Angora goats have more hair and sheared for their wool. However, that is not the case when it comes to Angora rabbits that is.
Most sweaters today are not 100% Angora, but a combination of Angora wool, nylon, mohair and silk. In some cases cashmere. Mohair sweaters and cashmere sweaters come only from goats! Angora wool is harvested from angora rabbits. There are Angora goats, but their wool is called mohair, not Angora. It gets confusing!
Angora rabbits produce an extremely fine fiber considered the most high grade and luxurious textile fiber in the market. It takes an 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 its wool 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. You can gather about 8-16 ounces of angora wool in about 2 hours.
The lower quality, less expensive Angora is derived mainly from China, Japan, and Korea, and currently dominates the world market. This low-quality Angora typically comes from young animals that are shorn prematurely. 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.”
History of Angora
The first historical reference to rabbits occurs at about 100 B.C. Around 6th century A.D. Catholic monks in France began to domesticate wild rabbits by breeding and housing them in cages.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 nor subject to being killed by other animals.
As a result of being safe from predators, the rabbit’s fur suddenly began to create lovely blends and shades of gray, brown, and white fibers of extreme length and quantity. Selective colors and shades of fibers could be selected and bred into the animals. The result was the French Angora rabbit.
Napoleon is credited for starting a successful Angora farming business.
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 produced product. 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 about three pounds of fiber per year.
French Angora bunnies came to the United States in the 1920s, but because of the high cost of labor, the French Angora industry never got off the ground. Very few rabbit farmers made a living from the rabbits alone.
Apart from its 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. When treating asthma, bronchitis, and rheumatism, French doctors used to recommend for the aristocratic classes Angora garments!
Spinning Angora Wool
Good Angora wool is the result of good housing, sanitation and breeding for the Angora rabbits. Healthy, well-nourished feeding habits, in addition to regular grooming sessions, round out a successful rearing practice to get the highest quality fibers. The diameter of Angora underwool 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 insulation 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 “un-spin” 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.
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. In order 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, “Ashford Traditional Scotch-tension Single Drive Wheel Spinning Wheel”. Angora spinners often choose a brake-band type of tension control because of its great flexibility to adjustment due to the separate control of drive and bobbin.
According to a resource book:
“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.”
“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!) and
“Completely Angora” – The 2nd Edition By Sharon Kilfoyle and Leslie B. Samson By Samson Publishing Onario, Canada © 1992 and 1996