Vicksburg resident spins a yarn with a little help from her rabbit|[06/16/08]

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 16, 2008

Alice may have followed the white rabbit down the rabbit hole, but it wasn’t so she could spin his soft, warm fur into yarn. Brenda Harrower, on the other hand, keeps German Angora rabbit Percy for just that reason.

“I love to spin an angora blend,” Harrower said.

Harrower, a Vicksburg resident for 25 years, has been spinning and knitting since she was young, but only recently started “harvesting” her own material to make yarn.

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Percy is a 5-year-old, 9-pound rabbit. His white fur is extremely warm – second only to yak, Harrower said.

Though Harrower also uses other materials, such as silk, alpaca and sheep’s wool, she said there’s something special in being able to start at the very beginning.

“There’s a satisfaction in knowing that you’ve really started at the start of it all,” she said.

Harrower uses scissors to cut Percy’s fur. She then washes it at extremely hot temperatures. After it dries, she combs the fibers, using a comb, carter or hackle. These different methods all create roving, a long bundle of fibers Harrower then spins into yarn.

Harrower owns three other Giant-Satin cross angora rabbits named Little Guy, Angel and Dickens. Angel is the biggest, at 11 pounds and yielding 8-inch fibers.

“I always wanted to learn how to spin and do a few more antique arts,” said Harrower. She has collected several spinning wheels, including one from Australia and one from Romania.

After the yarn is spun, Harrower knits it into shape. She knits shawls, socks and Christmas presents – though gifts made from homespun yarn are rare, she said.

“You have to know how to take care of it because it takes hours and hours,” she said and laughed.

She estimates the process, from raw fibers to yarn, takes about two weeks. Knitting then takes additional time.

Harrower teaches two knitting classes, one for knitting socks and another for knitting lace. She said sometimes she gives her students homespun yarn to start.

“The cool thing is that it’s not perfect, but we like that because it’s unique,” she said.

Harrower is also involved in Socks for Soldiers, a project that knits the thick, black socks for soldiers.

For Harrower, spinning and knitting are more than a hobby.

“It’s just mesmerizing. It’s good for your soul. I think that’s why Ghandi said you should spin – there’s a rhythm to it.”