(Photo by NCP)
Some years ago (eight, maybe nine?), my youngest brother's pleadings for a rabbit paid off. My parents caved and began the rabbit search. Why on earth a family with a beagle would think that buying a rabbit is a good idea is beyond me. Fortunately, there was a method to the madness. That year, my brother got a black and white Rex rabbit for his birthday. His name is Joshua, and he is adorable. Rexes are good-sized rabbits, and their fur is incredibly soft. Petting him is a little like petting a skein of cashmere. He and the dog, Albert, actually got along pretty well, partly because we only let them be loose in the same room with a lot of supervision. When the dog died some years later, and my parents got another beagle, the puppy, Southwell, was delighted to find that there was someone his size in the house. He kept trying to get into rabbit's cage, not to eat the rabbit, but to eat the rabbit's food. Joshua, by this time, was middle-aged and not thrilled with this. His favourite pastimes are hopping around the laundry room or the backyard, nibbling on things and rubbing them with his chin. He was very fond of me, but then I moved away. Whenever I'm back for a visit, he's happy to see me, though.
Now, I hadn't really realized, until I started knitting, that you could actually find yarn made of rabbit fur. I hadn't tried it before, seeing it as one of those fluffy yarns that are a nightmare to frog. I've branched out a bit. I swore once I'd never want to knit with mohair. Now I have three balls of mohair in my stash. One went into a pair of mittens, as the liners. The outer layer is Manos del Uruguay. They are impressively warm. The pattern is Sheltie, by Robin Melanson, from Knitting New Mittens and Gloves.
The other two are going to be a pair of striped mitts, based on the ones Alice wears in the new Alice in Wonderland movie. I'm considering using the same stuff I used for the mittens (SandnesGarn Kitten Mohair) for a sweater. After knitting with it and trying the mittens on, I'm fairly sure it doesn't irritate my skin. Alpaca has a tendency to itch a little bit for me unless it's the nice, expensive kind, and that was the fluffiest yarn I'd use on a regular basis.
I've given a cashmere blend a try and loved it but cursed the yarn when I had to frog back a row, and discovered, after wearing the cashmere mitts I'd knit, that it was like wearing a furnace on my hands. I'm unlikely to knit a cashmere sweater because I get hot and cold easily. During the school year, I get warmed up on the walk from the bus stop to the classroom (it's a decent walk, after all), so I take off my sweater, hang it on the back of my chair, put my scarf, mitts, and hat on top of my backpack, and then by the end of an hour-long class, since the rooms are always cold, even in winter, I'm wearing it all again. Cashmere is probably not the best idea for me since it's so drastically warm.
Anyway, all this to say that I hadn't tried knitting with angora. It was a fluffy yarn, which I had sworn to stay away from, and it didn't really appeal to me. I've seen angora bunnies, and am forced to admit that they are adorable, although they look a little funny with all that fluff. If we had a rabbit, it probably wouldn't be an angora, but you never know.
I was at the thrift store yesterday, and as is my habit, I wandered through the sweater section, touching sweaters and wondering why so many sweaters are made of really heavy cotton. I don't like knitting with cotton, and don't feel the need for a sweater's worth of it. I always hope to run across a cashmere sweater that I could take apart and turn into a shawl, but that hasn't happened yet.
Then, I found it. It was really soft, and it was charcoal-coloured, which meant it actually stood a chance with me (bubble-gum pink does not). I dug out the tag. 54% nylon, 6% wool, and 40% angora. I bought it without even trying it on. When I got home, I did try it on. It was too big for me, and the shawl collar and buttons on the front didn't suit me. So I got out my seam ripper, reduced it to pieces, and started frogging. I've about finished the two sleeves, but the fronts and back still need to be taken apart. I can salvage some of the button band, but the buttonholes were cut, so that section is no good. It's coming apart very well--much better than I had expected. I'm probably going to use it for a cardigan. I think I'm in love. It's so soft, and it doesn't itch at all. I may have to see if the LYS carries angora in worsted weight. It'd be perfect for that one sweater that I was going to use mohair for. Turns out fluffy yarns have their charms.