HOPE—The wind and lashing rain didn’t bother Juniper, a one-and-a-half-year-old German Angora rabbit at the Hope Orchard’s annual Fall Festival on Sunday, October 9.
Juniper belongs to Anna Barber, who owns eight of these snow white long-haired rabbits on her pocket farm in Bremen. Their fur provides the fiber and yarn she use to make yarn for her angora products.
“Out of all the five breeds of German Angoras, this is the type that doesn’t shed its wool,” she said. “I have to use shears and sometimes an electric razor on them every three months,” she explained. “Juniper is pretty good about it, but I must say, the other rabbits get pretty excited when they get sheared. They get way too happy.”
“It’s like painting with fluff.”
— Anna Barber
Barber has been raising angora rabbits and making fiber scarves, hats, mittens and other felted products for more than 20 years. Her specialty is a felting technique first originated in the 1990s by a fabric artist from Australia called “Nuno Felting.”
The term derives from the Japanese word “nuno” meaning cloth.
“It’s pressing wool into silk by using hot water and a lot of working it with your hands.”
The technique bonds the loose fibers together into a sheer fabric that resembles silk gauze, but feels like a ghtweight felt.Barber had several Nuno scarves on display at the Fall Festival and lifting one to drape over her arms, she said: “This one took about eight to ten hours to make. But, it’s so much fun, it’s like painting with fluff.”
Barber, who is always fairly busy with the chores of her farm tending to her garden and animals, usually works on her fiber products whenever she has “inside time” either at night or when it’s raining.
Though the rabbits’ fur is not technically wool, she often uses the word “wool” in describing the texture of her hats and mittens “just to simplify it for people,” she said. “But to fiber artists, it’s generally known as Angora-knitted.” After she collects the sheared rabbits’ fur, she bags it up and sends it out to a woolen mill in Aroostook, where it is spun into fiber. After she gets it back, she begins the process of dying it into various colors, depending on the project.
Barber, like many vendors as the Fall Festival, is a one-person microbusiness and the only advertising she does for “Barber’s Bunnies” is through her Facebook page. The only other way she sells her products through a little shop on her farm.
To see other vendors and festival-goers who braved the rain and wind on a blustery fall day, check out our gallery.
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org