Black Diamond Kits

Black Diamond Kits
Sage's Kits, Nine Weeks Old

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Felted Soap

So I first heard of felted soap just two months ago from a buyer.  The young friend she was getting the rabbit for was anxious to have some angora fiber for felting soap.  And that was all I heard.

Curious, I decided to go to that impeccable source of all knowledge (well, not really, but you get the idea), the Internet. And I found a few facts, claims, and images of beautiful felted soap.  And the how-to's as well.

What exactly is felted soap?  Well, felted soap is promoted as a washcloth and soap all in one.  Basically a few layers of animal fiber are wrapped around a bar of soap and felted with hot water and agitation.  Most people use wool; I used alpaca and angora.

One or two of the webpages I looked at claimed that soap was felted in centuries past.  I did some digging but couldn't locate any actual proof of that. If anyone can point me towards anything regarding that, I'd really appreciate it.

Anyway, I decided to try it out.  I have to admit, it did sound a little odd, wrapping a bar of soap in fiber and then showering with it.

Here is what I discovered:

The claims were that felted soap lasted longer than unfelted.  The reality?  It's all completely TRUE!  I felted a bar of regular Ivory soap with some alpaca and angora over six weeks ago.  I think half the bar is still there.  And yes, as a matter of fact, I do shower everyday.

The claim is that the felted soap dries out faster after each use and prevents the glycerin from dissolving as quickly.  Not sure about either of those.  I never remember to go back to the shower and check how quickly the felted soap dried out.  And I never did it with regular soap, either.  I mean, I have other things to do besides check how quickly the soap is drying.  I just know that the felted bar of soap is lasting a really long time.  (UPDATE:  My felted bar of regular Ivory soap lasted just over three months.)

There is the claim that felting the soap makes it easier to handle and hold onto.  Also completely true.  I think I have dropped my soap three times in the past six weeks.

And a final claim is that the animal fibers used to felt the soap are anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, whatever.  I'm not sure whether any of this is true, but I can definitely say that unlike with washcloths after a couple of days of use, there is absolutely no yucky smell with felted soap.  Just the smell of the soap.

So felted soap really is a washcloth and soap all in one.  And yet, it is much, much better.  I will never look back.

One of my first felted bars.  The gray fiber is angora; the rest is alpaca.

If you can't wait until I get our own directions posted, here are two websites to check out.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Black Diamond Rabbitry... Expands

So after a road trip to Apple Hill last year during which the girls made deliveries on four rabbits, and collected a chunk of change in the process, Lydia thought she might like to buy some Legos with her hard-earned cash.  And it was definitely hard-earned, and it was all hers.  Though I winced inside at the thought of all that money going for some plastic blocks--and it was a good thing I was driving so that she couldn't see my face--I didn't say anything.  I think when children work for their money, they need to control it as well. 

Charlotte spent a few more minutes thinking about her money, and then announced:  "I'm getting a lamb!"  Lydia thought that sounded better than Legos.  I was quite happy.  I think my husband might have preferred the Legos. 

Anyway, Charlotte did all the research and settled on the Miniature Cheviot breed.  She will hopefully blog some about that later. 

We're city transplants and we don't yet have a trailer.  So we did what most people do who suspect that if we waited for Dad to get a trailer, we might never get sheep.  We took out all the back seats in the minivan, laid down a tarp and some kitty litter and straw, and headed off for the sheep.  Eight hundred and fifty miles.  Because we have to have the best, you know.  Ugh.  Long drive. 

But here they are.

Charlotte with her bummer lamb, Liberty.
Yearling ewe, Ella, and ram, Benjamin, who are still too skittish to pose with Lydia and Charlotte.

Dean at Shepherd's Bounty was so good communicating with Charlotte.  She had probably two dozen emails to him and his wife over the past five months, and they very patiently answered each of her questions.  Charlotte and Lydia are thrilled to have gotten their sheep from him, and Charlotte is already thinking she will need to go back for another ram.  I'm thinking she's going to have to get her dad to take her next time.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Pet or Livestock?

As I was waiting to register rabbits at the Turlock show, I overheard a family talking with the show secretary.  Apparently, this was their first rabbit show and they were considering getting started in rabbits.  They wanted to know where to begin.  And the show secretary gave what I considered to be an excellent answer.

"The first decision you have to make is this a pet or livestock?"  And the family was on their way.

There is nothing wrong with choosing one or the other.  However, for most people, it's a question that should be pondered carefully, because they haven't put a lot of thought into it yet.  For others, it's a no-brainer because it will be a clear reflection of their lifestyle.  Those living in an apartment or a small house, on an urban lot, or even in many suburbs, are going to be more likely to be choose a pet.
On the other hand, those more interested in sustainable living, homesteading, and/or natural choices are more likely to choose livestock.  And that may be a determining factor in the breed you select. 

There are several other factors to consider.  Pets don't get bred nearly as often as livestock do.  Their offspring generally don't sell for as much. In fact, you can often find them for free or very low prices at rabbit shows.  And this is generally because they have poor body types, poor coloring, or some other factor that disqualifies them from being shown.  The genetics are just undesirable.

Livestock are bred more often.  The breeder is trying to develop desirable traits, so breeders generally have higher quality rabbits.  They breed more often.  Their rabbits sell for higher prices, but at the same time they have to deal with the culls.  Livestock get culled.  What doesn't sell gets eaten, by them or by somebody else.

Snowball, Lydia's first rabbit

Ninja, Snowball's litter mate, Charlotte's second rabbit.  Her first died of a suspected heart ailment about six months after she bought him.

My girls are somewhere between the two.  They like to breed.  They enjoy all the animals, assessing bodies and wool, meeting people, and learning from others.   They love our somewhat rural lifestyle, snuggling bunnies, crafting with the fiber, gardening (well, I do), and raising clean food for the family.  But they do not eat rabbits, and thus far have not sold or given away any for meat. Truth be told, if they had to eat rabbits or go vegetarian, they'd go vegetarian.  Meat's not a big deal to them.  They have the great advantage of being able to sell as fiber bunnies any rabbits that do not have good bodies or showable colors or shouldn't be bred for whatever other reasons.

All that being said, I somewhat suspect their first bunnies will always be "pets," even though Snowball has produced over twenty kits and Ninja has sired almost as many.  I can't imagine either of the girls ever selling these two, come what may.  Yes, they're attached to the other bunnies, but these are their first true loves.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Does Go Home

Kelly contacted us for the first time regarding the purchase of some rabbits six weeks ago.  Since then there have been numerous emails back and forth, answering her questions and arranging for her to pick them up.  Such arrangements are not normally a big deal, but Kelly traveled all the way from Montana!

Kelly and Charlotte with Inara and Zoe.  

Charlotte has been so excited for her rabbits to go to Kelly.  Every email made Charlotte feel like Kelly was so well prepared to take them home and that she would give them the best possible care. 

My only concern was that Charlotte was going to hop right in with the rabbits and go to Montana as well.  Rural Montana in the mountains.  Life probably doesn't get any better than that.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Little Felted Bunnies

No, we haven't had another leak in the bunny barn.  Fortunately, those little felted bunnies are not felted anymore and they are looking much better now.

These little felted bunnies are the kind that are supposed to be felted.

So I happened upon the world of creating little felted animals last month.  I thought felting looked like something the girls would enjoy and would be something else to do with fabulous angora fiber.

I bought Little Felted Animals by Marie-Noelle Horvath and some needle felting supplies off Amazon.

Naturally, the first project selected was a bunny.

The book contains lots of photos of the supplies needed, the amounts needed, and the finished product.

Chocolate bunny in the making
This is Charlotte's first litter of felted rabbit kits.  Their eyes are open, so they must be at least 10 days old.
I put two on the ruler to give an idea of their size. 
The first bunnies have been made out of wool and alpaca.  Needle felting with angora is a little trickier, at least for us.  And I suggested to the girls it would be easier to start with wool and alpaca and then once they understand felting better, to move on to angora. 


Lydia couldn't wait to attempt felting an angora bunny.  He needs to put on some weight still.
The girls are taking their little felted bunnies to the 4-H show tomorrow in the hopes of selling a few.  We'll see how it goes.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Angora/Alpaca Seed Stitch Hand Warmers and Matching Headband

Almost two years ago, when I was just beginning to spin, I selected a beautiful sweater pattern to knit. I spun one ply of white angora, and one ply of off-white alpaca, and plied them together. Unfortunately, my gauge wasn't even close, and I ran out of white angora.  So the yarn was set aside until I found a project it was suited to.  That took a year and a half.  But I found the pattern--Cascade Yarns' Moss Stitch Vest (

This is how it turned out

I had about one hundred yards left over and decided to make a matching headband and hand warmers.

