Everyone has their own preferences for how to process angora fiber. These recommendations are based on my mother’s experience, who has been processing and spinning angora long before I got my first angora in 2012. She inspired me to raise rabbits primarily for wool and is integral to the breeding and fiber processing decisions I make.
Although it is certainly possible to spin 100% angora, there are several reasons to consider blending angora wool with other fibers.
- Angora is slippery (and short)– Angora is as soft as it is in part because the fibers have a smaller diameter and the scales on the surface of the fibers do not stick out as much as they do for sheep or other wool animal fibers. This is true even more for Satin angora fiber, which gets its sheen due to the smooth surface of the individual fibers. The rabbits themselves are fairly small, so a coat of 3-4″ is the typical length of the staple before the rabbits either molt their coats or need to be clipped. The combination of the short staple and soft, slippery fiber makes pure angora a challenge to spin.
- Angora is hot– Angora wool is one of the most insulating natural fibers in existence. In many climates, pure angora is simply too hot to wear. In gloves, hats, scarves, and socks, pure angora can be worn in very cold climates (i.e. Canadian winters). I would never recommend a 100% angora vest or sweater (with the possible exception of a lace shawl or vest), because it would quickly become uncomfortably warm for anyone wearing it.
- Angora is delicate – Without a different fiber to help hold the angora wool together, angora has a tendency to fly away while it is being processed. My mom refuses to spin 100% angora inside her house because it results in little fuzzy hairs all over her pants, chair, and floor. Also, the final product will often become fluffier and fluffier as it is being worn, potentially ruining the original appearance of the clothing. My mother made me a pair of knitted 100% angora gloves when I lived in Vermont during my college years, and after a few snowy winters, the gloves looked more like big fuzzy paws than gloves.
- Angora is pale – The color pigment in angora wool is quite literally “stretched thin” as the wool grows on the rabbit. This is why a black angora rabbit has a solid black face but the wool appears grey. If your goal is to use undyed, natural colors in your project, the color of the angora fiber can be accented by blending the angora with a different fiber of matching color. I have found that alpacas offer some of the best color matches for various shades of fawn, red, and brown found in angoras.
- Angora is expensive – Last but not least, pure angora is pricey, and is likely among the most expensive fibers. Angora is typically weighed in ounces, not pounds. The fibers are hollow, making them very light, and due to the small quantities produced by each rabbit, it often takes many animals to make one pound of wool. It also takes a lot of money to raise the rabbits which then produce a small amount of wool (feed costs, at the very least, must be considered) and these costs pass on the consumer. By blending the angora with another- less expensive- wool, you can make your angora fiber go further.
A 50% blend of angora and a complimentary fiber (my favorites are merino or alpaca) creates a product that has all of the desirable characteristics of angora, but is easier to spin and wears better than 100% angora. An 80% blend can also be lovely, but will require more experience to spin successfully and it may be more delicate in general.
I find it easiest to have my wool professionally blended as a roving by Zeilinger Wool Co. The result is very uniform and easy to spin. For smaller quantities, I have also used a drum carder with super fine teeth to produce blended rolags, but it can be a bit of an artform to get a nice product without irregularities or knots.
For those who have spun angora on a drop spindle: I salute you! My experience with drop spindles resulted in little more than frustration and ugly wool (and that was just regular sheep’s wool, not angora).
A good spinning wheel, while often an expensive investment, is a must if you plan to produce angora yarn. My mom swears by her Schacht Matchless and this is the wheel that she prefers to use for spinning angora (in fact, she loves this particular spinning wheel so much that she recently got a second one to add to her collection).
My mother recommends spinning a 50% angora blend semiworsted, with 26 warps per inch for single and 20 warps per inch for double ply. The yarn is more durable when it is used as a double ply. The single ply is spun for 2.5 twists per inch (“Fingering”type) and the double ply is spun for 3.5 twists per inch (“sport weight”). A 40 degree twist angle is recommended, since it maintains the softness of the wool but also holds it together well. The halo will appear after it is further processed (i.e. knitted) and worn. The wool is spun at a ratio of 11:1.
Using this method, my mother is able to produce approximately 100 yards per oz of 50% angora blend. The values given here are only intended as a guideline for those new to spinning angora and you may wish to alter them as needed for your particular project.