Ushi is my year-old blue-mitted Ragdoll and is what happens when you give the most beautiful cat in the world the brain of a pickled egg. He has the most amazing eyes (hey, did you know I hand-paint glass eyes for use in needle felting? Ragdoll-blue available!), enormous fluffy paws and a soft white-grey mid length coat. As such I get asked a lot ‘have you ever wanted to felt with Ushi’s fur?’
Yes. The answer is yes.
Now at this point I’d like to say that no Ushi’s were hurt in the making of this post. See, Ragdolls moult a lot, so I thought I’d be clever brush him so much that a) he wouldn’t leave fur all over the house, b) I’d be able to safely and ethically harvest his fur for my own use, and c) Ushi would get all the brushies his chubby little body could desire. Win-win.
Only Ushi (rhymes with plushie) did not shed his fur. At first I thought because he was a kitten, or then that it had something to do with the time of year, then I found out that not all ragdolls shed their entire coat every three days. I suppose I should be happy that he isn’t a heavy shedder, but it didn’t help with my plans.
Still, I always like to have a back-up plan. Now as I’ve already mentioned, Ushi loves his brushies and I brush him several times a day. For the past year I’ve been diligently saving all the brushed-off loose fur and saving it in a very small bag. Yes, the bag in the picture above is very small – maybe 3 x 2 inches. That is, quite literally, everything I could brush off him. Doesn’t look much.
Yet when I opened the bag I was surprised to find rather a lot of it. It seems that every time I added more fur to the bag I was compressing it more than I realised, and the end amount was at least twice what I’d thought. It also looked… less appealing than when it was still stuck to Ushi.
The two things that surprised me the most were that a) it didn’t feel as soft as I thought and that b) most of it already seemed half felted. Judging by the fact that Ushi regularly develops knots under his armpits despite having the physical energy of a sponge, I’m guessing that cat fur can be felted using will power and cat dribble alone.
What was interesting to me (and maybe no one else) was seeing the difference in fur textures. I started this when Ushi was three months old – he’s now 13 months old, and he not longer has the baby-soft kitten quality fur. Also, his coat has darkened over time, which is why the final collection is a mottled medley of white, creams and shades of grey (ooh, I’m going to enjoy reading the search terms that bring people to this site now I’ve written that down!)
Now, I felt with very fine, slippery fibre a lot. I’m used to merino, cashmere, alpaca etc, and the various challenges they pose. I’ve even felted with angora rabbit fur, which was tough but beautiful, and my expectations were along these lines. This, thought Gabby, is not going to work.
Reader… it works!
Now of course, this isn’t going to work with all breeds of cats, and if you try to do this with a sphynx or rex cat you probably need to have a word with yourself, but I guess this is a pretty good approximation of felting with long-haired cat fur.
Firstly, the needle coped with this fur (fibre???) brilliantly. I was really shocked. It had good grip, a satisfying crunch, and the fur stayed where I wanted it to, which is more than I can say about its owner. What’s more, it felted surprisingly quickly. Before long I started to forget that it wasn’t actual wool.
The end result was a ball of extremely good shape, very even and with no crease marks and minimal holes. The whites and greys blended to give a really lovely effect, although the final result was a bit of a hairy ball.
I was able to make this ball in about the same amount of time as it would take me in a standard sheep fibre, and the final texture is lovely, soft and surprisingly solid. It was not, however, as soft as something like alpaca or merino, and whilst I felt it made a ball quickly and easily I did feel very much that it wouldn’t be suitable for more complex shapes or anything detailed. If you’re doing something big and simple it’ll work great – if not, you’ll struggle.
To get ’round this I wondered how it would work as a top colour. Suppose you made your creation’s body out of a standard fibre – say, cheviot.
I was able to cover the ball quite quickly with what was once on Ushi’s tummy and tail. It wrapped around and was quickly and firmly secured using a 38 triangle.
Of course, cat fur has different properties depending on whether it’s the top coat or underfur, and you can see in the image some of the coarser top fur sticks out – it’s hard to tame this so you may be better off trimming it.
The final balls, in both their forms, were quite solid, soft (but not excessively soft – it doesn’t beat more traditional fibres like alpaca, and you could definitely feel the longer hairs) and very pretty. Personally I didn’t bother washing this just for the purpose of this test and, to be quite honest, I think even the gentlest of washes would agitate it enough to turn it into felt.
I don’t think sheep have anything to worry about just yet.
This was fun to do and might be something you’d want to consider if you wanted to incorporate your own cat’s fur into some sort of meaningful keepsake, but otherwise I wouldn’t bother. Although it felted quickly it wouldn’t be easy to make anything beyond basic shapes, you’d need an awful lot and the final texture is a bit scratchier than I’d like. Plus Ushi keeps trying to lick it, and I didn’t want it to be wet-felted!
Back to normal fibres for me!