“That’s a completely insane idea, but a good one! Let’s give it a try!”

November 28, 2018 - An experimental project aiming to test if loose blue fox hair can be used in the production of polishing pads ends up with the discovery of a new type of sustainable yarn made of fox hair, silk and alpaca.

Pia Blomström and clothing expert Leena Simonen were part of  ReUseFoxHair (RUFH) project that discovered the new type of yarn. Photo by Markus Kunelius

The ReUseFoxHair (RUFH) project, administered by Centria University of Applied Sciences, in Finland, started with the idea of exploiting the Blue Fox hair surplus in the fur sector. 

The goal was to test if it would be possible to use loose hair into the production of abrasive tools and polishing pads which the wood and automobile industries use during the finalising painting processes.  

‘’Everything started when we did a company visit at Mirka Ltd’s premises with our International Business students; we saw that they produced polish pads made from sheep’s wool. That is when I thought that Blue Fox hair surplus could also be used as a material for the polishing pad’’, explains Fur Expert and Project Manager Pia Blomström. 

The Blue Fox hair in question comes from the fur foxes lose before growing their summer coat, and that was not used until now.

Pia did not bring the idea forwards until Mirka Ltd’s representative visited Centria’s Campus Allegro in Pietarsaari on another matter. 

Leena Muuri demonstrated that the fox yarn could be woven to produce clothing entirely made of natural materials. Photo by Markus Kunelius

‘’I later called the company’s product developer Hans Hede, and he said the idea sounded utterly insane, but good,’’ says Blomström with a smile.

Mirka Ltd’s product development team has a strong experimental development culture, and the concept sounded intriguing to bring them onboard. 

After receiving sufficient funding including from the Regional Council of Ostrobothnia, the work was ready to start.

However, testing the quality of loose hair, and examining its cleaning properties and possible applications required strong expertise, so a cross-disciplinary team had to be gathered.

Fur farmers from Ostrobothnia provided the fox hair surplus as product developer Hans Hede and chemical specialist Leif Hed were working with the clothing industry R&D expert Leena Simonen to figure out the details of the experiment. 

The fox hair was first spun on the mini mill operated by Ruukin Kehräämö. The material was then felted by Peppi Majuri and woven by Leena Muuri. Adding up the final touch, Anki Kahari showed how the yarn could be knitted to become into real clothing.

 ‘’When we first went to visit the mini mill with our fox hair, we ended up spending the whole day there testing the fur with the spinning mill’s staff! A few artisans appeared during our visit, having heard that something unusual was happening, they were eager to try too,’’ Blomström says. 

Testing the hair proved that Blue Fox hair as such is too short to be used as such, but instead, the group came up with a discovery.

Peppi Majuri showed that the loose fox hair could be felted even without being mixed with other fibres. Photo by Kasper Dalkarl.

Combining the Blue Fox hair with longer fibres such as alpaca and wild silk gives enough strength and length to create a yarn that is usable.

‘’By trying different combinations, we ended coming up with an extremely beautiful yarn, which will probably become a new yarn to be used in the fashion industry. The yarn can both be knitted and woven, ‘’Blomström explains. 

Although Mirka Ltd will probably not be using Blue Fox hair in its products, the experiment revealed yet another aspect of the sustainability of fur. It has proven how waste can be turned into something innovatory to contribute to the circular economy and could help to make fashion more sustainable.

Centria’s Fur Design Module opens new doors to the unique world of fur. Centria University of Applied Sciences is currently offering a unique study module tailor-made for fashion professionals and students willing to develop their knowledge in handling fur. Located in the heart of the Finnish fur trade business, the university offers a basic and an advanced module starting respectively in the autumn and in the spring. Throughout the modules, participants will visit in local fur farms and companies, travel to the “The One Milano” fair in Italy and participate in a unique class at Saga’s Design Centre in Denmark. The students not only gain invaluable knowledge and skills through their studies at Centria UAS, but also build their personal portfolio and develop their professional network by studying and working with participants from all over the world.  More information: www.centria.fi/fur