National Hug Your Cat Day: How to Spin Cat Hair

I ran into Love of Knitting editor (and cat lover) Deb Gerish today. “I promised to write a post about how to keep pet hair out of your spinning,” I said. “Any advice?” I can’t remember when I last heard someone laugh so hard. Most spinners who love cats find that the question is how not to spin cat hair.

If you have a cat or dog, keeping drifts of pet fur from overtaking your house is probably a daily challenge. I’ve heard of pet owners matching their furniture and even their clothes to their pets’ fur on the theory that if you can’t keep the hair off you might as well make it inconspicuous.

The “how to spin cat hair” part of this post is very short:

1. Have a cat.

2. Spin.

Spin anything—doesn’t matter what. No carding equipment is more efficient at blending fiber than the casual brush of a cat.

Spin Cat Hair: Kitten playing with wool yarn. Getty Images.

Kitten playing with wool yarn. Getty Images.

“How not to spin cat hair” is a much greater challenge.

1. Keep the cat away from your spinning, knitting, crochet, or any other fiber craft.

Hah. Good luck. My cats love anything I’m doing, they love to get in where they shouldn’t, and they love chasing things that move. The best I’ve managed is sealing the fiber and yarn in plastic bags, putting the plastic bags in tubs, and putting the tubs in a no-cats-allowed room behind closed doors. (That room becomes their favorite room in the whole house.) The truly devoted might limit all spinning and crafting to that room; those people have harder hearts than I do.

2. Keep the cat hair off yourself.

Hah! If you figure out this secret, let me know. Packing tape, lint rollers, sticky labels from shipping companies, all work somewhat. But it’s not just your person that you need to defuzz—it’s your furniture. Deb has a new tool similar to a currycomb that helps keep her sofa fluff-free. Fiber on you easily becomes fiber in your yarn or project.

3. Keep the yarn from rolling around.

Like a snowball that gets bigger when it rolls, a ball of yarn will pick up cat hair as it rolls (or is rolled). Deb suggests using yarn bowls to keep the yarn contained; in my experience, yarn emerging from a yarn bowl is even more fascinating than a squirrel on the porch, but a more enclosed solution might do the trick.

4. Keep the cat relatively fuzz-free.

You don’t need to take the extreme measure of shaving your cat to minimize the free-floating fuzz. Pet deshedding tools can keep the free-floating fur minimized. They have their limits, but they can reduce the drifts of cat hair (and provide a bonding experience).

5. When all else fails—tweeze.

I’ve been known to pick cat hairs out of skeins and even finished projects on very special occasions. That way lies madness, but sometimes a project is worth the effort.

Spin Cat Hair: Wilbur kept his paws out of the spokes of the moving wheel, but the singles fascinated him! Photo by Anne Merrow

Wilbur kept his paws out of the spokes of the moving wheel, but the singles fascinated him! Photo by Anne Merrow

I’ve decided that for me, the joy of life with cats—fur and chewed-through skeins and tangles and all—is worth the inconvenience of cat hair in my work. Although I discourage them from flossing with singles and chasing balls of yarn around the room, cats are as much a part of my life as spinning. I’m not ready to spin a whole skein of cat hair, but if little orange hairs make their way into my work, so be it.

Spin Off’s archives are silent on techniques for spinning cat hair. For tips on spinning dog hair, see “Putting On the Dog” by Stephen K. Holzinger in the Winter 1993 issue.

To share your own projects handspun from pet fur, see our special call for submissions.

—Anne

Featured Image: Cute black-white kitten lying under a drawer of a wardrobe. Getty Images.


More Ways to Love Your Cat