Angora is a luxury fiber often used in knitting and crocheting to create exquisitely soft projects. Angora fiber comes from the hair of angora rabbits. The product of angora goats is mohair, and is not, contrary to the belief of some, also called angora. Mohair is an entirely different fiber.
Breeds of Rabbit
There are four basic breeds of angora rabbits. The French breed of angora rabbit produces the fibers that are able to take dye very well. French angora rabbits weigh approximately 7.5 to 10.5 lbs. These rabbits do not shed as much as other rabbits, and are fairly easy to raise at home.
English angora rabbits, on the other hand, shed constantly and must be combed several times a day to avoid mats and tangles. The copious amount of fur that they shed produces a very tightly wrapped wool when spun, allowing even the thinnest types of angora yarn made from this breed of rabbit to be strong and even.
Satin breed angora rabbits shed fur that is shiny and satin-like in appearance. It is incredibly soft, and easy for novice fiber artists to spin into handmade yarns that are richly colored and beautifully crafted with little or no effort. Fur from this breed is often prepared and spun with another type of wool to add strength to the supple fur.
Giant angora rabbits, weighing in at 20 pounds or more, do not shed fur on their own, and unlike their counterparts, must be shorn on a regular basis. Because of their size alone, they tend to produce copious amounts of fiber.
Angora yarn, like other yarns that are animal-based in origin, is warm and has certain insulating properties that plant-based or synthetic yarns lack. Angora fibers are hollow in the middle, which not only adds to their suppleness, but creates a core of air that allows warmth to be trapped within the very fibers of the garment.
Angora yarns may be left the natural color of the rabbits they were harvested from, or may be dyed rich, deep colors. Because of the properties of the fiber, angora yarn takes colors well, producing saturated hues.
Angora fiber is often spun together with other fibers to add strength, durability and wearability, but also to create affordability. Pure angora yarns are not unheard of, but are generally quite expensive due to the time and labor-intensive process of harvesting the fiber, and the small output per harvest. Even when mixed with other yarns, angora is considered a luxury yarn and is found more often at specialty yarn stores than at craft stores that may happen to have a yarn section.
Working with Angora
Many people find that angora yarns are slippery, and have to adjust their knitting or crocheting technique to compensate for this characteristic. A simple solution to stop slippery angora yarn from escaping is to use wooden knitting needles, which grip the fibers better than do metal or plastic tools. This can make a item's creation proceed a bit slower, but stitches are less likely to be lost.
Care of Angora
Finished projects made from angora should be washed only when needed. Hand washing the item in pH neutral soap and cool to lukewarm water is recommended for all animal-based fibers. Rinse the item in cool to cold water to remove any soap residue, taking care not to rub, wring or agitate the fibers, as this could lead to a phenomenon called "felting," in which the fibers shrink and lock together.
After washing it with a specialty sweater soap or pH neutral soap or shampoo, a sweater's softness can be restored with human hair conditioner.
Instead of wringing out a sweater, roll the freshly washed item in a towel to gently squeeze out excess water. This may need to be repeated with several towels, as wool of any sort can hold up to one third of its own weight in water.
Elizabeth Tumbarello has been writing since 2006, with her work appearing on various websites. She is an animal lover who volunteers with her local Humane Society. Tumbarello attended Hocking College and is pursuing her Associate of Applied Science in veterinary technology from San Juan College.