Wednesday, March 18, 2015

MOHAIR - Part 1 - The Diamond Fibre – Commercial fibre grown on the farm


Mohair is a luxury animal fibre produced by an Angora goat (not to be confused with an Angora rabbit). Technically it is neither hair nor wool but a fibre that is extremely strong and durable and said to be stronger then steel (diameter to diameter). It is almost non-flammable and is claimed to be one of the most durable animal fibres there is.
Mohair hangs for the goat’s skin in defined staples (long wavy ringlets), which demonstrate style (solid twists or spirals) and character (the crimp or wave). A balance between the two is desirable.
Fine mohair (average 22 microns in diameter) is used commercially in the production of light-weight worsted cloth. The stronger fibres are used for knitting wools and the strongest for carpets and upholstery materials.

Why is it called the diamond fibre?

Mohair is called the diamond fibre because of its natural lustre. The closed-scale formation on each fibre acts like the facets of a diamond in reflecting light. By comparison wool, which is often medullated or hollow, appears dull. Unlike wool, mohair does not have hooklets or serrations on the fibre shafts therefore it does not felt when it is rubbed together. Apart from the luxury sheen, mohair has a soft handle and feels smooth and silky to touch.
One of the prime qualities of natural white mohair is its unequalled affinity to accept synthetic dyes to produce a kaleidoscope of brilliant vibrant colours which will not fade.

The finest quality mohair (the thickness of each fibre measured by its micron diameter) is shorn from kids, but as the animals mature, the fleece and fibre diameter strengthens. Cashmere is finer than mohair, but mohair is mainly finer than wool.
Mohair grows in staples and each staple falls like individual ringlets. When these ringlets have lots of twist they are described as being stylish.  Character is the name given to the natural crimp, wave or corrugation which occurs in every staple. Most fleeces have a balance of both style and character combined. The Angora’s fleece covers a well-bred goat from head to tail.

Growth rate
Mohair grows at a rate of about 100-150mm (4-6 inches) in 6 months and is shorn twice a year. When it grows longer it has a tendency to attract burr or other vegetable contaminants from the paddock, or to become extremely tangled. It is not easy for breeders to keep their animals’ fleeces in good condition when it is overlong.

Why farmers run Angora Goats commercially.
Obviously, for a farmer, the reason for growing the fibre is to make as much money from each clip (shearing) as possible. But volume is not the only factor that determines what the return will be.
Like sheep’s wool, mohair prices have always been cyclical as they are dependent on the demand from the cloth manufacturers in Britain and Europe. It is here that the mills blend mohair with wool to produce expensive luxury cloth which displays the distinctive mohair sheen.

Mohair and angora skins are also in demand in the craft industry for spinning, weaving, also Teddy bear and doll’s wig making. (See MOHAIR - Part 2 – Fibre for craft supplies – spinning and weaving, wefts for Dolls’ wigs and Skins for Teddy Bears)   

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