Friday, September 10, 2010

Fleegle's Fluff Analysis

Before we embarked on our bunny adventure that culminated in the addition of Rambo to our family, we first had to decide what kind of bunny we wanted. Well, clearly we wanted one with a great personality, but aside from that, I wanted prime angora fiber to spin. So we did some research and you guys get to read all about it. Or not. Harry fell asleep on the "H" key in t*e middle of t*e second paragrap*. I couldn't type muc* until *e woke up.

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There are four major rabbit wool breeds: Giant, French, English, and Satin. Germans are a subgroup of Giants, and always white. German rabbits don't shed, so they are shorn about four times a year. The other three types are usually plucked, but I gather that some people shave their bunnies in hot weather. Angora fiber is eight times warmer than wool and I suspect that most of them would faint (or worse) in the summer heat we've had this year.

Germans are always white with red eyes; the rest of the breeds come in a dazzling assortment of colors, many of which have lovely, evocative names--frosted pearl, lilac, silver fox, blue, and my favorite, copper agouti. In reality, there are only four colors--white, black, gray, and brown--with an infinite variety of shades, tones, and markings.

Because I wanted to dye the yarn, we started hunting for white rabbits. But before we actually bought one, I needed to do some fiber testing. I therefore ordered small samples of each breed from Etsy vendors--an inexpensive way to dabble in angora spinning.

Angora staple varies considerably, but should be about 1-3" long for pleasant spinning. The German fiber was neatly machine-carded into top. I don't own any carders, so for the other three samples I pulled handfuls of fiber apart several times until I had a semi-orderly mass.

The first bag I opened was the English fiber. And the first few handfuls were delightful to spin--something like yak, if you've ever handled that fiber. The handfuls were fluffy and soft, spinning into a fairly smooth, thin yarn on my electric spinner with occasional blips of short fiber.

To my dismay, however, the bottom half of the bag was full of matted globs and second cuts too short to spin comfortably. Clearly, the owner of this bunny was a meticulous caretaker, because she first clipped off all the long fiber and then went back over bun-bun a second time to make sure all the matted clumps and fuzzy bits were gone. Too bad she decided to pad her retail fiber with them. Half the bag went into the trash can.

I spun the nicely plucked French fiber on a spindle. French angora is noted for its guard hair, which is not the stiff, scratchy stuff found on some sheep, goats and camelids. It's poofier, soft and very fine. In fact, it's the guard hairs that bloom, making French angora yarn so cuddly (and shed-prone). Despite my best effort, I couldn't get a perfectly smooth yarn from it. It spun a bit thicker than the English, but produced a really lovely result, blips and all.

The incredible German roving spun like whipped cream--there's no other way to  describe it. I dashed back to the Etsy vendor, only to discover that there was no more. It spun into a perfectly smooth yarn; grist didn't seem to matter. This stuff was happy to be spun very thin, very thick, or medium with no complaints.

Alas, the Satin fiber was really too short to spin comfortably. I put the bag away after an hour of painful micro-short-draw. If I ever get a carding machine, I might experiment with it.

I took some photos, but I ended up with an assortment of white/gray fluff and yarn photos with no distinguishing features and I didn't want to bore you with those.

Suffice it to say that my angora research was thorough and I pass on the following bits of wisdom to you:

  • If you buy a bag of plucked or shorn fiber from an Etsy vendor you don't know, don't be surprised to find that some of the material is unspinnable.
  • Prime angora can be easily spun on just about anything--spindles, e-spinners, charkhas, or your favorite foot-powered wheel.
  • If you find any German angora roving, don't buy it. Send me the link immediately.
  • Cover your lap with a piece of velvet or other adherent material to catch all the flyaway bits. Do not sneeze around loose angora.
  • Undiluted angora yarn is not stretchy and is really, really warm. Such yarn would make an excellent scarf for anyone living in or near the Arctic/Antarctic Circles. Mixing angora with fine wool, such as merino, will produce a sproingier and more temperate result. Add more merino the further south you live. Those folks on the equator probably should skip angora altogether and stick with Vorpal Bunny leg fiber, which often resembles cotton, except for the black variety, whose fiber is indistinguishable from fwooper feathers.

13 comments:

KPiep said...

They didn't have satins back when I showed angoras, and so I'm still curious about them. When I started it was English or French only - and we also quickly discovered that English was a nightmare to spin. Way, way too fragile...and the rabbits had to be fastidiously groomed or else they turned into a frightening mass of matts.

I loved my French, though, and spent several years as the top ranked French breeder in the youth bracket in my state. Weekends were spent during high school happily spinning skein after skein of angora. The colors are truly to die for - one reason not to blend.

I also bought Germans right when they were first introduced to the ARBA - at extreemly high cost, I might add. We had to fly them in from out of state they were so rare! (Terrible mothers at the time, and I certainly hope that's improved!)

Yep, I'm trying to figure out when I can justify to get them again!

Michael said...

So when do we get to see a picture of Rambo?

yarnlot said...

This is research that goes to the bottom! I still remember the Anny Blatt angora I used in the past; reading this blog post makes me want to knit with bunny yarn again...

Carol said...

I had no idea that there was such a difference in angora breeds!

LittleBerry said...

Not into bunny fibres but found your research and results interesting, don't know why Harry would fall asleep....

knitterbunny said...

Just a little addition. There are actually two large breeds of Angoras. Germans and Giants. So, five in total.

Germans are not recognized by the ARBA and may come in colors. Giants are recognized by the ARBA and come in ruby eyed white only. At one point there was some work to introduce black Giant Angoras, but the Certificate of Development failed.

I raised English for several years and really enjoyed spinning their fiber.

The Satin that I have played with had a very nice staple, and I suspect you may have gotten one with a short staple. The breeders in my state have some very nice Satin fiber available.

Laritza said...

Oh you are so wonderful!

gayle said...

Dutch fwooper feathers or Bulgarian fwooper feathers?

Roberta said...

Thanks again for sharing your research with us. As always your posts are chock full of instruction.

Kathy Kathy Kathy said...

In most things, I can't pick a one and only true favorite. This is untrue for fiber. My one and only, champion of champions favorite fiber is angora. I've never met any cashmere that I didn't like and I've never really met any qiviut, bison, or other yakety yakkish yarns. Still, I am confident that I will always love angora the most.

sabelt said...

Some nice links with Angora top:
http://www.paradisefibers.net/Ashland-Bay-Angora-Top-p/663.htm

http://www.northeastfiberarts.com/spinning/angora_top.php

http://www.pacificwoolandfiber.com/Exotics%20&%20Silk%20Fibers.htm

http://www.spinningbunny.com/fibers/luxury.html

Hope this helps. ;-)
(and yes, write the books - we're waiting....)

sabelt said...

Some nice links with Angora top:
http://www.paradisefibers.net/Ashland-Bay-Angora-Top-p/663.htm

http://www.northeastfiberarts.com/spinning/angora_top.php

http://www.pacificwoolandfiber.com/Exotics%20&%20Silk%20Fibers.htm

http://www.spinningbunny.com/fibers/luxury.html

Hope this helps. ;-)
(and yes, write the books - we're waiting....)

Kathe Lewis said...

Hi, I have just learned about your blog, hence the late comment.
I am Danish spinner, knitter, dyer etc., and I breed German angora bunnies. They come in all colours! If you are interested in some, please contact me, I will be happy to send you samples.
Kathe, www.mycrafts.dk