Spinning Dog Hair Into Clothes
By Mimi Rohr/ Gamma
Dog owners now have something to do with their pet’s hair besides clogging up the vacuum cleaner. Thanks to VIP Fibers, they can have their animal’s hair spun into yarn and transformed into clothing and other keepsakes.

Victoria Pettigrew launched VIP Fibers, the first U.S. enterprise to spin pet fiber, or fur into yarn. "I couldn't bear to throw away the tuffs of fluff removed from my Chows brush after grooming. It was so soft, so light and the color was unsurpassed by any other natural fiber I had ever seen,” remembers Victoria Pettigrew, the founder and owner of VIP Fibers.

One day Pettigrew told her husband that she would like to knit a sweater from the Chow-Chow - a long- hair dog breed of Chinese origins - Boo Boo’s fur. The next day Pettigrew’s husband came home with a spinning wheel and VIP Fibers was born.“ It wasn't until my 16 year old Lhasa Apso (another long-haired dog breed), Karly, passed away in 2001 and I spun her fur and knitted it into a small neck scarf that I decided to focus on pet fiber,” said Pettigrew. Pettigrew thought it stood to reason that if she valued this gift from her pet, so might others.

Initially an internet based home business, the company advised clients how to procure and store their pet’s fur, which would then be shipped to Pettigrew to be spun into yarn.

After the spinning and carding process is completed, the yarn is then treated with an enzyme bath that removes odors so finished product do not smell like the pet. This formula of the enzyme bath was developed by Pettigrew and is a patented trade secret, unique to VIP Fibers.

VIP Fibers has steadily grown over the last five years despite a fickle U.S. economy. In 2001 the company spun 215 pounds of pet fiber and has spun 400 lbs so far in 2005. Pet owners can have their own yarn spun at $6 an ounce.“I contribute the success of VIP Fibers to people’s love for their pets,” said Pettigrew. “I’m just the middle man.”

The company has moved to a commercial location this year, where they sell a variety of accessories for the storage of pet fiber, yarns and other accessories as well as keepsakes made from pet fiber. If you don’t have a pet but would like to work with a unique yarn, VIP Fibers sells yarn from different species. Pettigrew obtains fiber from dog groomers, which she spins and sells from her storefront.

Cheryl Dickinson discovered VIP Fibers on line three and a half years ago. Dickinson now owns two hats and a scarf on the way, from the proceeds of her dog Zizi , a Collie –Shepherd mix. “It’s not a lot of work. You have to brush your dog anyway,” said Dickinson. Zizi’s gifts became all the more precious to Dickinson, when a car hit Zizi. Luckily, Zizi’s still around but the near miss “made me thankful to have the hat, as a connection to my dog. It’s really neat,” said Dickinson.

&She’s a superstar. I am thrilled with the success of my projects,” said Gail deRita, the owner of Juno, a seven- year- old Husky, a snow dog. “She is very organized, kind and compassionate.” In addition to deRita’s personal projects, Pettigrew has donated items to the Northern California Sled Dog Rescue (NORSLED), an organization with which de Rita is affiliated.

VIPs charitable program offers finished pieces spun from fiber donated by federally recognized non-profit rescue organizations, such as NORSLED.Although the majority of VIP’s spinning endeavors are with dog fur, Pettigrew has worked with a variety of fiber from cat to hamster fur as well as llamas to goats to name a few.

Dog hair is 80% warmer than sheep’s wool, said Pettigrew whose motto is “better yarn from your pet than from a sheep you never met.”

Mimi Rohr © 2005
VIP Fibers website is at http://www.vipfibers.com