For the longest time, Preston and I had a motto of sorts. As we walked through the grocery store, avoiding the isles harboring screaming grimy children and their harassed mothers, or as we drove past someone out on a freezing winter night walking their scrawny little mutt, we smirk wisely to each other and say, "No kids, no pets!" It was symbolic of all the ways we refuse to limit ourselves. It was about how totally awesome our lives are and how we refuse to muck them all up with ankle-biters of any kind.
However. We seem to have somehow found ourselves living with a long-haired cat. And it sorta seems like we really like her. And we like having her around, and we worry when she goes out at night and doesn't want to come back in before bedtime (not least because we are likely to wake up to some small furry dead creature left as a token of gratitude on the porch in the morning). She's been living here for 7 months or so, and we have still refrained from calling her a pet. Even though we bought earmite medicine for her. And we had the neighbor come down and feed her every day when we were on vacation over xmas. And I'm starting to realize that all those things that I thought were so annoying in other people's animals aren't nearly as annoying in the one that lives with us. With one exception.
It is now shedding season. She came to live with us last fall, so we have only known her while she was putting on the additional hair; we didn't realize what it would be like coming off. It coats every surface in the house. You can't open your mouth without getting some on your tongue. It is only by an act of willpower that we choose not to see it coating every bite of food that we put in our mouths. For a while, I was seriously questioning our decision to let her in the house at all. And then, one day, I had an epiphany.
There's gotta be something useful to be done with all this hair. And the conjunction of a few happenings, including having just learned how to make cordage and recently having seen Preston's mom's growing collection of home-spun yarn, made me wonder if it's possible to spin long-haired cats, umm, I mean cat hair. I don't have a spindle or any of the necessary supplies, and don't really have any idea how it's done, so I called up Kathy to see what she thought. She had lots of helpful information, and I gave it a go.
It turns out that it is possible to spin cat hair, although I suspect wool is much easier. Sorta like the difference between trying to make dreads with kinky hair versus making dreads with straight hair. You can do it with straight hair, but it's not quite the same.
I started with a big handful of hair, which I had brushed off the kitty. She's indoor/outdoor, so it needed some serious cleaning. I don't have carders, which are what the real spinners use to get all the hairs laying in the same direction. When you pull the cat hair off the brush, it's all matted up, so I tried to get the hairs all lined up the same direction as I cleaned it. Here's the unprocessed hair on my left knee, and the little pile of cleaned straightened stuff on the right.
Then with your right hand, you take a pinch of a dozen or so hairs from the bundle of hair in your left hand, pull it out a little ways from the main bunch of hair, and use your palm to roll it against your pant leg in order to twist it up. Don't let it twist all the way in to the main bunch of hair in your left hand. Before it gets there, pull out a little more of the hair and keep twisting. Here's kitty helping with the process. Click on the picture to get a closeup of the twisting.
As you can see by the two tails in the picture below, the twisted up strands like rather more like orange dreads than like yarn. I suspect that this is because it's straight cat hair, rather than the kinky wool which would wrap onto itself. It also might work better if I had a real spindle rather than using the legroll method. But that was good enough to at least get it all into one strand. Then I took two of those strands and twisted them together as if I was making cordage. This step would be much easier either with wool, or with a spindle. Ideally, you should be able to spin the two strands together the same way you created the first strand (only in the opposite direction), but I couldn't get that to work. And the hairs wouldn't grip each other well enough to use the legroll method that I know from cordage-making. So I did the hard manual way (twist, twist, wrap…twist, twist, wrap…). If you click on the picture, you'll get a bigger version of the picture in order to see more detail.
And after most of an afternoon (about halfway through, Preston walked by and said, "You're right. You don't need to smoke pot."), I ended up with this (click for the close-up).
This is only about half of the hair that I started with in the initial picture, and in the couple days since then I've collected at least that much more. It's thin enough that I'm thinking of using it for thread on some primitive-type project. I've been studying up on tanning small pelts, for the next time kitty brings me a rabbit. Perhaps I'll use this thread to make a rabbit-skin bag.
But don't worry, we still aren't tempted to have any kids. I suppose if a particularly cute and friendly one showed up on our doorstep, and then wouldn't go away after we gave it a bowl of milk, we might consider keeping it. The odds seem slim.