Brownielocks and The 3 Bears

 Cartoon Fun
History of Spinning The Bunny!

(This photo is not meant to criticize angora sweaters.  I own some myself.
 But I do feel fluffy and fat in them.!)


The bunny doesn't get spun around silly like my animation above.  That's just for humor.  But, for those of you who ever wondered  where that fluffy fur came from in your angora sweater, there are two sources: Angora Rabbits and Angora Goats.  This page is to discuss Angora rabbits only.

Below is a terrific photo that shows exactly how an angora rabbit's fur is spun into angora yarn. 

(This photo is the sole copyright of 
Dorothy Diehl and not used without permission.)

Dorothy is founder of an organization called
(Bunnies  Urgently Needing Shelter)

located in Santa Barbara, California.

It is a volunteer organization needing help and donations.  

Of course you have probably also heard of angora goats. Their fur is mohair, in which the animal is sheared for it's fur.  But, that is not the case when it comes to angora rabbits. Most of the time, the bunny sits on your lap, as you comb his fur and then spin it into angora yarn.  (I assume with bunnies that are a bit more hyper, you simply comb them and gather the fur into a bag to later spin?)

Most sweaters today are not 100% angora, but a combination of angora, nylon, mohair and silk; and, in some cases cashmere.  And angora sweaters, do shed. They also pill after wearing them a few times also.  I personally, never wear a white angora sweater with black pants.  I always try to make my sweater and slacks match so the shedding isn't so apparent.

Mohair sweaters and cashmere sweaters come from goats only!
Angora  comes from a rabbit.

There are angora goats, but their fur is called mohair, not angora. It gets confusing!

Angora rabbits produce extremely fine fiber considered a luxury fiber in some areas. It takes a French Angora rabbit about 3 months to produce a full coat of fiber. The animal's own body via hormones signals when it's time to shed it's fur. This is much like how snakes know when to discard their skins.  It may look a little bizarre to have a bald rabbit for a while, but it doesn't hurt them at all. 8-16 ounces of fur will be gathered in about 2 hours.

 The best quality angora comes from hand-plucked French Angora rabbits. The lower quality, less expensive angora, is derived mainly from China, Japan, and Korea, which currently dominate the world market. This low-quality angora typically comes from young animals which are shorn. Because of the variety of fiber lengths and diameters, this yarn lacks the distinctive angora halo, and it tends to shed fibers.

Angora yarns are the softest, warmest, and most beautiful, but they command the highest prices. Angora is considered "The Royalty of Wool." (Note: This is a quote from my source shown below. Realistically, I find cashmere sweaters more costly than angora ones in stores and catalogs.)

There are many sites on-line that sell their hand-spun yarns of angora (as well as other fibers). After viewing them, prices vary so I will not commit to stating how much per ounce angora yarn runs.  You'll have to check it out yourself if you are interested.

History of Angora

The first historical reference to rabbits occurs at about 100 B.C., when seafaring Phoenicians found an abundant amount of odd-looking animals with long ears in  Spain.  And they these explorers even named "Spain" = a Phoenician word meaning "Land of Rabbits."  And these Phoenician sailors sailed throughout the world exchanging goods with out countries so it's assumed that rabbits were among one of the items.  And they are credited with spreading rabbits to other countries.

This is going to sound a bit cruel, but the Romans were apparently the first to keep confined rabbits to have on hand for hunting and well, food for dinner.

Catholic monks around the 6th century A.D. in France began to domesticate wild rabbits by breeding and housing them in cages. Because this meant that the rabbits no longer ran in the wild and were subject to being killed by other animals, their fur color didn't matter when domesticated by the Monks.

As a result of being safe from predators and from the monks breeding experiements, the rabbits fur suddenly began to create lovely blends or shades of grays, browns, and white fiber of extreme length and quantity could be selected for and bred into the animals. The result was the French Angora rabbit.

And, besides being Angora, if you notice a lot of rabbit fur comes from France today (if you check the collars, cuffs or trim of coats, sweaters etc.?)  The French have developed a skill with some animals for raising animals for furs alone.  (They also have great cooking with rabbit meat in wine sauces I might add).

