Don't throw away those hairballs...

McClatchy NewspapersOctober 5, 2011 

According to the Humane Society, there are approximately 86.4 million cats owned in the United States.

And most of them shed.

Blogger / writer Kaori Tsutaya, a cat lover from Japan, has found a use for all that fine fur that usually ends up on an owner’s pants, shirts, bedspreads, chairs and carpets.

In “Crafting with Cat Hair”, she shows you how to create crafts — finger puppets, book covers, tote bags and pin cushions — that use your feline’s contribution.

For all that this seems self-indulgent, “Crafting” is filled with helpful tidbits aimed at the cat owner as well as the crafter. Tsutaya says she wrote the book to “share the fun and happiness these cute cat crafts have brought me.” She uses her own cats as models, and introduces them at the end.

What does she do? She creates felt. She entwines the fur fibers and compress them. How much hair does she recommend? “A mound just big enough to fill both hands.”

She recommends gently brushing the cat, watching carefully for when the cat has had enough, and might bite you. Along with collecting fur, brushing is good to keep the cat from running into issues with hairballs. She explains the difference between textures of the topcoat and the undercoat.

Some of the tips are very basic, such as “Do not shave your cat” to collect the fur. “First ask people whether they are allergic to cats” before handing out a gift. Some are more informational, such as the chart as to which month is the best for fur collection. (April and May, the worst month for shedding, are marked with four hairballs.)

Using a felting needle and other tools, you can start on the first project, which is a cat finger puppet.

Tsutaya points out that once you’ve created your craft — say, gloves with delicate felted cats — you will need to handle the gloves delicately. She suggests washing them by hand. Be gentle.

This is a sweet book aimed directly at the cat owners and crafters, and should do well as a gift for that hard-to-find-for friend who loves cats.

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Crafting with Cat Hair: Cute Handicrafts to Make With Your Cat” by Kaori Tsutaya, translated from the Japanese by Amy Hirschman; Quirk Books, Philadelphia (96 pages, $14.95)

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