Mohair facts

‘Hair for your Bear’

Mohair: English pronunciation: /ˈmoʊhɛər/ usually refers to a silk-like fabric or yarn made from the hair of the Angora goat. The word "mohair" was adopted into English before 1570 derived from the Arabic: مخير mukhayyar, a type of haircloth, literally 'choice' or ‘select’ , from khayyara, 'he chose'.  It is one of the oldest textile fibers in use and is considered a luxury fiber and because of this has been used to make garments for kings, sultans and as part of the tabernacle in the Bible.

The term mohair is also sometimes used to describe a type of material used for the folding roof on convertible cars.  In this instance, mohair refers to a form of denim-like canvas.

Mohair is produced by Angora goats. Mohair should not be confused with Angora fiber or wool which comes from Angora rabbits. The Angora goat is thought to originate from the mountains of Tibet, making their way to Turkey in the 16th century. However, fabric made of mohair was known in England as early as the 8th century. In about 1820, raw mohair was first exported from Turkey to England, which then became the leading manufacturer of mohair products. The Yorkshire mills spun yarn that was exported to Russia, Germany, Austria, etc., as well as woven directly in Yorkshire.

Until 1849, the Turkish province of Ankara was the sole producer of Angora goats. Charles V is believed to be the first to bring Angora goats to Europe. Due to the great demand for mohair fiber, throughout the 1800s there was a great deal of crossbreeding between Angora goats and common goats. The growing demand for mohair further resulted in attempts on a commercial scale to introduce the goat into South Africa (where it was crossed with the native goat) in 1838, the United States in 1849, Australia from 1856–1875, and later still New Zealand. In 1849, Angora goats made their way to America as a gift from Turkey.

Today, South Africa is the largest mohair producer in the world, with the majority of South African mohair being produced in the Eastern Cape. The United States is the second-largest producer, with the majority of American mohair being produced in Texas.

Mohair comes in many familiar forms today, these include yarns of spun mohair, woven fabrics with the most noted in the bear-making-world being “bear hair” (mohair strands on a cotton backing). Mohair is used in scarves, winter hats, suits, sweaters, coats, socks and home furnishing. Mohair fiber is also found in carpets, wall fabrics, craft yarns, and many other fabrics, and may be used as a substitute for fur. Because its texture resembles fine human hair, mohair is often used in making high grade doll wigs or in rooting customized dolls. Mohair is not a soft yarn, when compared with alpaca or cashmere, or synthetic fibers or wools that have been treated and blended with other fibers to enhance softness. On the other hand, mohair is valued for certain unique characteristics: it is warmer than other fibers, even when used to make a light-weight garment, and is often blended with wool for this reason; and mohair fibers have a distinctive luster created by the way they reflect light. Combined with mohair's ability to absorb dyes exceptionally well, pure mohair yarns are usually recognisable for their vivid saturated colours.

Some qualities of Mohair are warmth, lightweight, durable and beauty. It drapes well and resists wrinkling or shrinking. Although it is similar to wool, it does possess other unique properties not found in any other type of fiber. Mohair is one of the most versatile textile fibres.  Mohair used for bear making can be 100% mohair or the fibre can also be blended with other fibres to take advantage of the best qualities of each. For example Viscose adds softness and gorgeous dye variations.

While fineness is the single most important characteristic in selecting mohair for producers, style and character are also a distinct characteristic of mohair looked for. Style is the solid twists or ringlets in mohair while character is the crimps or waves in the staple. A balance between the two is preferred.  Recent studies have suggested that style and character are related to the uniformity of fiber length in mohair.  Uniformity is the consistency of the lock character, length of the staple and the diameter of the fibers throughout the entire fleece. Thus mohair with super style and character should have longer fiber and should spin better than mohair with average or poor style and character.  Style and character affect the commercial processing results of mohair.  Mohair with good style and character has a more uniform and predictable processing result where mohair with less style and character has a less predictable result. Along with the luster of the mohair, producers also look for the degree of softness to the touch, or ‘handle’, as well as the compactness of the fleece or how much fiber the animal produces in a square inch, the ‘density’.

Primary properties of mohair are:

1. Luster/Comfort: Mohair is composed mostly of keratin, a protein found in the hair, wool, horns and skin of all mammals. While it has scales like wool, the scales are not fully developed, merely indicated. Thus, mohair does not felt like wool does. The luster of mohair is one of the most important characteristics and is the natural sheen of the fiber caused by light being reflected more directly by the larger outer scales of the fiber. This luster or sheen helps dyed mohair resist fading caused by time and the elements and makes it very hard wearing.  Its characteristics are similar to wool, except that it does not have fully developed scales that can irritate the skin, even for people who are sensitive to wool.

