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the great cat fur felting experiment

This story begins on Christmas Day 2011, when I was living in Kyoto for a year of glorious tea life that is Midorikai. Opening a box of presents shipped to me by my family, I found the book Crafting with Cat Hair: Cute Handicrafts to Make with Your Cat from my brother's wife. A natural reaction to this book is to wonder whether it's for real. Is it some kind of joke? I mean, cat hair? You don't have to read very far in to see that it's for real. The projects are all some form of felting, which I gather is all you can really do craft-wise with cat hair, since you can't spin it into yarn(?). In Kyoto my main contact with cats was an occasional visit to the local cat cafe, where loose fur is removed from the environment with unobtrusive but zealous efficiency. In any case, my obvious source of cat fur would be my cats whom a co-worker was generally caring for while I was overseas. They shed prolifically and in every season.

close-up of needle-felted cat fur embellishmentHaving returned to the States and my prolifically shedding cats, I knew I had to try some kind of cat fur craft. My sister-in-law may have meant the gift in jest, but if she paid to ship the book halfway around the world and I was paying to ship it back on my return, I was going to use it. And what better way to return the joke than to gift her handmade things made with cat hair, right?

I had no experience with any kind of felting, but after a few years of procrastinating, I got myself a felting needle and sponge, cut out some cat stencils from cardboard, and got to work stabbing loose tufts of my cats' hair into the shape. And stabbing and stabbing and stabbing. It didn't seem like I was getting anywhere, so—eager to meet the upcoming deadline of the recipient's birthday—I ordered a seven-needle felting tool. Now I was cooking with gas! cat-fur-embellished mini tote bagSo much so that not only was the cat hair adhering to the surface of the tote bag I'd sewed together, it was getting embedded into the felting sponge beneath the 3mm-thick wool felt fabric! This wasn't a problem, fortunately, as the sponge could be pulled away with no ill effects. Maybe a single felting needle works better with wool roving than with cat hair, but for me switching to a seven-needle tool made a tremendous difference. After completing the needle-felted cat shape, I finished the bag with a magnetic snap closure and cotton rope handles.

wet-felted cat fur earringsBut there's more! Giving my sister-in-law a gift made with my cats' hair was well and good, but wouldn't it be more meaningful and personal if I made something with her cats' hair? :) Since I had a shorter time to collect their hair—having to do it without her or my brother's knowledge—and craft with it, I opted for a simpler project, one not from the book but from instructables: earrings made from cat hair that has been wet felted into beads. As expected, this was SO MUCH EASIER. I have a bunch of my cats' hair left over, and if I do any more cat hair crafting in the future, it will almost certainly be via wet felting rather than needle felting. After I made the earrings, I thought they looked a little drab, so I wrapped some blue and green thread randomly around them, which I think peps them up. Whether she will ever wear these earrings is yet to be known. :)

This entry was originally posted at http://bokunenjin.dreamwidth.org/61205.html.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 9th, 2015 12:47 pm (UTC)
Oh that's so cool! Did you make the bag as well? It also looks felted.

I do actually know of a couple friends or FoF who have tried to spin cat hair, so I believe it actually is possible. I seem to recall the main problem (besides the challenge of working with short hairs; probably best to use a long-haired cat) is that cat hair is SO light and compressible that it takes a very large amount of fur and work to make even a tiny amount of yarn.
Jun. 9th, 2015 01:45 pm (UTC)
I made the bag in that I sewed together a folded piece of thick felt that I bought, but I didn't make that felt.

Ah, thanks for the clarification on spinning cat hair. Not going to try it. :)
Jun. 12th, 2015 02:07 pm (UTC)
Julie, who's been felting for quite some time, switched over to some kind of special spiral needle that is like 9000 times faster than previous tools. I can ask her for further details if you want.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )