Pet fur conservator Marion Wheatland spins dog fur into yarn, keeping memories close

Pet fur conservator Marion Wheatland’s job title is as unique as the work itself.

Ms Wheatland takes dog fur and spins it into yarn to knit or crochet objects that owners can keep as treasured memories long after their pet has died.

It started with a poodle named Mango, but has branched into many breeds and she will soon attempt to spin dingo fur.

When Marion met Mango and May
A chance meeting with pet owner May, who brought her poodle Mango to a spinning workshop hosted by Ms Wheatland, led to her specialisation in pet fur.

“She said can you spin my dog because I don’t have a memory of my other dog, I want to get this one while this dog is here with us,” Ms Wheatland said.

Experience in other “exotic” fibres, such as Arctic musk ox, bison and camel — as well as an “out of the box” attitude toward spinning — made Ms Wheatland an excellent fit for the challenge.

Ms Wheatland has since spun dozens of breeds of dog fur into yarn and even spun cat fur.

The challenges of spinning dog fur
Vegetable matter can be an issue when spinning dog fur, but the same can be said for fibres more commonly turned into yarn.

“When the fibre has lots of sticks, twigs and all sorts of things through it, I have to sit there and pick it out with my fingers,” Ms Wheatland said.

“Alpaca is notorious for this.”

Dog fur is first spun and then it is washed multiple times to remove dirt and dead skin cells.

The “doggy smell” fades through the cleaning process and the yarn can then be knitted, crocheted or left as is.

Ms Wheatland said short-haired dog fur was difficult to work with and a minimum length of about 50 millimetres was required.

“Anything shorter than that is really difficult,” Ms Wheatland said.

“So, anybody with a pug, don’t call me.”

Reactions to pet fur yarn
Ms Wheatland said her work evoked reactions ranging from disbelief and astonishment to heartfelt thanks.

She said the response from pet owners was most important and the trust they placed in her was a “real honour”.

“One lady sent me her husky fibre and she was crying on the phone telling me the story and crying at the post office sending her precious dog fibre to me,” Ms Wheatland said.

“When she finally received it in the mail, she was crying on the phone again and saying how much she really appreciated it.”

New experiments with ancient yarns
Spinning dingo fur is her latest challenge.

The fibre goes against the length rule of no less than 50 millimetres, but Ms Wheatland couldn’t resist an opportunity to work with fur from the ancient breed of dog.

“It’s short and a little spiky, but I think it will spin reasonably well,” Ms Wheatland said.

Because of its length, the dingo fibre will be blended with wool as a companion fibre to successfully spin the fur to create yarn.

“It’s going to be a bit of an experiment that I’m going to enjoy,” Ms Wheatland said.