2. Non-Flammability: Mohair is almost non-flammable. When placed under, or near, a naked flame, it tends to shrivel into a bead like ash. Once taken away from the flame, burning stops instantaneously. Early children’s Teddy Bears were made from mohair because of this property and because there is less allergic reaction to mohair than wool.  Mohair will not burn unless it is exposed to a direct flame.

3. Durability: Mohair can be twisted or bent without damaging the fiber. This is due to its structure, supporting the claim that it is the most durable of all animal fibers.

4. Elasticity/Shrink resistance: Mohair is very elastic; it can stretch an average 30% over its length and then will be able to spring back into shape. Due to this property, mohair garments resist wrinkling, stretching or sagging during wear. Mohair fabrics shrink much less than wool because mohair’s smooth fibres do not felt.

5. Moisture Relation/Insulation: All natural fibers from animals have the ability to absorb and release atmospheric moisture. They breathe where man made fibers do not. Mohair easily absorbs and releases moisture, moving perspiration away from the skin. It is comfortable to wear in cold and hot weather. Mohair's hollow fibres do not conduct heat like wool and provides good insulation, even when wet. Mohair's smooth fibres can be made into fabrics that have a cooling effect. Hence it is ideal for summer garments coupled with its lightweight.

6. Resistance to Soiling: This property commends its use for woven fabrics, due to the factor that dust does not come to rest on slippery fibers. Shaking and brushing can easily remove any dust remaining on woven fabrics. Mohair is easy to wash because it doesn't felt or shrink like wool. In normal circumstances the most regularly required care will be brushing the pile  with a stiff hairbrush.  Handwash in tepid water with a small amount of detergent or soap powder.  Do not rub or agitate unduly, if possible let the dirt soak out.   Drain, and then rinse in clean cold water. Rinse a second time in tepid water, and add a small amount of fabric softener for superior results, drain and hang up to dry (because mohair has a different structure to wool, you will find it dries quite quickly) followed by a brisk brush to fluff it up.

7. Dye Ability:  Mohair dyes easily and brilliantly.  One of mohair's most important qualities is its ability to take dye and to display brilliant colours that resist fading by time or hard wear.

8.Tensile Strength:  Mohair possesses great strength. Diameter to diameter, it is stronger than steel of the same diameter.

Fineness is typically dependent upon the age of the goat, this is not a determination only of the goat’s age; it is a grading of the quality of the mohair. Mohair increases its diameter with the age of the goat, growing along with the animal. Fine hair from younger goats is used for finer applications such as clothing, and the thicker hair from older animals is more often used for carpets and heavy fabrics intended for outerwear.

Mohair is shorn from the goat without harming the animal. Shearing is done twice a year, in the spring and in the fall. One goat will produce 11 to 17 pounds (5–8 kg) of mohair a year. Shearing is done on a clean swept floor with extra care taken to keep the hair clean and free of debris. The hair is then processed to remove natural grease, dirt and vegetable matter.

Mohair is also used in 'climbing skins' for randonnee skiing. The mohair is used in a carpet allowing the skier an appropriate ascension method without sliding unlike pygora or cashmere, there is no need to dehair a mohair fleece to separate the coarse hair from the fine hair.

Natural Colors -
White mohair - Pure bred white Angora Goats produce mohair has been refined since biblical times and generally represents the premium in softness, curl, strength and consistency. High quality animals have virtually no kemp or medulated fibers. White mohair is primarily used commercially as it takes dye beautifully and it is easy to get a consistent color from batch to batch.

Colored mohair - Breeding color into the Angora goat has been popular in recent years. The Colored Angora Goat Breeder's Association (CAGBA) was formed in 1999 to promote colored Angora goats and to establish standards to strive for in the breed. Developing color requires either breeding back the few and rare naturally colored Angora goats to other naturally colored Angora goats, or to breed white Angora goats to other breeds to introduce color. The early cross-breeding did not produce mohair that was up to the white standards. There are now over 4,500 colored Angora goats registered in the USA. The breed now represents naturally colored Angora goats that nearly equal the white Angora goats. The naturally colored mohair is very desirable because of the beautiful natural colors and still somewhat rarity of the fiber.

Winkle Bears is the Australian agent in Queensland for the South African mohair producer and retailer LouBear Mohair. Winkle Bears’ stocks LouBear’s luxurious 100% quality mohair and mohair blends. Please visit our websites at www.winklebears.com and www.loubear.com.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: http://www.ronanfibers.com/ronanfibers_009.htm; http://www.mohairdirect.com/about_mohair.html; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mohair

 

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