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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Dog Gone Sweaters

Air Date: Week of

If you were wondering what to do with all the hair your dog shed this summer, LOE listener, Phyllis Simpson, has the answer. Make yarn.


NUNLEY: Take a look at the calendar. The dog days of summer are over. Winter is coming and it's time to get the warm clothing out of storage. Which is your favorite sweater? The wool? The angora? What about the dog hair? Yep -- dog fur. Long considered a nuisance anywhere but attached to a dog, it turns out the stuff can be quite useful. My guest Phyllis Simpson recycles canine hair by spinning and weaving it into sweaters and scarves, even blankets. Ms. Simpson says most people accept the idea of using the family pet for sartorial warmth, but she's also run into resistance close to home.

SIMPSON: About 90% of the people in this world think that spinning dog hair? Oh, that's wonderful! The other 10% say "dog hair!" My son unfortunately, who had a large, beautiful golden retriever, was one of the latter, who said, "Ugh! Dog hair." So I didn't get his golden retriever hair. But I got some from someone else.

NUNLEY: Now, what are the best breeds?

SIMPSON: Well, as far as I'm concerned, the sheltie has been the best. If you're not familiar, a sheltie is a small collie.

NUNLEY: Now, how much hair do you need to make a sweater, let's say?

SIMPSON: Well, a short-sleeved sweater would take 2 to 2 and-a-half shopping bags full of dog hair. I have a short-sleeved sweater, and I'm so glad I didn't make it long-sleeved. It would be much too hot to wear.

NUNLEY: Now, can you, are you restricted in colors and styles and that sort of thing? Or can you dye the hair?

SIMPSON: I don't know what -- I wouldn't even think of dyeing it, because natural hair is so beautiful. Actually, the sheltie, if you're familiar with the sheltie, they have 2 or 3 colors in their coats, and when you spin them they all sort of blend, and it comes out lovely. I wouldn't think of dyeing it.

NUNLEY: Have you ever mixed hair from a sheltie and a golden?

SIMPSON: Yes. The blanket that I finished is mostly sheltie, with sections of golden retriever in it. And it looks very nice.

NUNLEY: But no dog hair-polyester combos.

SIMPSON: No. [Laughs] No polyester at all in anything, okay?

NUNLEY: Now one worry that I'd have that I'd be walking down the street and other dogs would sort of pick up my sweater scent and start barking at me or even worse.

SIMPSON: Well, occasionally a dog will give it a sniff and then go on. They'll stop and sniff it more than they would when I wear a woolen sweater or an angora sweater. But it doesn't seem to cause any problem with the dogs.

NUNLEY: Ms. Simpson, thanks for joining us.

SIMPSON: It's been my pleasure.

NUNLEY: Phyllis Simpson spoke with us from her home in Haverford, Pennsylvania.



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