Tourists to learn how to spin wool from country star rabbits

ABRAM-VILLAGE, PEI – May 15, 2012 – Visitors to the Abram’s Village Handcraft Co-op this summer will have the unique opportunity to comb “Keith Urban”, “Tim McGraw”, “Reba McEntire”, “Taylor Swift” or “Scotty McCreery”, to card and spin their wool and to transform it into small woolen crafts.

To prevent any further confusion, it should be admitted right away that the “stars” of this activity are actually exotic show rabbits named after these famous country music performers and not the real Nashville singers.

These activities will be part of a unique experience called “Bunny Wool Art” that the handcraft shop will offer tourists for a first time this summer. The co-op board was inspired to take on such an adventure after hearing a presentation on experiential tourism last winter.

Co-op president Lorraine Gallant and her husband Melvin Gallant have been raising show rabbits for about a decade now. Their fluffy friends have participated in competitions in PEI, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec and Maine and have won all kinds of trophies, ribbons and awards. Regular rabbits are of course covered with hair but certain breeds, such as the English Angora, the Jersey Wooly and the American Fuzzy Lop, instead produce very fine wool.

“It is estimated that rabbit wool clothing is about seven times warmer than sheep wool clothing,” says Melvin. “That would be much too warm to wear as clothing so quite often, rabbit wool is blended at about 50 per cent with alpaca and Marino sheep wool.”

HANDS-ON EXPERIENCE

The Gallants decided to share their family passion and hobby with tourists this summer. By appointment, they will bring about 10 of their prized rabbits to the handcraft shop. When visitors arrive to participate in this unique hands-on experience, they will first visit a display area where they will get to see and touch skeins of rabbit wool along with various products that were knitted or crocheted with this marvelous wool.

They will then go down to the basement where they will discover the differences between various breeds of rabbits. There, they will get to touch, pet and comb Reba, Tim, Keith and their other long-eared “Nashvillian” friends; their soft wool comes off very easily when combed, without causing any discomfort to the fluffy, docile creatures.

Melvin will then give a carding and spinning demonstration with some of the Angora wool. Tourists will get a chance to try their hand at spinning the wool with a spinning wheel. Lorraine will give each participant a framed, six-inch-by-since-inch piece of felt; the visitors will then try to needle some Jersey Wooly and American Fuzzy Lop wool into the felt, inside a traced pattern, in the shape of a rabbit.

Participants will get to take home their little handcrafted felt creation. Everyone will then receive a snack – a beverage and a cookie in the shape of a rabbit, of course.

RABBITRY

The entire experience will last between two to two and a half hours. Those wanting to extend the adventure will then be able to go visit the Gallant rabbit farm, called Blooming Rabbitry, located at a short distance from the handcraft, if they so desire. There, they’ll see about 90 rabbits; about half of these are of the three mentioned breeds while the others are of standard breeds.

Visitors to the rabbit farm will notice that country music is being piped into the barn through a series of speakers. The intention is not to encourage the rabbits to learn to sing like the singers for whom they are named, Lorraine chuckles, but rather to get them used to the sounds of human voices and various noises. This way, they don’t get nervous when in the presence of real humans.

The Gallants raise some of their rabbits for show, a few for meat but the majority for pets that the public can buy. The wool-bearing rabbits range in color from black, white and brown to gray and blue-gray. But some have two or more colors. Their wool can be dyed any color.

The “Bunny Wool Art” experience will be offered Mondays to Saturdays beginning June 18 during the handcraft shops daytime hours, by appointment only. It will be available for groups of two to eight people at a time; the price per person will vary from $43 to $19 (taxes included), depending on the size of the group. Appointments can be made by calling (902) 854-2096 or (902) 854-2636 or by emailing lorraineg@eastlink.ca.

“This is a beautiful family activity since it offers facets that will be of interest to each member of the family,” explains Lorraine.

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CUTLINE:
This summer, visitors to Abram’s Village Handcraft Co-op will be able to participate in the “Bunny Wool Art” experience with Lorraine and Melvin Gallant, assisted by their exotic rabbits such as Keith (Urban), this beautiful fluffy English Angora.

For more information:

Lorraine Gallant
President
Abram’s Village Handcraft Co-op
(902) 854-2636

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