Tour de Fleece

I have been newly introduced to a spinning event this year called the Tour de Fleece (you need a Ravelry account, which is awesome and free, to play along). Because we fiber spinners just don’t spend enough time being mistaken for people who do crazy bicycling for exercise, the fiber spinning community sets itself the challenge of spinning every single day during the Tour de France and attempting a major challenge on the challenge day of the race, which this year happens to be July 18.

This is the bare minimum I'm hoping to spin during Tour de Fleece.
This is the bare minimum I’m hoping to spin during Tour de Fleece.

I’m on the Rookie team for the time being, in hopes that I’ll connect with benevolent spinning masters who love to share what they know with us n00bs, but I have a few specific challenges for myself between now and July 21st:

  1. Finish the blue mystery wool I’m spinning worsted on the wheel.
  2. Ply said blue mystery wool…on the wheel. This will be my first wheel plying, and I can’t lie: I’m nervous about it.
  3. Work up the dragon-red yarn on my new spindle and finish as 2-ply. This is a speed challenge that will necessitate carrying the stuff with me.
  4. Blend and spin some angora. The challenge here is a new fiber prep technique and a new fiber, so I’ll be in double need of luck for that. I’ll probably tackle this with my new spindle, so part of the challenge with the red is to spin both halves and get it plied before the 18th so my lightest spindle is ready for me to tackle the tough stuff on Challenge Day.

Spinning every day, I might find myself working through the fiber faster than I anticipate, so I might make it as far as working on my Romney lamb and Jacob alpaca fleeces that I’m hoping to coax into a nice, soft, durable, deep gray sweater yarn.

Good luck to all my fellow spinners! Happy spinning!

 

The Bunnies are Coming!

A while back, John and I went out to Acker’s Acres to meet Beth and her angoras, who were just at the beginning of a breeding season. Yesterday, Sarah and I were able to meet the kits who were just twinkles in their mothers’ eyes. They’re only six weeks old, so not old enough to take home yet (which is good, because the rabbitat is not yet built), but old enough that you can see what coats they’ll have and distinguish their genders.

Beth had a few male fawns that were a bit older–I met them on my last visit. Male rabbits are harder to find homes for because you only really need one to get a rabbitry going. They were so sweet though, and I just couldn’t help agreeing to give this guy a home.

My First Angora

He was due for a grooming, so Beth used him to demonstrate some basic grooming techniques. His first useful coat was also ready to be harvested, so I got to see exactly what he’ll be producing and how easily it comes off. I’m glad that these rabbits can be plucked instead of shorn–seems like plucking is a lower risk entry to gathering bunny wool.

We couldn't believe how cool he was with being held like this.
We couldn’t believe how cool he was with being held like this.

I had the darndest time choosing my second rabbit from the younger batch. I adored this tiny little bunny. She was from a litter of ten, and all of the kits in her litter were a little smaller. She was definitely a snuggler.

The doe we didn't take.

One of her little sisters, the runt, had escaped just before Sarah and I showed up, and we had a grand old time helping Beth round up the clever little adventuress. If anyone ever asks you how long it takes three grown women to chase one bunny, the answer is WAY longer than you’d think.

This is the bunny we ended up deciding on in the end, and she’s the niece to the male rabbit. Apparently inbreeding is a done thing when you’re dealing with rabbits, though, because Beth said we could breed them together if we wanted to.

Sarah and  6 week old REW Doe we did choose

Not sure I’ll be up for breeding them anytime soon–that’s a more difficult endeavor that would benefit from a degree in rabbit genetics. All of that is far more complicated than it seems like it ought to be, but fortunately, Sarah (aka Queen of Overthunk Things) has taken an interest in both rabbit behavior and genetics, so I can pretty much count on plenty of help raising those rabbits right.

Our date to pick them up is tentatively May 31st, so keep you eyes open for more fuzzy bunny pictures soon!

Fluffy Bunnies

John and I had the great pleasure of visiting one of the largest Angora rabbit breeders and fiber producers in Maine last Saturday. Beth Acker, of Acker’s Acres, was kind enough to give us a tour of her rabbitry and share with us a wealth of information about raising angoras.

I’ve been mentally planning for raising rabbits since we bought the house, and since I started running into John’s office to show him yet another adorable bunny in The Nervous New Owner’s Guide to Angora Rabbits or another diagram from Storey’s Guide to Raising Rabbits, he’s been softening to the idea. When I came across some information about the Maine Fiber Frolic and started drooling in excitement, he sighed and said, “Yes, I guess we can do rabbits this spring.”

Acker’s Acres is the closest angora rabbitry, and you can only imagine how thrilled I was when Beth invited us to come meet her rabbits. After half an hour or so of inspecting colors, listening to Beth’s advice, and mostly, watching the adorable bunnies hop about in their cages, John’s resignation had turned into something a bit closer to excitement.

To share forward a bit of the knowledge and excitement, here are just a few of the nifty tidbits Beth shared with us:

  • 40% angora blended with 60% wool is enough to gift a yarn the halo and softness of angora and the strength and spring of wool.
  • Angoras usually have three different coats at different stages, which you can see pretty clearly in the black rabbits.
  • Purebred German angoras only come in white, but they have the highest fiber production, so many Maine breeders cross Germans with other breeds to get the best of both color and fiber production.
  • Wood hutches are a bad idea for angoras because (a) the rabbits will chew on them and (b) the hutches will get soaked with urine, making the rabbits dirtier and their wool less viable for spinning.

John and I still have work to do to get ready for bunnies, but I’m hoping we’ll have our mini-rabbitry ready by the Fiber Frolic. Beth’s hoping to have a good number of kits ready to go shortly after the Frolic, so we’re hoping to pop down for another visit to reserve a pair when they’re old enough for their color to be showing true.

And a word to anyone else planning on stopping by the Acker’s Acres booth at one of the festivals–save lots of fiber money for Beth’s booth, because her hand-dyed colors (roving and yarn) are absolutely gorgeous and luscious to the touch.