Angora rabbits are shorn every three months (their natural molting cycle) when their fiber length is a minimum of three inches. At this point, they start molting and their coats need to be brushed or shorn off using scissors or clippers. If not, their coats begin to mat and they will lick themselves. Ingesting too much fiber causes wool block, which is similar to what happens to cats but without the ability to cough up a ball. In between this molting period the bunnies must be brushed weekly to avoid forming any unwanted mats. They readily sit on my lap and kick their back legs out during their brushing.
The fiber is then washed with a natural, mild detergent to rid it of any debris and saliva, which also rids it of most allergen properties.
Now the fiber goes through a process called carding, being brushed from one metal slicker brush to another. After a few passes the fibers are combed straight and are aligned and ready to spin.
The fiber is then taken and spun on a spinning wheel into a single long strand that is wound onto a spool. This is done twice. Once the two spools are full, they are spun together to form an extra strong 2ply beautiful yarn, ready for crocheting.
This yarn is given to women that work from home, here in upstate NY, to crochet into the beautiful garments that you will receive in the mail.
There is much controversy regarding the story of the Angora rabbit, however according to generally accepted theory, Angoras date back to the early 18th century, around 1723. As the story goes, there were some sightseeing sailors who pulled into a Turkish port called Angora, now known as Ankara. It was in this town where they saw native women wearing very beautiful shawls that were like no other that they had seen. The fineness and silkiness quite surpassed the shawls in their country of France. They inquired about the fine wool in the shawls and much to their surprise found it to be from the Angora rabbit. Thus the sailors secured some of the rabbits to take back to France.
At any rate, the French without a doubt are given credit for seeing the commercial possibilities of the Angora wool into yarn. France was not the only country to visualize the possibilities of this excellent fiber. England very shortly followed suit. England probably did the most transporting of the Angoras to other countries including Germany, Spain, Japan, and various European countries.
It was probably not until around 1900 that there were any Angora rabbits in the United States and those were brought by fanciers or people interested in showing the animals. Records regarding commercialization in the United States date around 1925 or 1930. While there are very few commercial wool industries in the United States, many individuals maintain small herds of Angoras for wool production and exhibition. However, there is no substitute for Angora —the fiber known as the Aristocrat of wools. *
In the mid 1900's Angora fiber was raised in the US and many womens' fashions incorporated it. Beautiful hand spun sweaters and jackets were all the rave. Then when fabrics being imported from China and India became more popular, the Angora rabbit trade transferred there. The problem is that factory farmed Angora can't even compare to home grown Angora. Most Angora that comes from China, is shorn more often then the natural molt of the rabbit in an attempt to get more yarn per year. This creates shorter lengths that do not hold when spun into a yarn, thus creating that horrible shedding factor associated with Angora. These fibers are also brittle because the rabbits are kept in tiny cages and fed poor diets. Hair needs good protein to grow! The yarn that is produced on big industrial machines rips apart these delicate fibers, further encouraging shedding. And finally, it is mixed with synthetic fibers in a last attempt to hold it together. The end result is terrible. It sheds, is itchy and less warm. Hand spun Angora on the other hand is so luxurious, it is similar to wearing a real fur. In fact, it sheds less than some real fur. The fibers are no less than three inches long, so when they are spun into a yarn, there is almost two inches of length twisted into the yarn and the remaining one inch creates the bloom effect. After a few washings and multiple wearings, about one inch of one end of all the fibers loosen, known as the Bloom or Halo effect, and create a beautiful fur look. Angora fiber is 800% warmer than sheep's wool and as soft as cashmere.
*The History of the Angora R abbit excerpt from: http://www.angorarabbit.com/angora/angora-guide/index.htm