Napoleon is credited for starting a successful angora farming business. As many as 2000 animals were common by the late 19th century. 

The fiber of the French Angora rabbit must be harvested by hand. So, raising these animals is a labor intensive industry but well-worth the superior quality of the product produced. The French, (trying to keep the technology secret in order to give themselves a monopoly) also developed machinery that could process the very fine angora wool. A top producing rabbit of original French stock would yield just under three pounds of fiber per year.

 French Angoras bunnies came to the United States in the 1920s, but because of the high cost of labor, a French Angora industry never got off the ground.  Very few rabbitry farmers make a living from the rabbits alone.  

Apart from it's beauty, tests show angora wool to be 7 to 8 times warmer than other raw wools.  And, angora wool is also said to possess therapeutic qualities.  French doctors for the aristocrats and upper class recommended angora garments for asthma, bronchitis and rheumatism patients. 

. Spinning Angora Wool

Good angora wool is the result of good housing, sanitation and breeding of the angora rabbits. Plus having healthy well-fed and nourished rabbits who are  groomed regularly.

Angora is fine as most of us know.  The diameter of Angora under wool fibers averages only 8 to 13 microns.  Extra fine Angora is 5.5 to 6 microns.  So why bother?  Angora is not only very soft, it is also very warm.  It has excellent insulative qualities.

But Angora rabbit wool production is laborious. The fiber doesn't come from a big animal like a sheep.  It comes from small, cute little rabbits so you don't get as much.  And, angora has a unique texture that resists spinning.  It seems to want to "unspin" itself, often popping up out of the twist when trying to spin it. 

On average, you will get about 100 yards spun per ounce of fiber. The wool is light, warm and expensive as the sweaters (or other garments themselves.)  

In the 1990 "Official Spin Off" the winner was Jonnie Vaughan Southworth from Stanton, Kentucky who spun angora at
 38, 881.11 yards per pound or 2,430.06 yards to the ounce to be the record holder.

Angora fiber can be blended with other fibers, like wool, alpaca or silk or even synthetic fibers like nylon.  Angora fiber can also be dyed.

Although I've never spun a thing on a spinning wheel, I've seen it done at craft fairs and find it fascinating.  According to my reference books, to spin angora fiber the key is in the "drop spindle."  It's important to use a drop spindle that doesn't weigh too much.  A spindle with heavy whorl will make angora impossible to spin. And the best type of spinning wheel to use is called a Ashford Traditional Scotch-tension Single Drive Wheel Spinning Wheel.  And angora spinners often choose a brake-band type of tenson control because of it's great flexibility to adjustment due to the separate control of drive and bobbin.  

Since the books I reference are intense on this subject, I have no intention to retype them all.  But here's a quote that I think is a good summation of angora fiber spinning:

"While staring out the window over a sink full of dirty dishes and wondering how to best describe the process of spinning, we decided that it was a lot like life: if there's too much tension, things fall apart; if there's not enough tension, you whirl around in circles, going nowhere.  The same is true of spinning angora fiber.  Too much tension causes the yarn to fall apart in your hand and it whisks the fibers away from you.  Not enough tension lets your fibers twist around and around themselves, creating over twisted knots that never make it through the orifice of your wheel.

Our advice to a beginning angora spinner is to waste one ounce of your best prime angora. We know you won't want to ruin any of your precious angora; you'll be tempted to use your second-best. But it is much easier to spin prime angora and once you've mastered it, you'll be able to spin any other angora wool or angora blend with confidence.  Don't be afraid to give it a try!"

The subject of raising angora rabbits and the skill and technique of spinning in general is pretty intensive.  This page is presented to slightly introduce and educate you on both these topics without going too in depth.  For further information, I recommend the books I bought below.

My Sources:
"Angora Wool Ranching and Goals in Rabbit Raising"
By William E. Otto and Hedley B. Burden
Diamond Farm Book Publishers
Ontario, Canada © 1999 (14th Printing!)

"Completely Angora" - The 2nd Edition
By Sharon Kilfoyle and Leslie B. Samson
By Samson Publishing
Onario, Canada © 1992 and 1996

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