Hand warmers and headband


For the hand warmers, you will need about about 50 yards of yarn (I used 44 yards, but you should allow for more yarn, just in case); US3 dpns (double pointed needles) and US6 dpns or US6 9-inch circular needles (Chiaogoo is the only manufacturer of this size--I got mine on Amazon); a stitch marker, and a yarn needle.

Notes:  The yarn I used was a hand spun two ply--one ply of alpaca and one ply of angora.  The best reference for trying to match various hand spun or commercial yarns is the WPI (wraps per inch--wrap yarn snugly around a ruler.  How many times is the yarn wrapped around?).  My WPI for this yarn was 13.  Gauge is 4.5 stitches per inch, 6 rows per inch on the larger needles.  My hand is 6.5 inches around and it is 7 inches from my wrist to the tip of my middle finger.

Using US3 dpns, cast on 30 stitches and divide stitches evenly over three or four needles.  Join, taking care not to twist stitches on needles, and PM (place marker) to mark beginning of rounds.  Work around in K1P1 rib for Rows 1-9.

Row 10:  Switch to US6 9" circular needle (or dpns), P1K1 all the way around.
Row 11:  K1P1 all the way around.
Rows 12-17:  Repeat rows 9 and 10 three times.

Row 18:  P1K1 to marker and turn. 
Row 19:  K1P1 to marker and turn.
Rows 20-25:  Repeat rows 17 and 18 three times.

Rows 26-33:  Join both sides together again and work in the round in patt. 

Rows 34-38 ribbing:  Switch to US3 dpns and K1P1 for 1x1 ribbing.

Row 39:  Bind off loosely using a size 6 needle for bind off.  Weave in ends with yarn needle.
Repeat for second hand warmer.


Materials:  28 yards of yarn (I used 28 yards, but you should allow for more just in case), US6 needles, yarn needle

Using US6 needles, cast on 15 stitches.  Work in seed stitch until it measures 18 inches.  Bind off.  Sew short ends together.

Weave in ends.

This free pattern is provided for your personal use only.  It may not be copied or distributed without written permission.  Copyright Black Diamond Rabbitry, 2016.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Cal State Convention Show Report

We had the easiest set-up ever.  Pulled right up to the door--the only door where we could find a close outlet to plug the blower in.  It was about five steps, maybe seven, from the van to the door.  So we set up right inside. Lydia had a book, and I had some fiber to spin on a drop spindle.

I think Show A judging didn't start until at least 2PM. 

Judge Piper loved Maybelline and awarded her the leg.  Only one legs was going to French angoras in each show today, as we had only eight rabbits entered--Charlotte had three, Lydia had three, and Evan had two.
Charlotte clerked for Judge Mike.  Because Maybelline had just received her third leg towards her Grand Champion certificate, Charlotte substituted Phantom in Show B in Maybelline's place.  Judge Mike favored Phantom, and she got the leg in this show. 

The best part of the day was the picnic lunch that Grandma and Grandpa brought.  We should have taken several pictures of it, but we were so hungry that we dove right in without even thinking. 

The second best part of the day was that Charlotte sold three rabbits to a very nice lady who has shown angoras in the past and may return to showing.  She's also a spinner.  The girls love selling to spinners because spinners take the best care of their bunnies.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Brief Show Report for Cal State Convention

Really brief show report because it was a really long day and I am really tired.

Maybelline earned her third leg, so she can get her Grand Champion certificate.

Charlotte sold three rabbits.

Phantom also earned a leg, so she now has two.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

In the Beginning

I woke up early this morning and couldn't go back to sleep, so I started going through the older pictures on the camera card. 

I found images of the girls' first kits.  Becky, Charlotte and Lydia each had saved up enough money to buy one kit.  They spent about two months stalking the blog of the closest breeder, and each selected her bunny.  We made the trip to Frulingskabine Microfarm near Sonora, and three hours later we were home with these cuties:

Cream Puff, left, died in Becky's arms a few months later.  We and the vet suspect she had some kind of heart defect.  Lydia's Snowball, center, has earned her legs for a Grand Champion certificate.  She'll be getting registered at Turlock on Saturday.  She's kindled three litters of kits and is a phenomenal mother.  Charlotte's Ninja, right, is a Grand Champion.

It's been almost two and a half years since this picture was taken.  And it's been a grand experience.