If you’ve ever gone to wool growers events (e.g., the annual Black Sheep Gathering in Eugene, Oregon), you will meet people who raise Angora rabbits and from which we get angora fiber. (In an earlier post I explained that Angora goats give us cashmere. “Angora” simply comes from the word Ankara, a city in Turkey.)
The American Rabbit Breeders Association recognizes four breeds: English, French, Giant, and Satin. There are other Angora Rabbit breeds, however, including German, Chinese, Swiss, and Finnish. (Click here to see a short video of angora bunny pics!)
To the left is an English Angora and to the right is a French Angora (pic source).
Angora rabbits come in an array of colors, and its wool has micron count of 10 to 13. It has a short staple and can be little tricky to spin at first (at least it was for me) but lends itself to spinning in a very fine diameter. Many people like to wear angora as it is very soft and warm (6-8 times warmer than wool), but it felts very easily and sheds.
I like working with angora but, because it felts so easily, prefer it blended with wool. Blending with wool also reduces the shedding. Also, I have witnessed two people have a severe (i.e., both had swollen eyes and scarily labored breathing) anaphlactic reaction to angora I was wearing. (I never make baby clothes from yarn containing angora because of potential anaphlatic reaction.)
Angora rabbits “blow” (shed or throw) their fur a couple of times a year, at which time owners can easily pull out the fiber with a gentle tug. Some people shear their rabbits, but that fiber is not the best to spin due to the cut end. (The rabbit probably doesn’t enjoy the shearing either.) You can also gather fiber by regularly combing their fur. (I used to work with a woman who kept an angora as a pet – she was not a fiber person – and regularly gave me bags of angora fiber brushed regularly off her rabbit.)
A spinner can spin directly from the rabbit – something we witnessed many times at Black Sheep Gatherings. (Click here to witness a woman wheel spinning directly from the back of her rabbit.)
Hint for the first time angora spinner: Don’t wear black clothes. In fact, wear an apron as short angora fibers will float around and want to stick to you. The first time I spun angora (not off the back of a rabbit), I was wearing black slacks. Mistake. By the time I was finished, I looked like I had been holding a white cat in my lap.
Hint for the first time angora wearer: Don’t get sweaty and move around a lot. A client of a yarn store I worked at decades ago brought in her angora sweater to show us how it felted after a night of vigorous disco dancing!