The Little Ones, Part 2: Chinchillas

chinchillaHave you knit with chinchilla?  I have not, but it’s something I will have to try.  Creature Comforts has some knit kits ready to go.

Chinchillas are rodents native to the Andes, and their pelts long clothed the Chincha people of the Andes (hence the name “chinchilla”).  Their pelts entered the international fur trade in the 1500s, and by the 19th century chinchillas had been hunted to the brink of extinction.  One species is extinct; the two remaining are near extinction as they are subject to illegal hunting.  Domesticated chinchillas are bred for their pelts; it takes about 150 chinchilla pelts to make a coat.  Currently Argentina is the leader in chinchilla breeding.

Chinchilla fur is warm and dense – so dense that the animal does not bathe in water but in dust.  On average, 60 hairs come from each follicle (which explains the density).  Their fur is double layered (coarse and fine), and it is the fine hair that spinners seek.  There are two ways to obtain the hair:  (1) picking up the loose hair at the breeding farms, or (2) brushing (or shearing) your pet chinchilla.  If you brush or shear a chinchilla, you will get between 16 and 20 grams of fur from one animal.

Before you go out and buy yourself a chinchilla, be sure and read up on their care and feeding.  🙂

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About sweatyknitter

Fiber art devotee, author, and amateur artisan bread baker.
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23 Responses to The Little Ones, Part 2: Chinchillas

  1. Thank you for telling us this! I am sure one doesn’t have to be a “tree hugger” (and no problem with that!), to care about humane treatment of animals! I imagine we non-commercial folks in the fiber world would prefer humanely harvested chinchilla fur!

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  2. Thank you for visiting – and providing input! I too have never known anyone to spin chinchilla yarn … I have a hunch you can’t spin directly off a chinchilla’s back like you can with an angora rabbit though!

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  3. atomiclulu says:

    I am a Chin Rescue Mommy 😀 Please make sure when buying fur from chins that its humanely harvested. I know tree hugger alert ❤ I love these little critters so much and they make such wonderful pets for young children. Sadly we have had to rescue Chins in really poor health conditions because they were bought from Mass Pet stores and not really researched. They get diabetes block and many other conditions. If you have can find a wool blend mixed with plucked chin – it is the most glorious fiber you will ever knit with.

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  4. That makes sense. Don’t imagine it’s very cost effective either!

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  5. gareths were pets, he just took their shed fur in for others too use. he worked with plant dna, closest he ever got to lab animals was when he was in charge of keeping his lab’s cocaine plant alive cos it had to be kept in the high security area alongside the chimps(erm…they weren’t growing it recreationally, they needed the leaves to experiment on).
    He used to breeed them for fun, but the two he has now are ancient, they’re 17 and all they ever want is bits of raisin and hobnobs. oh, and the big one always tries to chew my grnadmothers wedding ring off my little finger, she likes the shiny

    did you know they defend themselves from threats by peeing straight into the eyes of the aggressor – apparently they’ve got deadly aim

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  6. Northern Narratives says:

    Well, I have never known anyone to make chinchilla yarn. I learn something new today on your interesting blog 🙂

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  7. Now that would be a sight! I think the same thing every time I see lobsters in a tank in a restaurant I want to grab them and run!

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  8. So does that make chinchillas lab animals? I had never heard of that. And yes, I wouldn’t risk spinning if they make you sneeze! 🙂

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  9. I have seen them only at pet stores … But I don’t want pets anymore. I like looking at and letting others’ though!

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  10. As it staple is short and smooth, I wonder if only the more adventurous and experienced spinners would give it a spin?

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  11. Curls & Q says:

    Q – Chinchilla 77 yards / 50 grams

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  12. What’s the weight and yardage? Does it have a tight twist? (Curious)

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  13. No musk ox or yak on the list? 🙂

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  14. Thanks for reading the post! I have felt chinchillas but have never known anyone who raised them. They sure feel luxurious.

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  15. I keep hinting that we ‘need’ a goat – mohair, of course. 🙂

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  16. I did not know they were rodents…Why do I jump at anything smaller than my ankle? Lol!

    Wait a minute. i jump at just about anything besides a cat.

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  17. tgonzales says:

    I loved your story and remember one of our dear friends was raising chinchillas when I was a young girl. I don’t think he did it for very long and I was too young to really ask questions. Thanks for the memories.

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  18. Thanks! Am working on getting a couple of alpacas, a goat, a sheep, a rabbit……and now I can put chinchilla on my list:-)

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  19. Curls & Q says:

    Q – I have a skein of chinchilla sitting in my stash. Really need to use it. Maybe this year?

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  20. We used to have a chinchilla when I was in college, but I never in a million years would have thought to spin his sheddings. Bet it feels amazing though!

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  21. Lisa says:

    What an interesting looking animal! He looks cute!!

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  22. gareth’s two are old biddies, they shed everywhere and it makes me sneeze, so I’m not sure I’d want to risk spinning it!

    Gareth used to take fur from his chinnies into the Lab cos one of the other genetecists used it as a carrier for crystalising protiens

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  23. I LOVE him. I want one. I am not getting one but I want one. Free the Chinchillas. Let them go free. 🙂

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