Letter Re: Wool Carding Questions

Friday, Sep 13, 2013

This is in response to the recent question re wool cards for angora fiber. Please let me add a few important facts on this subject.

Angora fiber needs to be processed on cards with a fine tine. The fibers are comparatively short and incredibly soft and fine. Buy cards referred to as cotton cards or recommended for carding exotic fibers or cotton.

Yes, one can pluck and spin the fiber off a rabbit in one's lap, but that's generally a trick for fiber shows. Really, please, just pluck the rabbit and let it down to run around while you spin.

Unless one has a large herd of fiber rabbits, the fiber yield will not be prodigious. The OP mentioned only one rabbit, so they will only get about 6-10 ounces per year if they only harvest twice in a year.

For others, though, please know that maintaining a large herd of angora rabbits is extremely difficult. At one point in time, I had 40, and I do not recommend that unless one has no other responsibilities or has a helper. There are considerations above and beyond raising meat rabbits. Proper, regular grooming must be done to prevent wool block; saving a rabbit from wool block is time consuming and difficult without an IV or a vet. One can use a blow dryer for this on a weekly basis. Keeping the vent area clipped prevents nasty abscesses. Since one keeps fiber rabbits for many years, rather than 12 weeks, providing a place in the cage so the rabbit can be off the wire prevents sores on the feet. The poop detail is horrendous. The cages must be cleaned of poop and hair regularly for cleanliness and good health. I recommend a propane torch. Maintenance in hot summers is more important than worrying about cold winters. There are many other considerations.

Back to fiber. Angora fiber has no elasticity; thus an item of 100 percent angora will droop and have no spring or ability to naturally stay the same as when made. With small yields and elasticity concerns, the better method for maximizing angora is to mix it with sheep's wool or other elastic fibers, or to simply use it for trim or accents.

Consider also keeping a couple of sheep. When buying said sheep make sure to get ones with a softer hand (smaller diameter fiber/micron count) if wanting items to be worn near the face - scarves, wimples, etc. Consider Merino or Corriedale.

If one is serious about using wool for clothing, a drum carder is the way to go. Although expensive, a family could spend as much on enough hand cards to be productive as it might on one good drum carder. A person could spend an evening hand carding rolags to equal 20 minutes' worth of wool off of a drum carder. My personal favorite for solid construction is made by Strauch.

As with all survival gear, have some saved for the future. Carding cloth is incredibly expensive. In a SHTF situation, there won't be any manufacturers of carding cloth for a long time, I dare say. I've known beginners to use dog grooming tools as hand cards before investing in expensive fiber tools. Consider stashing away a shoe box of dog grooming tools in case someone drops a wrench on your carding cloth. (Don't ask me how I know. )

Sincerely, - J.G.


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