More Chiengora

Posted by Tropical Twister under Articles , Chiengora , Spinning , Techniques 
[3] Comments 

(chiengora article 4 of 4)

I’ve had a number of questions, so I’ve added the following as things to consider when spinning chiengora (pronounced “she-an-gora”).

Now, the reason, to my thinking, that anyone spins chiengora when there are other lovely fibers to spin, is sentiment.  I love my dog.  I’ve been known to nuzzle my face down into her and snuggle.  I love the notion of wrapping myself in her warm coat.  And all that extra coat attention has the plus of keeping her cleaner and cooler.  So, the following is for anyone who wants something novel to spin and has a favorite canine they want to memorialize. 

Border Collies and all other double coated dogs have two kinds of hair.  Straight coarse outer hair and soft short undercoat.  If you shave a dog you get both.  My choice is to spin only the undercoat.  If you spin the coarse outer hair, you get coarse yarn.  Even if the coat is silky, and Lacy’s is silky, the outer hairs are straight and yarn spun from them will be coarse.  The yarn might be suitable for decorative items, but not worn next to the body.  There is a breed specific information page on Chiengoa at

I “harvest” the undercoat, as described in a previous article, by “raking” the coat weekly.   (This keeps down the carpet puffs as well.)  When it’s said a dog has blown it’s coat, that’s the soft undercoat that had been shed by the dog.  If Lacy lived outside, instead of being an inside A/C dog, she’d have a huge shed in the spring during the first heat wave.  She’s be blowing or loosing that winter insulation she no longer needed. 

Unlike wool (sheep hair) which has varying degrees of crimp, dog hair isn’t crimpy, neither the inner nor outer coats.  The undercoat certainly can be spun by itself.  Even cotton which has a very short staple can be spun.  However, I choose to mix in some wool as it makes the spinning easier and it tends to strengthen the yarn.  The natural crimp of the wool tends to hold the fluffy undercoat and the finished garment doesn’t shed so much.  Now, chiengora is a lot like angora, it’s cousin.  When I’ve worn an angora sweater, it leaves traces of itself on my skirt or pants.  Chiengora will leave stray hairs including the occasional outer hair that got spun up in the midst.  Dog hair is very warm.  Mixing wool with the dog hair, it breathes better and is more pleasant to wear.

The finished chiengora, dog hair garment doesn’t smell anymore than wool, angora, mohair or suede smells like sheep, rabbits, goats or cows.  Lacy’s is bathed regularly and has a healthy diet.  She does have body oil and does get smelly at times but generally she’s a clean dog.  I wouldn’t want to try to spin a matted, parasite infested mass of dog hair.  But, my guess is if you’ve read this far, you’re a dog lover and any dogs in your care don’t match the aforementioned description.  Hair from a groomer is probably not the best choice.  Unlike the shearer of sheep, the groomer likely has made a number of cuts and the hair is all different lengths.  It is also likely to have guard or outer hair included in the mix.  I think it would be too much trouble to separate the two.  I have but one dog and she provides an abundant amount of hair.  Every time I “rake” her, she provides more.  I keep the hair in paper bags.  I found out early that storing it in a sealed plastic bag from which I removed as much air as possible before sealing the bag is not the best choice.  The hair is usable but it mats.  Just letting it float down into a large paper grocery bag (if you can find a store that offers them) is a better choice.

If you don’t feel up to spinning it yourself, I’ve found a host of spinners on the net who accept commissions to do it for you including: Cherri Hankins  hair.html  OR   OR and a host of others.  Or contact your local spinning and weaving guild like our, Manasota Weavers and you are likely to find someone there who will accept a commission.

The above is some personal thoughts about chiengora.  Some readers may have had different experiences and I’d welcome your comments about your experiences, suggestions or reasons you approach the whole process differently.

Tropical Twister


3 Responses to “More Chiengora”

  1. Loopykd says, September 5th, 2008 at 11:22 am

    Ok so now I have to do this too. I have a Border Collie mix that is the best dog I have ever had in my life! I love her so so much and I now have to have a shawl or scarf from her hair. Thanks for inspiring me and making me the butt of all my families jokes until the end of time.

  2. Tropical Twister says, September 5th, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    Maybe I should start a list of zingers, snappy come-backs for chiengora spinners (LOL).

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