Fibreshed fibre: Angora

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.

A smoke grey English angora.

A smoke grey English angora. Image credit: Charly McCafferty

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.

Angora rabbits in a day enclosure.

Angora rabbits in a day enclosure. Image credit: Charly McCafferty

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%.

Bunny bummers

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.

Angora rabbit and dog lying together

Jazz the bunny dog with Gandalf at IxCHel farm. Image credit: Charly McCafferty

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)

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5 Responses to Fibreshed fibre: Angora

  1. norma says:

    Interesting – so Angora is always from rabbits; I thought it was from goats. This project is definitely educational.

  2. jboronia says:

    I’m so glad there are humane and painless ways to harvest angora rabbit fur!! I remember there were some pretty gruesome images/videos circulating on FB on angora rabbit fur harvesting.. I felt so bad for the poor rabbits 😦 I’ve seen angora rabbit fur scarfs around – they sure are soft and fluffy!!

    • cheliamoose says:

      It’s reassuring, isn’t it? There are definitely many approaches to harvesting though, so it does pay to ask questions about the particular angora product you’re looking at.

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