Or Bunny to Bootie . . .
Or Kit to Hat . . .
Or nestbox to craft show . . .
Or . . .
(At least, this is the way it goes at my house.)
A new litter of kits has just been born. The mother is very attentive. Does (female rabbits) do not stay in the nest with their kits, like most other animals. In the wild, to protect the nest from detection from potential predators, the doe only visits the nest once or twice a day. Domestic rabbit does, normally only hop in the nestbox and feed their kits once or twice a day, and this may be when no one is watching.
A good litter of well-fed kits at one day old. Kits are born with only the tiniest amount of fur, but it grows very fast. The pink ones are blue-eyed white. You can see a little white fur. At this age, you can usually tell which ones have blue eyes and which ones have red eyes, because the eyelids are fairly transparent. The spotted ones are black Vienna Marked. I consider seven to be an average English Angora size litter. This one has only five, but better to have five well-fed robust ones, than to have ten scrawny ones.
This is a blue-eyed white at four weeks of age. She started coming out of the nestbox at about 2 weeks of age, and I removed the nestbox when she was about 3 weeks old. She is eating rabbit pellets and hay and drinking from a water bottle, but she is also still nursing her mom. Her blue eyes aren't quite as blue as they will be a few weeks from now. They are still a little grayish-blue. You can see, her short fur is starting to turn to longer wool.
The same rabbit at 6 1/2 weeks. She is really getting cute now, and showing more wool and furnishings. I usually wean kits at about 6 1/2 to 7 weeks of age. Sometimes a little later but never earlier, unless there is a special circumstance that requires it. At, or shortly after weaning, I put a tattoo in the left ear and make out a pedigree. I may offer the rabbit for sale at this time also.
Same rabbit at three months. By now, she has a name, Iris, and I've decided to keep her.
Chocolate tortoiseshell doe, Jo, with a 3 1/2 month wool growth, and ready to be clipped. I clip my Angoras about every 3 1/2 months. At that time, the wool is long enough for good spinning, but it's a short enough period of time that there is very little matting, even with very minimal grooming between clippings. Please refer to "How to Clip an English Angora" for detailed clipping information.
This is Jo again, looking like a completely different rabbit, after I have clipped off all of her wool. The temperature in the rabbitry is a little cold, but Jo is comfortable back in her cage with a tray of hay and a heat lamp, warm and cozy.
I use grocery store type plastic bags to sort the wool as I clip. Here I have sorted Jo's wool in three bags. The bag that I will keep for spinning is labeled with her name, color, and weight, which is 5.8 oz. The bag I will give away or sell for a reduced price for blending is labeled as "colored seconds" with the weight of 1.6 oz. The bag of trash, which I will throw away is 1.2 oz. This is a total of 8.6 ounces, which is above average in my herd. I store the wool in the same bag, and have had no problem with felting or matting in the bag.
Now, what to do with all that wool. Spin it, of course. This is my newest wheel, called the Lamb. I love the heavy oak wood and the acorn finials. The wheel is made and sold by Larry & Phyllis Harper of Missouri. For more info. on the wheel, you may call them at 417-935-9401, or email at email@example.com
I also have a 1973 model Ashford Traditional, a Country Craftsman, and an Ertoel Roberta electronic spinner. All but the Country Craftsman are great for spinning Angora wool. Angora is not hard to spin. It does not feel slippery to me, but it does require more twist than sheep wool. Good quality wool, correctly hand spun with the right amount of twist, does not shed. Angora is a clean fiber, since it does not have lanolin to attract and hold dirt, and the rabbits are kept in clean, wire-bottom cages. Normally, I spin the wool directly from the bag that I sorted and stored it in. It does not need to be washed or carded first.
If I do want to card the wool, I use my Patrick Green carder with the fur drum. If I want to make a very even and fine yarn, I may card, although usually, I like the slight texture and variation I get from uncarded wool. In this picture, I have carded and rolled up three batts of 100% Angora wool. Angora takes dye very well. I dyed white Angora wool with pink lemonade Kool Aid. Looks like cotton candy, huh? The dyeing process made the wool clump, so it needed to be carded to fluff and straighten the fibers for better spinning.
Skeins of yarn, hanging to dry. After spinning, I use a niddy-noddy to wind the yarn into skeins. I then wash the skeins. The skeins are tied with contrasting yarn in four places, in a figure eight tie. This keeps the yarn from tangling during washing and handling. I store my yarn as twisted skeins.
Trying to knit or crochet from a skein is just asking for a big tangle of yarn and lots of frustration. The skein needs to be made into a ball. Here is an umbrella swift holding a skein, so a ball can be made with a ball winder. These are two tools not absolutely necessary, but they sure are a big help and time-saver.
I love knitting or crocheting with Angora. When first spun, most of the little fuzzy ends are still twisted in, so there isn't much fluff to make knitting or crocheting hard. You can see in the previous two photos, the yarn does not look like fluffy Angora. I wash the item when finished, and this brings out quite a bit of the typical, beautiful Angora fluff. Angora items get even more beautiful and fluffy with use. And I repeat - Good quality wool, correctly hand spun with the right amount of twist, does not shed.
Angora is suitable for a lot of projects. I haven't found "lack of memory", as some people say, to be a problem. The cuffs of these socks have elasticity because of the ribbing stitch. I usually make smaller items, such as scarves, hats, mittens, gloves, hand/wrist warmers, booties, socks, leg warmers, etc. I don't make Angora sweaters. Angora is a very warm fiber, and a sweater would be too warm for inside wear. Angora is said to be about 7 or 8 times warmer than sheep wool. Angora, usually, is not very prone to shrinking and felting, although it can, under the right conditions. Underarms have all the right conditions - heat, friction, and moisture. I wouldn't make an item using Angora in the underarm area. Angora is wonderful as a trim on sweaters made from other fibers though. If I want to make a large item, I make a shawl. I have made a vest with large armholes, and a loose-fitting jacket, which both turned out well, but I don't feel this type of garment is as well suited to Angora.
After awhile, my Angora item inventory was increasing, and I decided to do craft shows and fiber shows. I take a spinning wheel to demonstrate, and really like talking to the public and educating them on Angora rabbits, Angora yarn, and spinning. I don't sell a lot, since most of my articles are a lot higher in price than similar items from a store. But the quality of store merchandise, usually imported from China, just can't compare. Mostly one-of-a-kind items, from home-raised Angora, hand spun, hand knit or crochet, are worth many times the price of department store articles.
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