Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Bear with Me...

Life Lesson # 4545: Beware of anyone bearing a large, orange Home Depot pail and a really big grin. Although he ostensibly went for a walk in the woods, somehow Roy returned home with about two pounds of, um, grizzly bear fur.

His story (verbatim):

I was walking in the forest, when all of a sudden, a huge, ferocious, mean, nasty, scary grizzly bear leapt out of the trees, intent on stealing my fruit bar. We wrestled for a while, and after a few right hooks and an uppercut to his snout, I forced him onto the ground and held him down in a hammerlock. Knowing how much you love exotic fiber, I whipped out my trusty comb, ran it through his/her pelt, and collected the fur in this handy orange pail that I always take camping, because you never know when you'll need one.

The real story, needless to say, revolved around the nearby bear park, a kind manager, and the same orange pail...

Never having gotten close enough to a bear to run my fingers through its fur, I was prepared for just about anything. My sense, from looking at bears from a respectfully healthy distance, is that the fur would be rather coarse. And I was right.


Not surprisingly, bears shed in the summer months. The fur is a mixture of long hairs and a reasonably soft undercoat. We washed it gently in a bit of detergent, the rinsed it and let it dry in a mesh bag overnight.

 Raw grizzly bear fiber

 I spent an hour with a fine-toothed comb and removed the outer hairs, leaving a handful of springy short fur that felt quite like Shetland wool. And like wool, bear fur is well lubricated, containing a healthy amount of, um, bear oil?

Dehaired grizzly bear fiber


I didn't think that spinning the undiluted fur would be rewarding, so I grabbed a bit of merino/silk, and carded it with the bear fiber. The ratio was about 30% grizzly, 70% merino/silk.

Grizzly bear fiber carded with merino/silk

Grizzly bear fiber and merino/silk rolag

Then I grabbed a Tibetan supported spindle and spun it into a single, two plies of which will make a fingering weight yarn.

   Grizzly bear fiber and merino/silk, spun on a supported spindle


This stuff is surprisingly pleasant to spin--springy and not the least bit slippery, thanks to the natural oils. It was easy to pluck out the remaining coarse hairs, producing a lively yarn which, while not luxuriously soft, would make interesting outerwear. And Roy, after his death-defying escapade, certainly deserves an ear warmer made from handspun merino/silk/grizzly bear.

The fur was donated by Mikie, a Rocky Mountain Grizzy, ten feet tall, weighing in at a svelte 1000 pounds. Mikie's day job is acting; he starred in Budwiser commercials in 1997 and 1998. No, I don't know what he was doing with the beer. Probably eating the cans whole.






24 comments:

Astriya said...

Ok, definitely time for you to move in with me. This way instead of having to wait for you to ship me things from your shop, I can have instant access to everything in your shop. I am going to card that bear fur with some CVM and make a hat to send my cousin, I may even add some pink firestar to it just because. He's always sending me weird things he finds and asking me if I can spin it into something. I know he'll love the grizzly.

yarnlot said...

There seem to be no limits to your courage and determination! But how can we prevent other grizzly bears to be attracted by such a hat?

Hunny Bunny said...

This is one of the coolest things I have ever read. (had to be said)

FoFo said...

How interesting! Never thought of bear fur for yarn!

Toffeesmum said...

You'll have to add this to the next edition of The Book!

Elizabeth said...

What a cool story! I suppose any animal with fur can be spun but I think bear is very exotic. Good for you in trying it.

WendyKnits said...

Only you would spin bear fur. :-)

Nannette said...

What next, spider hair?

gayle said...

Now dreaming of Grizzly bear hiking socks...

PenCraft said...

Just got back from a trip to Denali National Park and your post felt right in line. Woozza

mlemmonsdesigns.com said...

I can just see my brothers doing something like that, complete with outrageous story.

It looks awesome! And now you have the perfect fiber related one-up. "Yeah? Well, I spun grizzly fur!"

blandina (aracne) said...

What a terrific story! I never heard about spinning bear fur, your mixing the hair with silk/merino is simply brilliant.

steelwool said...

What a great tale about "the one that got away".

CeltChick said...

Bears LOVE beer; I have seen a "tamed" one guzzle it from a long-neck bottle--which he held himself, thank you. The problem with giving beer to a bear is that he never wants to say "No more". I don't want to think about the hangover after....
Sorry, I'm keeping the student spindle -- would you like my new drop spindle instead?

Mo said...

What happens if he wants his fur back?

Just give him the hat real quick and RUN!

Kahli6 said...

mrrrf? (you said it first)

jennigma said...

In the words of some of my favorite Dr Seuss characters,

We are here! We are Here! We are HERE!!

Toffeesmum said...

Darn, someone said mrrrf already. I'll say xyzzy or maybe plugh instead.

kath1996 said...

Hi....(kath1996 waves wildly and jumps up and down in order to be noticed)

You write the most amazing blog.

The end

(there....I wrote something)

kath1996 said...

Hi....(kath1996 waves wildly and jumps up and down in order to be noticed)

You write the most amazing blog.

The end

(there....I wrote something)

Teri said...

I never comment on blogs but just for you....

Drillepind said...

You're not just talking to air :)

aprilquilts said...

Color me impressed! LOVE your blog, and love the bear story.

Helen said...

It would be interesting if you could get hold of some fur from a female bear in order to compare them. The tall hats worn by Guards regiments in the British Army (and other armies) are called bearskins (frequently incorrectly called busbies) and while the hats for other ranks are made from fur from male bears, the officers' hats are made from fur from female bears, because it's softer. I think they use Canadian bear skins bought from licensed Inuit traders. It looks as if your husband will have to go out into the woods again.