Chicago, IL (WMC) - We all love our fur babies dearly, especially the daily snuggles. Have you ever wanted to take that feeling with you wherever you go? Now you can with 'Knit Your Dog!'
'Knit Your Dog' is a Chicago based company started by Jeannie Sanke. She turns fur from dogs into beautiful yarn that can be knitted into hats, scarves, sweaters, etc.
Sanke got into the business of knitting dog fur after she knitted a sweater for herself using fur from her dog, Buster. When she wore the sweater for the first time, the reaction was huge.
"Very few people were freaked out by it; most found it really fascinating and wonderful," Sanke said. "I was peppered with questions every time I wore it."
With a little push from a friend and not wanting to stay at a job that she hated, Sanke hobby turned into an opportunity. Thus 'Knit Your Dog' was born.
"Not long thereafter, when I was talking to a friend about how much I hated my job at the time and how much I dreaded looking for another job, she said 'I don't know why you are looking for another job, you'll just hate when clearly you have a business idea that could work," Sanke recalled. "About a week later, I started creating 'Knit Your Dog.'"
Of course, not all dog fur is created equal, and some fur works better than others.
"Long-haired, double-coated dogs produce the best wool," Sanke said.
Dogs such Samoyeds, Chow Chows, Golden Retrievers, Newfoundlands, St. Bernards, Great Pyrenees and other long-haired dogs make awesome wool. But where does that leave short-haired breeds?
"Short-haired breeds such as German Shepherds, Akitas and Siberian Huskies can make wonderful wool when their hair is blended with longer fibers such as sheep, alpaca, or bamboo," Sanke said.
If you're thinking about cutting your fur baby's hair to make the yarn, that's a no no. Sanke says cutting it, or furminating it can damage the hair shaft.
"The dog hair itself must be brushed or combed from the dog. It cannot be cut, clipped, shaved, or even furminated. Furminators have blades that damage the hair shaft. The entire hair shaft is necessary for spinning; dog hair is not like sheep hair," Sanke said. "The brushings are then washed to remove dirt, oil, dander and smell. Once it dries, it is then carded, meaning that the hair fibers are aligned so that they can be spun. If the hair is short, it is blended with another fiber. Then, we spin it on a spinning wheel."
The time it takes to make the yarn depends on the dog and quality of the hair, as well as how busy Sanke's business is at the time.
"Right now, our lead time is a few weeks to create samples before accepting orders. The actual spinning and knitting go relatively quickly as we work fast," Sanke said. "We can usually go from dog hair to a hat or pair of gloves in about two weeks."
Sanke loves her business and what she does so much. She says the joy she feels when a customer's face lights up after seeing the finished product makes it worthwhile.
"What I love most about this business is the joy, and often solace, that our work gives to our customers. It means so much to dog lovers to have something tangible from their dogs, something they can keep even after their dog is gone," Sanke gushed.
Sanke told WMC Action News 5 about how one of her customer's deceased pet's fur made a holiday all the more special.
"I got a Christmas card from one of my customers this season. She had gloves from her dog, and the dog had passed last summer," she recalled. "This was their first Christmas without him, but he was still in their annual Christmas card because she was able to wear the gloves in their photo. And I know how they feel; I have items from all of my dogs, past and present."
Cat lovers are probably wondering if Sanke knits cat fur. The answer is no.
"I don't have any experience with cat fur, but there are specialists. Again, the hair must be long, like from a Persian or a Maine Coon Cat. Cats make very fine wool," she said.
If you ever find yourself in Chicago, or want to learn more about 'Knit Your Dog,' click here.