For last Father’s Day, which in Finland was in the late autumn, I decided I’d knit my dad a pair of gloves from some home spun yarn. Given that I only got this idea about one week before Father’s Day, I knew I was already hopelessly late to get it done on time, but little did I realise the gloves would finally be ready in February, months after the event. But here they are, finally.
I wish I could post a little sample of the yarn I spun, because it was the softest loveliest yarn I’ve ever made – an angora & Shetland blend which was a bit tricky to card but absolutely beautiful to spin and knit. And the resulting fabric is just gorgeous, warm and soft, easily compares with cashmere, I promise I am not exaggerating (at least not much).
Before I started carding and spinning, I consulted the good ladies of the Online Guild of Spinners, Dyers and Weavers about what is the best approach to spinning angora. Here’s what they advised:
- angora felts if you as much as look at it the wrong way, so it’s better not to wash it before spinning. Good angora should not be too dirty even in its raw state because the rabbit, if well cared for, looks after its own fur (if the fibre is not clean you need to change your supplier). Mine was very clean, so I was happy to leave the washing until after it had been spun.
- only buy angora from a reputable supplier, as apparently there can be animal welfare issues with commercial angora (a bit like battery hens, they are sometimes kept in very small cages).
- a good companion for angora is Shetland wool, as it is about the same length and has enough crimp to make a bouncy yarn even after it has been blended with angora (which is more like silk in that it’s fine and non-stretchy as it has no crimp).
- the best way to blend wool and angora is to make a layered sandwich, with a thin layer of wool at the bottom, angora in the middle and a thin layer of wool at the top and then feed this sandwich into a carder
Carding this blend was the tricky bit. Initially I had fed in wool and angora into my carder individually, and the angora would just get stuck in the smaller drum. After a bit of trial and error, I realised the fibre sandwich needs to be made before feeding it into the carder, and not try to feed the fibres separately. Even so, if the sandwich contained too much angora, it would just get stuck in the smaller drum, so the angora fibre definitely needed to be well covered with wool before feeding it in. I took each batt several times through the carder, each time adding a bit more angora and that seemed to be the easiest way increase the angora content of the batt. This way I managed to blend perhaps 25-30% angora to 70-75% Shetland wool.
Given that I was going to knit men’s gloves with this yarn, I decided a medium grey would be an ideal understated colour, made from a mix of black and very light grey Shetland. As you can see in the picture the angora fibre was a most beautiful shade of pale grey (if I was good enough spinner I’d definitely try to spin it on its own).
The yarn looks tweedy with some black and light grey bits in it – I didn’t actually intend this to happen, it is just the way the fibres behaved, but I quite like the effect as it created some subtle interest in the otherwise very plain yarn. I’ve noticed that whenever I spin Shetland there will be little nepps in the yarn, so perhaps that’s just its character?
And the knitting pattern – it was the free “Modified Army Gloves” pattern you can find in Ravelry. It turned out to be a good basic glove pattern, plain and classic, just what I was after. The gauze of my yarn was slightly different from the one used in the pattern, so I had to do some maths to adjust. I also knitted the fingers a bit longer than it was recommended in the pattern, as they seemed a bit on the short side. But otherwise, it was pretty straight-forward and I am sure to use this pattern again (particularly as I too would now like a luxury pair of angora-Shetland gloves).