Monday, March 12, 2007

Angora Rabbit 3 - Spinning the Fiber

By Leigh

Angora is considered a challenge to spin. It is slippery, flyaway, and sticks to everything. That is why it is often blended with wool, especially when first learning to spin it. It is a scrumptious addition to any fiber, though I would consider it a waste with something too coarse.

If you are spinning it for the first time, a fairly fine wool is a good choice to blend it with. The best choice is something which is the same length as the Angora you are working with, as longer fibers tend to be pull out first during the drafting process, leaving the shorter fibers to be spun at the end of the rolag or batt.

I've never woolcombed Angora, but for carding, fine carders like cotton carders or the finest carding cloth available for your drum carder works best (at least 125 tines per inch) works best.

Fricke Petite drum carder with brush attachment.I also purchased a brush attachment for my drumcarder, a Fricke (now Strauch) Petite, as it helps keep the flyaway fibers under control.

Sharon mentioned experimenting with blending angora, and I did a lot of that too. I always found that my biggest difficulty was in getting an evenness of blend throughout the entire sample. For me, that meant weighing out the two fibers I wanted to blend, splitting and mixing up the batts, and running them through the drum carder for about 4 or 5 passes.

When it comes to spinning straight Angora, I don't do any of this. As in most things, I like to take the simplest approach. For me, that means simply spinning it by the handful, just as it is.

Teasing the Angora fibers to separate them for spinning.First I "tease" the fibers by gently pulling them apart by hand. No clumps in the fiber should mean no lumps in the yarn!

A towel in my lap is always essential to keep the stray fibers off of my clothes. I've heard that silk is the best for this, but mostly I just use an old towel.

Drafting out of the hand to spin.Like everything else, this takes practice, but once you get the hang of it, it is easy to draft from the mass of fibers. I usually use a large whorl and treadle slowly to keep the greatest amount of control. If I've teased it well and there are no short bits or VM, then it drafts well into a smooth, even single.

Drafting from a dryer sheet helps control flyaway fibers.Kathy mentioned putting Angora in the freezer to help tame the flyawayness. I've never tried this, but of course, I don't have the luxury of a large freezer! I do find that dryer sheets work wonders for flyaway Angora fibers. It works to hold the web of fibers within a dryer sheet and draft out from that. I always kept dryer sheets around when I groomed and clipped my bunnies too. In fact, I would start by rubbing them down with one! Just rubbing my hands with a dryer sheet helps any time I'm handling the fluffy stuff.

One of the biggest challenges to spinning a 100% Angora yarn is the fact that it is so smooth and slippery. This has to do with the structure of the individual fibers. Sheep wool is easier to spin because the fibers are covered with microscopic scales (kind of like a snake's skin) called cuticle scales. These grab onto one another during the spinning process so that the fibers "stick" together to create the yarn.

The cuticle scales of Angora are smaller, smoother, and fewer in number than sheep's wool. On the one hand, this accounts for the superior softness of Angora, but on the other hand, it also accounts for it's tendency to unspin itself and shed from the yarn or garment. The soft "halo" effect which develops ("blooms") with handling, is a lovely, characteristic feature of Angora, but the shedding is not. The spinner can do two things to help counteract this, the first is by adding lots of twist. The tight twist will help trap the slippery fibers in the yarn.

Allowing the singles to twist back on themselves to check the yarn.The second thing has to do with the treatment of the yarn after spinning, which I'll have to put into another post.

Before I close though, I do want to respond to Valerie's comment that I spoke of my bunnies in the past tense. Sadly this is true. One by one they crossed the Rainbow Bridge, except for Miss Ivy. When we moved into smaller quarters in the city I found a country home for her with another spinner, where I felt she could be happier.

It's hard to not think of myself as a "Bunny Mom" anymore. I think that's one of the reasons why I chose what I did for my logo:

Rudy, my logo.This is a caricature sketch of Rudy done by my daughter about 7 years ago. It's always been close to my heart, just like Rudy was.

Next - Technique for finishing handspun Angora yarn.

Posted 12 March 2007 at

Related Posts:
Angora Rabbit 1 - My Bunnies
Angora Rabbit 2 - The Fiber
Angora Rabbit 4 - Finishing the Yarn
Angora Rabbit 5 - A Few Handspun Yarns


Anonymous said...

Loved the background to your logo. Very heartwarming indeed....

Cathy said...

Nice posts about angora. I, too, am a former bunny mummy - I had 2 angoras in the early 80s. Loved them but time passed as did they. I have considered another but M isn't into bunnies. However, you would not believe the toy rabbits I get presented with every time I have the bunny longing.

Sharon said...

I just watched the Deb Menz video on blending on the drum carder this past Saturday. It really reved me up to try some new things. She showed how to blend bunny and I'm looking forward to trying it her way. I'm thinking about blending some bunny, alpaca and merino the way she demonstrated. Then that leaves the question, how will I spin it and for what use??

Yvonne said...

Thank you for all the wonderful information on spinning angora. I had a house bunny years ago (mini lop) when the kids were growing up, but never had angora (wasn't a spinner then). Are they best kept in an outdoor hutch?

Leigh said...

Yvonne, they can be kept out of doors or in. They are very warm natured and really wilt in the summer heat, so air conditioning for them can be a blessing if not a life saver. They make wonderful pets and can be litter box trained, although there will still probably be quite a few "bunny bombs" left around the place. If kept indoors one has to not mind the shedding and fluff floating all over the place and sticking to everything. They are also habitiual chewers and so wherever they are allowed out to roam freely has to be bunny proofed.

Outside, they have to be protected from preditors who might chew through or otherwise tear apart their hutches. In Mine were happy outside, as I had really large hutches for them. In the heat of summer each bunny got a "cooler" of a frozen, water filled 2 liter drink bottle.

If you like rabbits, Angoras are a wonderful choice for a spinner!

Jackie said...

I'll never be a bunny mom. Sigh. Allergies suck. Thanks for sharing all the wonderful angora information. And I've wondered where your bunny logo came from! I've always liked it.

Anonymous said...

Another GREAT tutorial on fiber. I had 3 Angora rabbits they were wonderful, but like with any animal they need care and these guys need the extra with the fiber plucking. The rewards are many with fiber animals, I still have a couple bags of Angora from my rabbits. Truly a luxury fiber!

Unknown said...

Thanks for the wonderful information. I've been debating wrather or not to spin my angora fiber straight or blend it. the pictures really helped and I'm feeling like I could do it! i want to make a black cropped cardigan but I'm worried the black won't take well on this fiber. Any thoughts? Thanks!

Leigh said...

Black is always a tough one to dye at home and make it look true black. it usually comes out purplish or brownish. Blending or straight angora is just a matter of preference. It will blend best with a fibers of similar length. Angora does tend to shed, though, so a little fulling of the yarn really helps with that. Angora makes a really dreamy yarn either way.