Winter Collection~ Blending Angora

drum carderIn the past few months, I have been blending my collected angora fibre with a variety of other fibres.  After changing out the cloth on my old drum carder to one that has a higher tpi (tooth per inch), which is better for finer fibres such as angora, I started with alpaca roving, which is very soft and also white, the same as my angora.  It carded and spun up beautifully!  I moved on to using a heavier merino wool that was hand painted in shades of light blue and purple, which became more diffused when I added the angora, but which held a lovely softness.  I also tried out some long staple llama locks in auburn, which produced a heavier weighted blend.  Lastly, I have blended the angora with a black merino wool, which gave a very tweed-ish grey, and was still very soft.  Here are some photos of replacing the carding cloth on my drum carder.  I took the whole thing apart, and pried off the old cloth.  The new cloth was cut to the correct length and stapled back onto the large drum, as well as the small one.  It was important to notice the tooth direction when putting the cloth on!  (Teeth at the top of the drum need to bend away from the loading tray).  Everything got a good cleaning before putting it all back together.

Making a blend on the drum carder-  I didn’t do any specific ratio measurements, as I am still getting a feel for how much angora I need to include at a minimum to still have a predominant angora feel.  I have been estimating a half and half ratio to start.

Generally, I loaded the tray and carded it through, doing about three loads before I pulled the batt off the large drum.  Then I carded the whole batt through once again very slowly, letting it spread out while it was pulled in to get a smooth, overall mix of the two fibres.  I didn’t take any photos while I was spinning it!  Here are some scarves I wove with the yarn from that combination, and a skein of angora/alpaca in which I spun little coloured bits.

I am very excited about exploring more options with the angora I am getting from my rabbits.  The neutral colours of the angora are flexible with colour combinations, and the added softness and warmth are simply divine!  These and other creations are for sale on my etsy store~ Silver Circle Weaving.  I also look forward to having all my weaving for sale at the Christmas Craft Fair at the community hall on Pender Island this weekend!

Silver Circle Weaving on Etsy

silvercircleweavingI finally decided to test out the services of Etsy to sell my weaving online.  So far, I have been offering my creations at the local farmers’ market during the summer, and I have often received inquiries from visitors about how they can see my work online.  I have really only used this blog to post photos, but never really had a purchasing format.  I am hopeful that Etsy will help connect my hand woven creations with those around the globe seeking to support small home businesses focusing on hand made items.

Visit my shop:  Silver Circle Weaving

I also realized that I needed a name… so I did some research on spinning and weaving and the symbolic associations with Celtic mythology, which I have always been interested in.  This is what I found:

83117db14f606e3e121892b219b44076Arianrhod, Celtic Welsh Star Goddess of Reincarnation, is known as “Silver Wheel”, “Silver Circle”, “High Fruitful Mother”, “Star Goddess”, and Sky Goddess. She is considered by many to be a Moon Goddess.  She is a primal figure of feminine power, a Celestial Mother Goddess who through her role as Goddess of Reincarnation, rules fertility and childbirth.  Arianrhod also rules arts, magic, and manifestation. As the Goddess of the Silver Wheel she is associated with spinning and weaving.  With Her wheel she magically weaves the tapestry of life.

Things sacred to Arianrhod are the owl, wolf and the birch tree.  The owl has long been associated with death whereas the birch tree is the tree of new beginnings.  To the Celts, the wolf was associated with the power of the moon.  Thus, Arianrhod’s wheel circles the continuum from birth to death and to birth once again, and creating the journeys therein.

Her palace was found in the far north on the magical, rotating island of Caer Sidi, which probably means “Revolving Castle”. She lived there with her female attendants. The ancients believed that her domain and her castle, Caer Arianrhod, were in the Corona Borealis, the constellation of stars moving around the apparently motionless North Star.  Legend tells us that poets and astrologers learned the wisdom of the stars at Caer Sidi.

As “Silver Wheel”, Arianrhod was responsible for the souls of warriors who fell in battle. She gathered them aboard her ship, the Oar Wheel. and transported them to Emania, also know as Moonland.  In the Northern sky, whirling around the enduring stability of the north star, Arianrhod presided over the fates of departed souls, nurturing their journeys between lives.

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I like the simple image of a silver circle, and I hope to also create a little design to go with it.  I also hope to be offering more items with my hand spun angora fibre that I have been harvesting from my own french angora rabbits.  I am still in the process of learning the skills of blending and spinning the very soft and silky fibres so that I may integrate it within the weaving.

Angora Scarves

I have finally woven up two scarves using the skein of angora fibre that I spun from our chocolate french angora rabbit, Gustav.  I mixed it with some hand spun, hand painted merino from a Pender Island fibre artist, I Heart Ewe (iheartewe.etsy.com) that my daughter gave to me for christmas.  The two scarves are for each of us.

Truly, the softest fibre I have ever touched.  I look forwards to experimenting with more!

