The Fan Hitch Volume 2, Number 3, May 2000

Newsletter of the Inuit Sled Dog

Table of Contents

From the Editor
Nunavut Quest 2000:
More Than a Race
Nunavut Quest 2000:
Drivers' Meeting
Nunavut Quest 2000:
On the Trail
Nunavut Quest 2000:
Race Results
Poem: Dogs of the Sledge Trail
Inuit Demand Inquiry of Historical Dog Extermination Policy
Nunavut's Official Symbols
Niels Pedersen, D.V.M:
The Veterinary Service in Greenland
ISDI Foundation:
Sled Dog Problems in Iqaluit
Baking: Dog Cookie Recipe
Crafts: Save That Hair
Behavioral Notebook:
Social Order
Book Review:
Polar Dream
In My Humble Opinion: 
Sharing the Trail
Ihe ISDVMA Meeting

Navigating This Site

Index of articles by subject

Index of back issues by volume number

Search The Fan Hitch

Articles to download and print

Ordering Ken MacRury's Thesis

Our comprehensive list of resources

Talk to The Fan Hitch

The Fan Hitch home page

ISDI home page

Editor's/Publisher's Statement
              Editor: Sue Hamilton
              Webmaster: Mark Hamilton
The Fan Hitch Website and Publications of the Inuit Sled Dog– the quarterly Journal (retired in 2018) and PostScript – are dedicated to the aboriginal landrace traditional Inuit Sled Dog as well as related Inuit culture and traditions. 

PostScript is published intermittently as material becomes available. Online access is free at:  PostScript welcomes your letters, stories, comments and The editorial staff reserves the right to edit submissions used for publication.

Contents of The Fan Hitch Website and its publications  are protected by international copyright laws. No photo, drawing or text may be reproduced in any form without written consent. Webmasters please note: written consent is necessary before linking this site to yours! Please forward requests to Sue Hamilton, 55 Town Line Rd., Harwinton, Connecticut  06791, USA or

Crafts: Save That Hair!
By Sue Hamilton

Even if you have only one dog, there's likely to be at least oneshopping bag full of shed out hair sometime in your near future.    Some of you may have contemplated finding a spinner and maybe a knitter or a crochet-er. Well, here's something just about anyone can do...FUR FELT BALLS!  True, you can't wear 'em.  They have limited use and if swallowed by a dog, you'll end up with a good sized vet bill for emergency surgical extraction.  But, hey, it's something you can do with the fur. 

All you need, aside from a pile of fur is a bottle of dish detergent, regular or concentrated, (Ivory is recommended), a bucket or tub big and deep enough to immerse your hands up to the wrists and an automatic clothes washing machine, although the balls can be finished off by hand if an automatic clothes washer is not available.  This activity must be done over a sink or plastic dish pan or done outside, because there will be a fair amount of soapy water dripping all around.

The Fur.  It should be relatively clean and free of debris and comprised mostly of undercoat.  Gather it in plastic bags and store in the freezer for at least 3 days to kill any bugs.  Different fur works differently.   We  have had  good luck with wolf fur and fur from a light coated dog, but not from a dark coated dog.  We even have a cat whose fur will felt beautifully with only dry preparation.

The Solution.  You need enough soapy water to immerse your two hands cupped around a pile of fur and be absorbed by the submerged fur.  How soapy should it be?  Enough so when you rub some between your index finger and thumb, it feels slightly slippery.  You will have to experiment.  Try not to overdue it with the soap, however.

Preparing the Fur.  Cup inside your hands as much fur as you can easily hold, fairly well compressed, without having any stick out.  You can make the ball smaller if you wish, but not larger than your hands can comfortably hold.  Set aside any other fur for more balls.  Now the portioned out fur must be teased apart, shredded by taking small pinches with each thumb and index finger and pulling apart, until you have a rather large, almost see-through pile.  The strands should not be laying all in one direction.

The Baptism.    Set  up  your  soapy  water outdoors or in a location  where  you don't mind getting the floor wet, or have your catch basin ready. Gather up the pile with your two hands until all of it is encompassed by your two cupped hands.  It is very important that you NOT fold and roll the fur as you would if kneading bread dough.  Just try to compress it from all directions at once towards its center. Hold your hands under the soapy solution until there are no more air bubbles rising to the surface.  You may gently and briefly squeeze the mass to express any remaining air.

The Felting Process.  Remove the ball from the water bucket.  The soapy water helps the individual hairs knot up as you GENTLY AT FIRST work the ball by ever so carefully squeezing and releasing the ball as you turn it in your hands.  Try tossing the mass gently from hand to hand a few times in between gently squeezing, rotating and rounding it in cupped hands.  Gradually, as more and more water comes out, you can increase the pressure, again being careful not to create folds.  During this process, the ball of fur will change character from feeling as if it will totally disintegrate to that of something you feel certain will be able to hold its shape on its own.  This perception is not unlike how bread dough changes from  a sticky mass to a smooth elastic ball after being kneaded for a while.  The felting time usually takes about 10-15 minutes, depending on the nature of the fur and the size of the ball.  By then, most of the water is worked out of the fur.  If successful, any guard hairs will work themselves to the outside and eventually shed.  If after 30 minutes, the ball is not firming up, it probably won't.  You might have a wisp of hair that  didn't integrate.  That's not bad, it can be cut away.  But if you have major flaps of fur hanging out all over, it didn't work.

Finishing the Process.  Rinse the ball in cool clear water. You don't have to squeeze the soap out.  Now put the ball in the washing machine and turn it directly to the spin cycle. Remove and reshape if necessary in between runs.  Spin for a couple of minutes.  Repeat the rinsing/spinning process once.  The spinning (drying) can also be done by hand by gently absorbing excess moisture in a towel. At this point the more you work the ball (and you can now really squeeze it vigorously) the smaller and firmer it will get.  Allow to dry completely at which point the doggie smell should be gone.

Now What?  Well, I've got one on my desk at work that I use as a stress reliever.  It used to be the size of a baseball.  Now it is the size of a tennis ball and soon to be the size of a pea!  You can make cat toys out of them by massing the fur around a plastic ball with a bell in it before immersing in soap solution.  Whoopie.  You can decorate the balls with colorful ribbon and use it on your Christmas tree, keeping in mind hair is highly flammable!  You can save the ball as a momento from your dear departed canine friend.  If you have a guide service, you can have your clients make their own doggie souvenirs.

If the thought of fur felt balls does not seem enticing, hang on to that fur all the same.  The fiber artist who gave me this recipe is working on plan to teach us all how to flat felt dog fur using supplies that most of us will have around the house.  If she is successful, I will present it in an upcoming Fan Hitch.

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