Andrea Rouillard of Waldo is resigned to the fact that people connect her memory patches woven of pet fur with death, but to her they really are a symbol of life and love of animals.
“I stress that it’s not about death, it’s about the celebration of your pet’s life,” Rouillard said. “But I don’t think some pet owners are really prepared for that. You mention death, and they don’t want to go there.”
Rouillard has been creating her Full Moon Weavings memory patches for five years. She was inspired by the death of her own beloved German shepherd named Cheyenne, who had died from nasal cancer a few years earlier. She said she wanted to preserve Cheyenne’s memory with more than just photographs. She missed petting her dog and when her husband reminded her that he had saved some of Cheyenne’s fur, she knew what to do.
“I really missed petting her, it was that tactile thing,” Rouillard said. “One day I said there just has to be a way and Rich had saved some fur as a keepsake and I thought of weaving that into something. We all take photos, but this is something where you can still touch your pet.”
Rouillard had a spinning wheel and small loom but did not know how to operate either. She arranged for lessons from Deb Bergman of Purple Fleece in Stockton Springs and once she got the hang of it began spinning Cheyenne’s fur into yarn and weaving it into a small rug.
“Spinning is not easy but I knew what I wanted and I kept doing it,” she recalled. “I didn’t know what to do or how to begin but I knew that was what I wanted to do.”
Rouillard said she later learned that spinning yarn from animal fur was not unusual as many cultures have done so for ages. She said the memory patches provide pet owners with something tangible and attractive they can look at and touch long after their pet is gone.
“It’s not all about loss, it’s actually pretty art,” she said. She said because the spun yarn is made up of outer and under fur, the end result is often surprising. Her shepherd was black but when she spun the fur into yarn, it turned out that the memory patch also contained varying shades of brown.
Rouillard said she has made memory patches from the fur of dogs, cats and llamas, as well as from the mane of a horse. Most of the memory patches are 8 inches by 10 inches, but she once made a 16-inch-by-30-inch lap blanket from the fur of a Siberian husky. She said the owner had saved a garbage bag full of her pet’s fur. Generally, two sandwich bags of fur is enough to get the job done.
“My motto is if you can collect enough, I can spin and weave it,” she said. “I could even do a guinea pig.”
Rouillard said she first freezes the fir, then washes and cards it. A small amount of wool is added to keep the yarn from falling apart while spinning. She also warps her loom with cotton carpet fibers to give the memory patch strength. A standard-size memory patch takes about a couple of weeks to finish and cost $75 with shipping and handling included.
Rouillard said she had a Web site but has found over the years that word of mouth is the best advertisement. Most of her customers are from Maine, though she has shipped memory patches to other states as well.