January Weaving

The (slightly) quieter schedule that engulfs us after the holiday swirl offers a perfect time to focus attention back at my loom.  After a recent trip to Knotty By Nature in Victoria for a new array of warp thread, including some shiny bamboo, I have been continually inspired to explore and play with many ideas and colours.

Moss & Arbutus- My first attempt to weave from an idea of composition that I originally drew.  Warp threads are bamboo, weft consists of merino, and baby llama/mulberry silk blend.  The white accents are hand spun angora collected from my own rabbits.  158cm long (63in.) x 27cm (10.5in.)  $75.

Fire- woven on the same bamboo warp as Moss & Arbutus, I used green baby llama/mulberry silk blend with Noro wool featuring long colour changes.  I played with the effect of clasp weaving using two yarns of differing thickness.  130cm (51in.) x 27cm (10.5in.)  $60.

Forest Windows was inspired by seeing small squares woven separately in a cloak somewhere online, creating little “windows” that opened on the sides.  Same bamboo warp as the above pieces, I used similar merino with the baby llama/mulberry silk blend, with moments of white alpaca.  145 cm (57in.) x 27cm (10.5in.) $65.

Pond is a tiny little neck warmer in the same hues as Ocean.  It is only 105cm (41in.) x 13cm (5in), and was woven on the same warp as Ocean, except that I split the warp and wove two separate pieces at the same time.  $35.

Ocean is a long expanse of blues, purples, and white with flecks of cream and deep green.  I used alpaca, merino, wool, and some locally spun and dyed merino on cotton warp.   Randomly placed spaces in the warp add some visual texture in the length.  This piece measures 195cm (78in.) x 32cm (12.5in.), and may one day become a piece of clothing.

All of these pieces are currently for sale.

 

Angora Heaven

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Locally harvested!  100% French Angora, Gustav, the fibre machine. 

It has taken a bit of time, almost 6 months in fact, to finally catch the chance to spin some of the super soft angora fibre that I have been collecting from the three rabbits, Gustav, Rosey and Peter.  In the time that I have been learning to care for them, I have witnessed their own unique bunny personalities, as well as individual fibre qualities and shedding times.  Gustav has proved to be the manufacturing machine, with a grow back and release time of about 2 months.  I have collected a large amount of his lovely grey tinted fibre.  Rosey loves to hold on to her wedding gown cascade of pure white fibre, and resists many of my attempts to pull it out until just the right time, which is closer to 3 or 4 months.  Peter is a satin x french angora, and has very fine fibre that doesn’t seem to ever grow too long, and doesn’t produce the quantity that I get from Gustav, as he sheds somewhere in the middle of the other two.  Peter has a lovely orange brown to his coat.

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My long term goal is to blend the angora with some other fibre, which means experimenting with carders to pre-blend the fibres together before spinning.  Since my time has been short, I have not been able to gather tools to test out before buying, so I decided last month to go ahead and try spinning some fibre 100% and without any carding.  Teasing out handfuls of lofty bunny hair which had been harvested straight from my rabbit, I gave it a light spray with water that had a few drops of jojoba oil and lavender oil in it, as was suggested by my most referred to book, The Nervous New Owners Guide To Angora Rabbits, by Suzie Sugrue.  That kept it from flying all around the room!  It was not too hard to spin, and I was inspired to keep the harvested fibre more orderly for next time.  The pieces that were nicely aligned spun up more evenly than the chunks that were tangled from the brush, or from being scrunched in the bag.

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I made one large skein of 2-ply, 100% angora, and then a made another small quantity that was 2-ply, one of the ply’s being 100% alpaca.  The two fibres mixed wonderfully, and I think that once I get a handle on pre-blending, then the possibilities for creative mixing will become another source of heaven in my hands.

Angora Additions to the Family

For many years, I have had the idea to eventually raise angora rabbits as part of our family and farm.  I imagined that I would wait until all our building projects were done, when I might have more space in my time to learn and manage another project.  However, it seemed evident that our home schooling journey needed more long term and interactive projects, and I realized that the things I wanted to do were also things that my kids were interested in, and besides, home schooling for us is all about living, creating, and doing- just learning through life.  So I promptly gave my twelve year old daughter the task of taking on some research to find out what we need to know and do, and where to acquire some rabbits.  In her process, she herself fell in love with the possibilities of these cozy cute creatures, and began to be a major motivation to our moving forwards.

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Rosey- Sable French Angora, 1 year old

We decided to find some French Angora rabbits, since that seemed to be the breed that was an easier level of management for first time bunny owners.  They have a clear face, free of long hair, and a thick coat of soft hair that doesn’t tangle as quickly as some other breeds.  We weren’t too keen on the rabbits that had a face hidden behind so much hair!  Their fibre can be gently pulled off their bodies every 3 months, when the new undercoat grows in, so no shearing required.  We looked at a space to give them, the food they needed, the protection they needed, and the management of their poop.  We also found that they are hypo-allergenic, which was just what we needed, since my mother with whom we live is seriously allergic to cats.  French angora’s seemed to be a lovely pet, (they generally have a good temperament and are playful and clean), they can live outside, (great for our small space), they produce beautiful fibre for all my weaving and spinning projects, and we obtain a constant supply of rich rabbit manure that can be applied fresh right to the garden.

