Now that you have your bunny and have learned how to shear what do you do with all the wonderful fiber that is piling up in your closet?
Carding/Blending and Spinning – Angora is very fine and likes to “fly” so it can be easier to sandwich it between the fiber you are blending it with when carding (i.e. a layer of wool, layer of angora, layer of wool). Even a small amount of angora adds a lot of softness when added to another fiber. Try blending it with sheep wool, alpaca or silk for different looks. You can also try plying it with one strand of angora and one of another fiber such as silk. I usually spin my fleece raw – or unpicked/unwashed. Unlike sheep wool, angora is not greasy nor is it usually dirty. If you do end up with dirty wool like around their tail region, you can toss it or separate it out to wash it. If you do wash it, be very careful not to agitate it since it felts so readily. Just soak it with a little wool detergent (adding the wool to the wash tub last so that the fibers are not agitated by pouring water) and rinse by placing the fiber in a tub without detergent and carefully draining. Make sure that the temperature of the rinse water is the same as the temperature of the wool. Do not wring dry – just set it on a mesh surface and let air dry. You can gently press it with a towel to remove excess water. If it is only slightly stained it might be easier to wash the yarn after spinning it – use the same technique.
If you are spinning angora you will probably find it a little slicker and more difficult to control than sheep wool. I usually recommend new spinners practice a little with sheep wool before moving on to angora since it is not as easy to learn how to spin on. I prefer to spin it using the long draw method or “woolen” technique. This not only creates a lofty yarn that accentuates the soft fuzzy nature of angora but it also is easier to control the slick angora since it allows twist in the draft area. If you are spinning pure colored angora wool keep in mind that there are slight variations in the color of the wool depending on which region in came from. If you want a consistent color in your yarn, you need to blend it by carding or you can embrace the color variations by picking out wool from the different areas as you spin to get a subtle striping effect.
Dyeing – Angora dyes well. You can use acid dyes to make very lovely colors. If you are dyeing naturally colored wool keep in mind that the original color with show through – i.e. dyeing a light grey wool with pink will give you more of a rose, or dyeing the same wool with cobalt will give you a midnight blue. Angora wool resists water so I treat it more like silk with longer (3-4 hour) pre-soak times, adding the acid to the soak about 30 minutes before it goes into the dye pot. Make sure that you allow the dye water to return to room temperature before removing the wool. I have not had good luck using the washing machine to spin out excess water – it is generally too rough and tends to felt it. You can hand spin out the excess water by swinging it in a mesh bag or using a salad spinner. I find that it is easier to dye finished yarn rather than raw fiber but that is just a personal preference – try it both ways and pick your favorite method.
Knitting/Crocheting – When you finish your yarn it will look fairly smooth, but as you work with it, it will start to “bloom” and get the characteristic halo. Depending on the fleece you will see more or less of a halo. Pick patterns that show off or are strong enough to stand up its fuzzy nature. With the unique halo, plain stitches take on elegance. It is a wonderful fiber for the beginning knitter since even simple items can look luxurious. You can still knit lace but choose a bold pattern rather than an intricate one since the halo tends to soften up crisp lines and a dainty pattern might be obscured. I have knit patterns such as Miss Doolittle by Anne Hanson http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/miss-doolittle to great effect. Also remember that angora wool is extremely warm – I would not recommend knitting a pull-over sweater with one. If you want a sweater, I would stick with cardigans that you can easily remove if you get overheated indoors.
Felting – I do not have much experience felting but I have heard from needle felters, nuno felters and wet felters that it is an excellent fiber to work with. I know from experience that it felts easily once you get it wet (it does resist water). This is a great way to use up “seconds” or shorter wool lengths.
Most of all remember to have fun and don’t be afraid to try new things! You might be surprised at how much you end up loving that “mistake.”