Angora rabbits produce some of the softest wool in the world. They can also produce quite a bit of wool with proper care which makes them ideal for the fiber enthusiast. One of the best things about angora rabbits is that their wool does not need to be washed or carded before it is spun so it can literally be spun right off the rabbit. Often at demos I spin with my wheel while the rabbit is in my lap so I can gently remove the wool and spin it directly from the bunny! Angora wool can also be dyed a multitude of colors though it come in a beautiful array of natural colors. I have listed below how I use the wool from my rabbits.
Shearing- I shear my rabbits with scissors clippers, or I remove the loose wool by gently pulling it with the tips so that only the loose wool comes out. This does not hurt the rabbit when done correctly. I then save it in plastic bags marked with the name of the rabbit, the date it was sheared, length of fiber, and how much fiber the rabbit produced.
Chester wearing a sweater after shearing
Carding and Dyeing- I then card and\or dye the wool although this step is optional. I use a drum carder to card all my wool whether it is from the rabbits or not. A drum carder is a rather expensive purchase though, but there are cheaper carding instruments out there such as hand cards or flick carders. I dye my wool with multiple types of dyes with white vinegar or citric acid as a mordant. A mordant helps the dye to stay in the fiber. I have used natural dyes such as turmeric spice or black walnut hulls, food coloring dyes and kool aid for bright colors, and acid dyes which is how most commercial wool is dyed. I prefer the acid dyes (I use the Jacquard Brand) I soak the wool I want to dye for at least 15 minutes prior, then I put it in a pot on the stove with the mordant and dye, turning the burner on to simmer the wool and wait until the water in the pot turns clear. once the water is clear the wool can be removed. Clear water means that the wool has soaked up all the dye.
Wool dyeing on the stove. This wool is dyed with an acid dye
Spinning the wool- The wool can now be carded or spun. There are multiple ways wool can be spun aside from using a spinning wheel. One of the best ways for a beginner to spin is to use a drop spindle. If you are going to be spinning angora then you will want a top whorl drop spindle because it spins faster and angora needs more twist to stay together. To spin with a drop spindle you sit in a chair and tie a string to the spindle that you can attach your unspun fiber to. this is called a leader thread. You then run the spindle along your leg so that it is spinning in a clock wise direction. As it spins you will bring your hands up allowing twist into the unspun fibers. to direct the amount of fiber into the spindle you use a technique called drafting. Drafting is when you pull the unspun fiber apart slightly to thin it out to achieve thinner yarn before allowing twist to travel up into the fibers. once you have a length of yarn spun you can stop the spindle and wrap the yarn around and around beneath the whorl.
A drop spindle with roving (wool that has been carded)
Felting the wool- The wool can also be felted which is what I prefer to do with most of my wool. Felting is a process by tangling the unspun fibers until they form into a desired shape. You can felt 3-D sculptures or paintings which is what I like to do. There are two ways to felt wet felting and needle felting. I prefer needle felting. Needle felting is a process by which you use a special barbed needle called a felting needle with which you use to poke the wool until it has formed into the shape you wanted it to.
"Starry Night after Vincent Van Gogh" a needle felted painting made with sheep wool and angora.