IN an age when most of the clothes we wear are mass produced and factory made, this garment worn by Strabane many Tony Jenkins really is a true original.
Made using hair groomed from family dog, Harry, the hair was spun into ‘wool’ and made into an Aran cardigan by woollen company, Studio Donegal.
Tragically, Harry the Samoyed passed away three years ago this April but his legacy lives on the form of this one-off garment.
Bred to pull sledges and hunt, the Samoyed are native to Siberia. And, in these northerly climes, Samoyed owners have been known to traditionally brush their pet’s coats, saving the groomed hair to make hats and gloves. A former
Liverpudlian, Tony Jenkins did exactly the same, ending up with some 3kgs of brilliant white hair by the time of Harry’s passing.
Speaking this week, Studio Donegal manager Tristan Donaghy admitted he was initially sceptical about the idea.
“Tony had read about the Samoyed and he thought it would be interesting to keep the fibres from the groomings,” Tristan said.
“When the dog died he started looking for someone to spin the fibres for him. Years ago we hand-carded the hair of a chow dog into a hat and it was not a particularly pleasant experience for us. So when Tony came down my initial reaction was to say definitely not.”
On inspecting the Samoyed hair though, Tristan noted that it had been well looked after and was not dissimilar to wool. Because of its slippery texture though, it was deemed not suitable for machine spinning. Instead it had to be done by hand.
Tristan’s mum agreed to give it a go but because of the slow nature of the process, the material took nearly two years to complete.
Once spun, it had to be hand knit. Local woman Kathleen Meehan took on that task, producing the garment in time for Christmas.
Studio Donegal were in Dublin recently at a ‘Slow Made Garment’ exhibition. Tristan Donaghy said that given the length of time it took to create Tony’s cardigan, he reckons he has that title already in the bag.
“It is the definition of a slow made garment,” he said.
“It took about 13 years when you consider the length of time to grow the fibre, spin it and then knit the garment. It is definitely one of a kind,” he added.