April 19, 2011

What can you do with fur yarn?

I mean fur yarn... not spun up cat hair or fake "fun" fur or eyelash yarn or whatever they're calling it these days. Fur yarn is really thin strips of genuine fur still naturally attached to the pelt.

In North America, a very long time ago, Native Americans and First Nations peoples premiered the design and use of knit fur with spectacular rabbit fur blankets.

Nowadays the durability, appeal, and usefulness has been taken up a notch by modern tanning, shearing, and dyeing techniques. This allowed designers who choose to work with natural materials, the opportunity to explore.

Paula Lishman made her namesake on micro-thin strips of tanned, plucked and sheared beaver fur twined around an inner fiber core.

(The Native peoples use the fur as-is without an added core. It can be tanned or raw before use for their blankets. In arid regions, the skins are cut and twined in to the yarn raw and then softened by usage and time.)

One benefit of using fur in this way is that you can get more surface area covered per pelt then if you were using it as a full skin. This reduces the weight and increases the stretch of your garment. That's important if you sit on your scarf in the car - a full skin mink might rip, but a knit sheared mink will stretch. Another thing you can do with knit that you can't do with full skin fur is that you can pass pins through the many open-weave holes. Pins are a no-no on traditional fur coats but lightweight embellishments of all sorts are fine for knit. Don't put pins through the leather. :)

I mention all of this because I make my own genuine fur yarns, tanned, in the Native style. They are so much fun to work with!

One thing I wonder is: can these fur yarns be put on a knitting machine using the "super bulky" setting? Has anyone tried? I've been doing all of my openwork by hand, but it would be fun to knock out a sheared nutria cowl in 10 minutes on a machine, you know?

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