I’ll admit I knew nothing about angora before I started this Fibreshed project. I knew it was an animal fibre, but I was confused which animal it came from. I had no idea how it was produced, and learning more has been a pleasant surprise.
The backstory on rabbit fibre
Angora is the hair of special breeds of domestic rabbit. Angoras originated from Turkey. This is also where Angora goats originated from, which helps explain why the term ‘angora’ confused me for so long! It is considered a noble fibre, because it was popular amongst French royalty from the mid-eighteenth century.
There are several key angora breeds kept for fibre: English, French, Giant and Satin. Additional breeds like the German angora are also popular. An English angora produces about 600 to 800 grams of fibre per year.
Angoras are brushed daily, some of their fibre is collected then. This also helps maintain the rabbit’s coat, which can mat or felt. Fibre is also collected by shearing or plucking, usually every three to four months. Harvesting doesn’t have to harm the rabbits, they lie on a table as their coat is clipped or plucked. Its interesting to note that the industry term ‘plucking’ refers to pulling out loose hairs, which the rabbits shed naturally. There have been reports of inhumane harvesting, so it is worth investigating the source (and husbandry of) of angora fibres.
The environmental impact of farming rabbits is low. It is usually small scale and doesn’t use a lot of energy. Depending on how it is harvested, angora fibre doesn’t need processing prior to spinning.
What makes the fibre so noble?
Angora fibre is fluffy, light, soft and very warm. It has high insulation and moisture wicking properties. Its high loft breathes well and is naturally water resistant.
The colours of angora bunnies range from pure white to grey, brown, gold, lilac and silver. It is one of the finest natural fibres, ranging from 9 to 12 micron. The staple length is relatively short; around 5-8cm, giving it a tendency to pill. Angora has low draping qualities and is inelastic, making it prone to warping.
It is often blended with other fibres and will make anything it’s blended with super soft. Only 5 to 10% is needed to make any fibre, including medium to course fibres, next to skin soft. Angora adds a cloud-like appearance and a silky feel to fabrics. It is great for felting, with a shrinkage of less than 10%.
Angora is resistant to odors but has low stain resistance. It is not an allergen, but its soft fluffy fibres might irritate the nose. It can be slippery to knit with, so use wooden needles. Angora is strong and durable, but you should only wash it when it is dirty. Too much cleaning can break down the yarn. The labour intensiveness of this fibre makes it an expensive luxury yarn.
Where to see angora locally
IxCHel – Yarra Valley (n.b. this farm has strict biosecurity measures to protect their rabbits from disease so it is not open for visits)