Chiengora: How a lady earns extra cash with upcycled canine hair

Editor's Note: This article was originally published in 2016.

One person's garbage is another person's treasure, and for Pat Martinek it is a second career.

She makes beautiful clothes and works of art from discarded dog hair.

With her unique approach to sourcing supplies and a technique she has perfected with decades of practice, Martinek's work is in constant demand with animal lovers looking for special keepsakes – and her side business brings an additional $ 10,000 a year.

A lifelong passion for spinning

Pat Martinek spins dog hair into yarn, from which she then weaves a blanket. Christie Post / The Penny Hoarder

When Martinek was in high school, she had the unique opportunity to live with a Navajo family for 10 days on their reservation. There she learned traditional weaving and spinning techniques with raw fibers.

Martinek loved the process and took classes at college. During her professional career as a geologist, spinning was a constant passion and hobby.

However, spinning and knitting can be expensive and conventional fibers are expensive. A spinning wheel can cost up to $ 800, Just 3.5 ounces Merino wool can cost $ 17.99 and premium fibers like cashmere down can cost $ 49.50 for 125 grams, and most spinners need a lot more to get enough yarn to knit a garment.

So Martinek was looking for alternative fibers that she could get cheaply or for free. She kept her own Angora rabbits, but then friends introduced her to spinning dog hair.

“Dog hair – sometimes called Chiengora – Can make nice yarn, ”said Martinek. "It's warmer than other fibers, so a Chiengora scarf or sweater can help you withstand the most brutal temperatures."

By collecting dog hair, buying on Craigslist, or making a donation, Martinek was able to make beautiful items out of an item that most people found annoying. Martinek is committed to the environment and sustainability, so converting dog hair is just another extension of their upcycling approach.

Start a company Spinning Dog Hair


Martinek uses discarded dog hair to make clothing and works of art. Christie Post / The Penny Hoarder

Martinek quickly realized that there is potential for a company that can help finance their passion.

People who love their pets often want to remember their fluffy friends with unique keepsakes, and Martinek's unique creations filled a niche. She founded an online business called The Fyber Caféwhere she makes money by creating special memorabilia.

For those who prefer to knit their own articles, Martinek offers spinning services. Dog owners from all over the world can send her dog's hair to her in Golden, Colorado, and she will spin it into yarn.

Long-haired breeds like Samoyed or Great Pyrenees are an excellent yarn, but Martinek says that their unique processing allows them to work with even shorter-haired dogs and to get high-quality yarn that doesn't fluff or shed. It averages $ 18 per finished ounce; Depending on the dog's hair, she may need up to a trash bag with raw fur.

For those looking for finished materials, she also creates scarves, hats, felt portraits and even dog leads. The price ranges from $ 50 for a leash to $ 120 for a scarf or hat. Her unique felt portraits, on which she painstakingly creates your dog's picture with her own hair, range from $ 130 to $ 330.

How dog fur finances her retirement

While Martinek is retiring as a geologist after decades, her Chiengora business is helping to provide additional income for her hobbies. She loves participating in web and spinning conferences, fairs and courses.

She brings in over $ 10,000 a year in additional income from her business, which helps her pay for seminars and trips without plunging into her pension fund while doing an activity she loves.

Chiengora is a growing trend


Spinners like Martinek who are willing to work with Chiengora often have extensive waiting lists; many earn a full-time income from it. Christie Post / The Penny Hoarder

Martinek is not the only one using this trend.

Spinners like them, who are willing to work with Chiengora, often have extensive waiting lists. many earn a full-time income from it. These enthusiasts are working hard to end the assumptions about dog hair.

"People expect the yarn to smell," said Martinek. "But if it's properly cleaned and carded, it won't smell at all, even if you're caught in a rainstorm."

The properties of Chiengora make it desirable for nature lovers. It is said to be 80% warmer than woolThis makes several heavy layers superfluous.

In fact, many people today buy Chiengora clothing regardless of whether it comes from their dog or not. The demand for luxurious dog hair is steadily increasing.

"While I used to get boxes of dog hair for free, people are now calculating," said Martinek. "Especially owners of double-coated breeds sell pounds of dog fur on websites like Craigslist and Etsy."

While Martinek used to be the only Chiengora artist in her area, more and more spinners with the coveted fibers are appearing.

"It is wonderful to see that it is more accepted," said Martinek. "Instead of throwing it away, people can instead collect dog hair and get something nice."

Kat Tretina is an associate of The Penny Hoarder.

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