Chiengora

The soft high-quality wool spun from the undercoat of domestic dogs

Iva Parlakchieva
Photography by Modus Intarsia

Chiengora

At Knitwear Lab we examined the quality of this low-impact and 100% animal cruelty-free yarn in industrial knitting and reached promising results! Can Chiengora answer the growing demand of the textile industry for ethical and durable yarns?

From undercoat to yarn

Chiengora is a super soft and warm high-quality wool, comparable to cashmere and angora. The sustainable and ethical yarn is spun from the undercoat of selected dog breeds – which is a waste material from their daily grooming routine. No dogs have been specially bred (or harmed) for the wool production, but only lovingly combed.

Recently the fashion start-up Modus Intarsia put this pure and ethical raw material on the map of sustainable fiber sources, building a network of domestic dog owners and a wool collection system. According to the founders – Ann Cathrin Schönrock (knitwear and fashion designer) and Franziska Uhl (textile engineer), tons of dog wool hit the bins in Europe each year. Collaborating with spinning mills in Germany, the company successfully transforms this waste material into yarns for hand-knitting and industrial production.

Photo courtesy of Emilie Burfeind

A shoe upper from dog hair

At KNITWEAR LAB, we used Chiengora to knit the shoe upper for Sneature – the waste-based, biodegradable sneaker by Emilie Burfeind nominated for the Green Product Award 2021. The Chiengora yarn gives the shoe an insulating, breathable and elastic quality. For the knitting of the membrane from dog wool, we have used 3D knitting technology that makes on-demand production feasible and reduces energy consumption.

Promising test results for Chiengora in Industrial Knitting

Building on the sneaker’s success, our team further tested the knitting properties of Modus Intarsia’s industrial Chiengora yarn (a mixture of Tencel lyocell, recycled wool and dog wool) in a sweater development. We selected a single jersey knitting technique that reinforces the yarn’s softness and fluffiness. According to the tests on our STOLL machinery, Chiengora can be well processed and knitted with, and its properties are comparable with the properties of traditional wool types.

Photo courtesy of Emilie Burfeind

Can Chiengora replace traditional wool production?

For years global fiber demand has been growing exponentially. Even though wool and fine animal hair only account for a slice of the market, its impact on our eco-system is huge and its production struggles to surmount with the popular rise of animal ethics. We are very excited for the textile industry to start embracing Chiengora as an ethical, low-impact alternative. With 85 million dogs that are kept as domestic pets in Europe (approximately half of them are of breeds that can produce Chiengora) there’s potential for it to become available at very large quantities!

However, there are still many obstacles to overcome. There’s very little information available on the properties of Chiengora in literature. Even though a good washing removes any dog odour, the perception rules that dog hairs will never completely loose the scent of their original wearer. Knitwear Lab aims to contribute to the commercialization of this fiber by using it in our product development. We hope to inspire more designers and brands to start exploring the qualities and benefits of Chiengora.