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Peter- Chocolate Agouti French Satin x, 3 years old

We didn’t find any breeders in our area, or even distant area, but we did find an owner who was no longer able to look after her two french angora’s, and one french/satin x.  The two french’s, one male and one female, both young, are a breeding pair so we can grow our numbers if we like.  The other is an older male who has a beautiful, finer coat, and was the last one she was left with.  We decided to take them all.  They are all pedigree.

There was a lot of different types of housing offered for rabbits.  We were given a double long wooden hutch, so we started with that for Gustav, the young french angora male.

Gustav- Chocolate French Angora, 1 year old

Gustav- Chocolate French Angora, 1 year old

We built a 6 foot square enclosure for him to run around in when we are out in the yard with him.  I haven’t seen any signs that he might want to dig his way out.  It is shaded and covered from over head predators.  We added two enclosures underneath the wooden one, on the deck of our old trailer, which both open to two separate 4 foot square runs, with wire floors and a roof to keep the area dry and shaded.  We supplied a litter tray with a drop pan underneath, which they seem to be using after we placed them in the corners that the bunnies had decided were their bathroom areas.  Gustav’s hutch came with slatted floors and drop pans, which are so easy to empty and keep clean.

We have already collected quite a bit of fibre from them.  It has taken a few times of grooming to get them used to us, but mostly they have all been very patient while we brush and pluck and generally pick through their fibre, checking for any bugs, tangles, cuts or signs of needed care.  The previous owner of these rabbits generously supplied me with many books to read through, and I read that observation and time with the bunnies is the best way to know what they need.  (The Nervous New Owner’s Guide To Angora Rabbits, by Suzie Sugrue was the best!)  Between myself, my husband, my mother, and my two kids, we are constantly looking to see how they are doing and if they are happy.  My daughter goes to feed them as soon as she gets up in the morning, and we brush each of them in rotation every few days, and clean out their living areas thoroughly once a week, with daily litter pan emptying.  We feed them some greens and vegetables everyday, with a constant supply of timothy hay that is locally grown on the Saanich Peninsula.  They eat pellets, and a small amount of dried papaya to help their stomachs digest any of the long hair they swallow while grooming themselves.

All of this doesn’t take too long, but it certainly is a reminder of the commitment to have small creatures in our care.  It has been wonderful to witness the connections that the kids have made with the rabbits, and the level of responsibility that they have shown to keeping them healthy and loved.  My daughter put together a presentation for our home schooling group on angora rabbits.

I have yet to spin any of the fibre, but as I have collected it, I have been dreaming of the the super soft and warm scarves, hats, or shawls it could become.  Rabbits love greens!Every thing happens in it’s own time, and eventually I will understand the inticacies of the art of using the fibre, just as I am beginning to understand the procedures of care for our new family fluff balls!

More Saori Weaving

first market tableThe cool days of winter reflected in weaving… Here are a few photos of some of the things that have come off the loom in the last few months.  I had my first table at the Easter weekend farmers’ market- it was pretty fun to see all the colours out in the spring air and to connect with other islanders’ in sharing creations.  It was the first time I have really had a collection out in the public eye, and I was quite excited by all the supportive responses!

Here are a few scarves… lots of play with bright tones, mixing them randomly or with a preconceived design.  A few fibers in these include alpaca, merino, silk, and bamboo.  I love the saori philosophy that allows mistakes to be elements of design.  Eliminating the negative idea of a mistake opens the possibilities for unplanned creation.

I have also been experimenting with small vests, made in two ways- either cut in half and sewn up the back and sides, or a single length folded in a V in the back and sewn to the front under the arms.  The second way makes for a slightly more fitting cropped kind of vest, as seen in the yellow/blue vest.  The unfolded length of it can be seen in the photo above- I did some planning to make the yellow portion of the vest fall around the shoulders and the blue portion lie at the bottom, once it is folded.  The blue vest is made primarily with hand dyed merino and kid fiber from Fleece Artist in Nova Scotia.  It is cut in half and sewn up the back for a wider fit.

I often catch myself judging whether or not I like what I am doing.  As I work, the weaving gets rolled up to advance the warp strings, and my visual of the progress remains in the immediate ten inches or so.  It is not until I roll the whole thing off that I get a full look of what I have done, (unless I unroll it and peek, but that still has some visual limitations).  It is a chance to remember to work in the present, and trust that a complete picture of the creation will be revealed later… whether it is based on a preconceived idea I have attempted to follow, or a creation of random patterning, it is always a surprise to pull something off the loom and see it in it’s full form.

 

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