Introduction: Cat to a Hat
To alleviate confusion, Cat to a Hat shows the full process of turning raw fiber (Ragdoll housecat and Merino wool) to crochet-ready yarn, and finishes with a sample project. Since there are multiple separate skills involved in the project, I've included links to some basic videos and tutorials if you'd like to learn more.
If you are one of the lucky humans who happens to be owned by a cat, then you know the joy they can bring along with the care and maintenance they require. Specifically for the fluffier ones, their coats need to be brushed and cleaned to reduce matting/knots/hairballs/etc. While tending to our pair of Ragdolls, I've often wondered what it would take to save and use their fur for a project.
More recently, we've gotten into Fiber Arts to include the fiber processing, dyeing, spinning and crocheting and I knew the time had come. I'll also mention that the yarn we made was cut with Merino wool which has much better holding properties than pure kitty fluff, but more on that later.
Brush for removing loose hair
~X oz of fur, plus XX oz of Merino wool
Card for felting, or Drum carder
Spinning wheel or drop spindle
Crochet tools and pattern
Step 1: Hair Collection and Processing
There is significant variability in the length of yarn yielded from a particular weight of wool/hair, but I'll attempt a rough guideline:
The volume of hair collected by itself is not very useful, as it is mostly air. Therefore, most fiber products are measured by weight. Additionally, the finished yarn can change in length by the speed of the spinning, how tight you wind the fibers and the number of strands you combine together. The best advice to measure this is to practice your form and be consistent while spinning. You can then judge your own work as needed.
We ended up with 120 yards of double-ply kitty/wool from ~1 oz of cat hair and 2.5 oz of processed Merino wool. You can measure this with a simple digital kitchen scale.
Once you've collected enough hair by weight, it's time to wash it. Use a cheap colander and mild shampoo* to wash the batch of hair in a deep kitchen sink and dry it on a wool rack. At this point, it will resemble a pile of hairballs (ick), but they will be very clean, just matted up.
*For cat hair, any mild/baby shampoo will work. Specialized products (Unicorn Scour) are available for tougher fibers like wool.
Step 2: Fur X Wool
As mentioned, there is a reason normal people don't keep massive farms of Persian/Norwegian/Ragdoll cats to harvest their fur for high-end fashion accessories. No, it's not the looks you'd receive if you admit your red-carpet jacket is made of you cat's hair. It's that a cat's fur is more similar to a person's, or dog/horse, in that it is very smooth in contrast to wool. The surface of wool fibers are covered with scaly cracks which allow them to hold on to each other when twisted together, thus creating stable yarn; they're also much longer, which strengthens them as well. A yarn made from 100% cat hair would be difficult to spin and once complete would be delicate and prone to being pulled apart.
To create the stable yarn, we will begin by blending the fibers from which to start spinning. Use handheld wool combs to pull the smaller balls of hair apart. This removes knots and lines up the fibers so they can be combined by the carder.
Carding is the process of organizing non-aligned fibers by further breaking up clumps and locks and aligning them in a more parallel fashion which prepares the fiber for spinning. Carding can also create blends of different fibers or different colors. A large variety of fibers can be carded, including dog hair, llama, alpaca, goat, soy fiber and polyester, with cotton and wool being the most common. Drum carders partially automate this process over a flat board with either a hand crank or electric motor.
More simply, the carder adds air and loft to the fibers in preparation for spinning. Alternatives if you don't have access to a drum carder include hand carders, blending boards or hackles, which each have their own advantages and disadvantages.
To use the drum carder with the mix of wool and cat hair, begin by slowly feeding wool into the first drum. This will get picked up by the main drum and create a layer of even fibers. Because the cat hair is so much shorter, I found it was easier to feed pure wool into the carder and then apply the cat hairs directly to the main drum. Once the tines on the drum are full, remove the batted fibers and repeat the process; in our case we repeated each one about 5-7 times to ensure the fibers were thoroughly blended.
Step 3: Spinning and Plying Yarn
Once the supply of fibers has been prepared, we can move onto spinning the yarn.
Using a spinning wheel, peel off a portion of the bat and feed it into the wheel to produce a single ply strand. We used the long draw method to provide a uniform thickness and even rate of twist. Continue this process until you've completed all of the prepared fibers.
For plying, there are many techniques available, although we used a 2-ply method from a center-pull ball. To prepare for this step, we'll move the single-ply fiber from the spinning wheel bobbin onto a ball winder, which will give us an even-feeding source with access to both ends of the strand at once (from the inside and outside).
Once this has been loaded into a ball, go back to the spinning wheel, attach both ends together and re-wind it on the bobbin, this time introducing a second layer of twist and giving you double-ply yarn.
After this second round of spinning, we'll wash it once more and dry it thoroughly to set the twist and add more strength.
Step 4: Time to Crochet!
From here, you are only limited by your imagination and the posts you find on Etsy!
We used a simple hat pattern which can be fitted with cat ears and sized depending on the wearer, from infants to adults. You can find the pattern used here: CROCHET PATTERN - Crochet Cat Hat Pattern - Cat Hat Crochet Pattern - Crochet Patterns - Baby, Toddler, Kids, Adult Sizes - PDF 279
And that's it! Finish up with some embarrassing pictures and you're done!
Participated in the
Fiber Arts Contest