Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Mohair Tickles

I had a great day at the Wiltshire Guild of Spinners, Weavers and Dyers on Saturday. I took part in a workshop run by Jane-Ann of Hammond Mohair. She then gave a talk on keeping angora goats and her business.

I have have spun mohair from commercially prepared top but never from the fleece. The different ages/grades of mohair were discussed and we then had the opportunity to spin them.

The three grades relate to age but a goat can show the different characteristics. Kid mohair is normally the first three clips and has the tightest curl. It is also the softest of the three, young goat is normally the next three clips and is less curly and looses a small amount of softness, the last type of mohair is adult, which has the least curl and has lost some of the softness. It is possible to spin all three grades with a good level of softness although I found that kid was definately the softest and springiest of the three, although none of them have the elasticity of wool.

We carded each batch, which lead to some amusement as the rolags we produced were fuffly and similar to angel hair. I really enjoyed carding the fibre as it takes the minimum of work and the rolags were very easy to spin with. Although mohair requires a certain amount of twist, keeping this to a minimum makes a soft yarn and it was difficult to tell the difference between a soft spun young and a soft spun adult mohair.

This is a lustre fibre and is naturally bright white, althought it is possible to raise coloured goats. These are apparently grey and so not as popular. The lustre is due to the smoothness of the fibre, unlike wool which when viewed under a microscope has barbs. Because of the smoothness of the strand, it is harder to felt mohair so it is not as susceptible to thermal shock but it is possible to felt it in a washing machine or use it for needle felting with wool. It also has greater fire retardancy than wool.

The fibre takes acid dyes beautifully and gives a great strength of colour. The photo shows kid at the top, young in the middle and adult on the bottom. The colours are not correct, see the picture of the flower for the right colours.

I then decided to crochet them into a flower, flared rose from 100 Flowers to Knit and Crochet by Lesley Stanfield. I'm not very good at crochet but really enjoyed using the mohair. It is a firm yarn but I found it easy to see the stitches. The flower uses all three yarns with the kid making up the central section. It is possible to see the difference in the fineness of the fibres by eye.

When selecting mohair fleece, it is really important to check the bag. It is not a cheap fibre to buy so check there is no or minimal contamination and ensure that the locks are fairly intact. Also, the softness of the fibre and lock length can be gauged. Ideally a lock should be 6inches in length, the fleece grows at the rate of an inch each month.

The goats are shorn two times a year and, although they are hardy they are less hardy than sheep and like shelter from the rain. In really cold spells Jane-Ann provides certain members of her flock with jumpers so they can stay warm and always ensures they are shorn before kidding in March. As they usually have twins it is a busy time of year and easy to double the flock. Strangely, suckling does not always come naturally so she can easily spend a couple of hours with each birthing doe to ensure the kids have a good meal. This level of husbandry has kept her losses to a minimum in her 30 years of breeding.

Jane-Ann also explained cashgora fibre, which is sometimes available. Cashgora is the term for a fleece from the offspring of a dairy/common goat and an angora buck, so each generation needs to produce a girl. After 5 crosses the cashgora goat becomes a pure angora. This helps to introduce fresh genetics into the breed. Cashgora is normally refered to 1st cross, 2nd cross etc. The fibre takes more processing as it has kemp, long guard hairs, that need removing before spinning to ensure a soft fibre. I would believe that each cross would have less kemp necessitating less work.

Hammond Mohair is a family run company that sells dyed and undyed fleece, yarn and hand knit articles direct to the public. Rita, Jane-Ann's mum, knits a wide range of beautiful items and Jane-Anne also sells her crochetted work and patterns. It was a lovely day, learning about such an interesting animal.

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