Fibre Focus - Mohair
The popularity of mohair has recently risen to great heights due to an explosion of new patterns that use mohair silk lace, either held together with another yarn or on its own. There are currently close to 31,000 designs on Ravelry that use a mohair-blended yarn, some of the top patterns include Ranunculus by Midori Hirose and the No Frills Sweater by Petite Knits. So what do you know about mohair? To be honest I didn't know a lot, but I did a little research and it turns out to be quite an interesting fibre. So let's take a closer look.
Firstly, mohair fibre comes from Angora goats. This can often be confusing as there are also Angora rabbits from which angora fibre is produced. Angora goats and rabbits share the same name due to their place of origin: 'Angora', that is, Ankara, the capital city of Turkey.
Mohair fibres contain microscopic scales that are thinner, smoother and larger than those found on wool. These scales give mohair its beautiful shine, prevents the fibre from felting and provides resistance from dirt and water (as both easily slip off the smooth surface). Mohair is also flame resistant and warmer than wool. However, it is much less durable than wool and will lose its lustre and turn brittle and yellow if washed in hot water over 60 °C (140 ° F), which is important to know if dyeing it or preparing fleeces for spinning.
Mohair fibre is classed from fine to coarse, the finest being 'superfine kid' and the coarsest is 'adult'. Adult mohair fibre is very coarse and mainly used for upholstery and carpets. Yarns spun for hand knitters and crocheters use either superfine or kid, and are usually blended with another fibre like merino or silk. This is due to the fact that mohair fibre has lots of stretch, but unlike wool does not return to its unscratched state; in other words, it has no memory. Superfine mohair comes from the very first shearing, when the goat (or kid) is six-months old. It feels so soft, just like cashmere. Kid mohair comes from the second and subsequent shearings, and is less soft than superfine. So if you are looking for an ultra-soft mohair (soft as cashmere), read the label and make sure it is classified as 'superfine'.
Kitting with mohair is a delight, especially when holding it double with another yarn. The colour effects that occur when knitting mohair together with a different coloured yarn can be magical. I'm currently knitting the Love Note Sweater by Tin Can Knits (see above), and I am loving both the feel of the fabric and the way the two colours are knitting together (I'm holding it with our Top Draw Sock base). I did however have to rip back a few stitches and my love for mohair might have waned a little. Mohair is notoriously troublesome when ripping back. The long fibres catch and wrap together, making it very difficult to undo! The only advice I can give is take it very slowly. I have also heard that putting your project in the freezer can help make ripping back easier. Apart from this, mohair yarns are a joy to knit with and the resulting item is warm, soft and cosy to wear. If you haven't tried knitting with a mohair yarn I highly recommend you do.
Are you a fan of Mohair? What do you love or hate about it? What patterns do you suggest to knit with yarns blended from this fibre? I would love to hear your thoughts, please post in the comments below.
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