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The hair of the dog is spun into pet owners' garments


She's not spinning straw into gold but, for dog lovers, the outcome is just as precious.

Arlene Graham spins dog hair into yarn.

Thanks to the Beavercreek, Ohio, woman, pooch owners across the country are donning sweaters -- or vests or hats -- made from Fido fur.

One Massachusetts patron has an afghan made from her afghans.

Although Ms. Graham has been spinning the hair for years, a recently published book on the subject received national attention and brought her unusual talent back into the limelight.

Jan Wolgast, whose black-and-gray sweater looks very much like her keeshond, Sammy, says the piece always sparks conversation.

"It took me three years to save enough hair," says Ms. Wolgast, who gathered Sammy's hair when he shed and after grooming and kept it in a plastic bag. "I thought it would be fun to have a sweater made from our own dog."

Ms. Graham spun her first dog hair yarn in Boston in the '70s when she signed up for a spinning workshop.

"The variety of fibers was limited in those days," she says. "You had to find a farmer with a sheep and people would spin anything that wasn't nailed down -- even dryer lint."

When friends found out she could spin, some began bringing cat and dog fur to her.

The process involves sorting the fur, teasing the fibers, carding and spinning, then washing and blocking.

Ms. Graham has worked fur from old English sheep dogs, collies, Samoyeds and says even short-haired dogs' fur can be turned into sweaters by blending it with wool or silk.

Why do owners want a sweater made from their pet? The reasons vary as much as the breeds.

Some wear them when they show their dogs. Others are thinking ahead to when they will no longer have their pet.

"I got a letter recently from a woman who was so happy because she lost her dog and has this memento of him," Ms. Graham says.

Cost for the spinning is $12 per ounce for finished yarn. Ms. Graham estimates the amount of yarn needed for a garment might range from $35 for a hat to hundreds of dollars for a large sweater.

Knitting is not included in the price, but Ms. Graham will put you in touch with those who do it.

Ms. Graham also spins wool, silk and mohair and sells the yarn at crafts fairs. She operates a shop in her Beavercreek home.

For more information, call (513) 426-5522.

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