Knitting New Life into Vintage Patterns

Spring’s baby Angora bunnies inspire winter’s warm angora slippers.

Stefanie Johnson Jul 13, 2022 - 5 min read

Knitting New Life into Vintage Patterns Primary Image

One-month-old Angora kits (baby rabbits) with angora blend yarn and Two-Yarn Slippers. Photos by Stefanie Johnson

Springtime is the busiest time of year at Settlers Grove Farm. We always have incubating eggs and then baby chicks. (This year, avian influenza was a concern, but I can happily report that our flock has remained healthy!) And then there are all the outdoor chores that were put off when the weather was miserable.

This spring, we were also blessed with a small litter of kits (baby rabbits) from our sweetest Angora doe, Pancake. She is proving to be an excellent but trusting mother. On day 27 of gestation, we added a nesting box with straw to her hutch. A pregnant doe will pull out her belly fur and add it to the box to provide a soft and warm nest for her coming kits.

It was hard to resist, but the newborn kits were handled only to keep them together in the nest and to remove those that did not survive.

8-day-old-angora-rabbit-kits At eight days old, the kits remain in their nest lined with straw and their mother’s fur. They're not ready to be handled yet.

On day 10, they popped out of the nest, and the snuggling began! We consider our French Angora rabbits to be dual purpose rabbits—fiber sources and pets. The more the young kits are handled after they emerge from the nest, the easier they are to care for as they age. It is very hard to trim an adult rabbit’s nails safely if they resist. Rabbits that are handled often are less resistant to being picked up, having their nails trimmed, or being brushed or plucked.

This litter had 3 surviving kits. The doe is a fawn Angora, and the buck (father) is a broken lilac, a pattern of gray and white. The kits’ coloring is gradually developing, and it is fun to see how quickly they change!

18-day-old-angora-kits-with-mom At 18 days old, the kits are ready for cuddles and stick close to mom Pancake.

A Vintage Slipper Pattern Revived

As a subscriber to Spin Off magazine, I have access to the entire library of issues electronically. I love this perk! When I need inspiration, it is fun to peruse old articles and projects. I recently came across Wayne Pfeffer’s Two Yarn Slippers in the Summer 2000 issue and recalled that my son needs new slippers for next winter. I have a lot of handspun in my stash that could serve as the coarser wool, and I began to sample some angora blends for the soft inner wool.

Wayne suggested a softer, finer wool or wool/angora blend for the inside contrast color. I ended up choosing a 3-ply blend: 1 ply is 100% angora, and the remaining 2 plies are 22% angora/66% Merino/12% Lincoln, resulting in a 48% angora/52% wool blend. The wool provides some elasticity and strength, and the angora is luxuriously soft and fluffy. I used some angora that I dyed green with leftover Easter egg dye along with some natural gray-, white-, and fawn- colored fiber for fun pops of color.

The slippers turned out so great that I am eager to knit a pair for myself, perhaps adding some cables to the pattern. I’ve discovered my goal for this year’s Tour de Fleece: spin some more of my ultrasoft angora for my own slippers to wear next winter!

photo D- At the wheel with slippers on Stefanie modeling slippers at her wheel

When Stefanie Johnson is not educating her community on how to minimize the spread and impact of COVID-19 and other communicable diseases, she enjoys creating unique items and helping others learn to spin, knit, and weave. More of Stefanie’s work can be found in Knitty and Knotions and under Settlers Grove Designs on Ravelry.