basset hound on the cover but you can’t spin basset fur. I own a basset and bought the book because of the cover.”
But I wanted a basset sweater, dammit!
All joking aside — if that’s possible — many customers seem to genuinely appreciate the book, and as I read through their reviews they did begin to answer some of my concerns about crafting with the hair of an animal that licks its own butt. The smell, apparently, is not an issue, after a thorough washing. And, as one reviewer reasoned: “Have you ever smelled a wet SHEEP? A dog smells like daisies by comparison.”
Overall, defenders of the art of dog-hair knitting make some valid (if odd) arguments in favor of their craft. There’s something kind of ecologically responsible about the entire endeavor, they argue. Why let all of that good hair go to waste? And some fierce dog lovers suggest that crafts made from a beloved pet’s hair can be a sweet reminder of days of fetch once your four-legged friend has left you. That feels a little icky. And a little nineteenth-century! It reminds me of mourning jewelry made out of hair–the locks of a loved one woven or shaped into an image or transformed into ink.
So, dear carrots readers, next time you’re lint-rolling Fifi’s hair off your favorite sweater, consider the relative ease of dog-hair apparel. You never have to lint roll dog hair off a sweater made of dog hair.