We call it wool, you know that stuff covering American Fuzzy Lops and the cage bottoms, walls of our barn, and all of our clothes. But shepherds will tell you that the only true wool comes from sheep. Its certainly true that sheep wool has a lot of unique properties. As stated in the The Knitter’s Book of Yarn, “Wool in yarn is like restaurants in San Francisco. You could knit a different blend every day for a year…”
What makes sheep’s wool different from rabbit wool? It would be easier to show you in person, if you could touch it, but we’ll give this a try anyway.
Look at the crimp or waves in the fiber. This tends to be very easy to see in sheep’s wool. This particular lock is from a California Variegated Mutant sheep. We know that there are differences in the fiber quality—softeness, length of fiber (called staple), and density. There is probably even greater difference between breeds of sheep!
Now look at the AFL wool. Although rabbit wool does have crimp, especially in the underwool, it is clearly not as apparent as in sheep wool Sheep wool also have more and larger scales than rabbit wool. As a result, sheep’s wool is more elastic.
Sheep also secrete lanolin (yep that is the stuff that makes your hands so soft), which means the fiber has to be washed before it can be spun into yarn. In contrast, rabbits are very clean. You can sometimes see angora owners spinning fiber directly off of a rabbit that is sitting in their lap. We know that would never work with a Fuzzy Lop. My rabbits would hop off and start playing before I could get any spinning done.
This yarn is has been washed and is being prepared to be dyed. Both sheep and rabbit wool take up dye very well.
But natural colors look gorgeous too. This is 100% AFL yarn being knitted into fingerless mitts. The cuffs are made from an alpaca yarn to add a soft nice trim.
And here is a finished pair of fingerless mitts, knitted from soft AFL wool, trimmed with handspun sheeps wool and silk yarn. Yummy soft and warm!