Why keep Angora Goats?
Well, the obvious answer is that you love goats. They are intelligent, lively little guys that are more fun to watch than television. In order to convince your life partner that you need to buy some goats you will need a better arsenal of reasons, though.
1. They will clear a section of overgrown woods in no time. Poison ivy, garlic mustard, whatever. A rule of thumb is that one should never kiss a goat on the lips…. (see preceding sentence)
2. They are not picky about what kind of hay they get. This is actually a lie, as they will complain that the hay is too coarse, or not enough leaf, or is too old…. But then they will eat it and do fine on it anyway.
3. They are safer to work around than horses or cattle.
4. You can transport them in the back of a car or truck in a large crate.
5. You will learn how to build really, really good fences.
6. And, of course, because you love goats.
What is Mohair?
Mohair is the fleece of Angora Goats. It is actual hair…. Like what you have on your head. Hair is a solid, smooth-surfaced fiber, whereas wool is a hollow strand covered in scales. (more about this fascinating topic later). Mohair is quite strong and lustrous, and is actually fire resistant.
Mohair quality varies between loosely and tightly curled (degree of crimp) depending on the genetic background of the animal and overall health and age. Goats kids have the finest fleece, and the “first clip” is highly sought after. Good luck talking your Angora raising neighbor out of that fleece! Age and testosterone (bucks) cause the hair to become increasingly coarse, and can only be used for course outerwear and crafts projects.
Most angora has a staple length (the length of the individual hairs) of 4 to 5.5 inches (100 to 150 mm). The thickness of the individual hairs varies between 23 and 27 microns. To compare that to standard sheeps’ wool:
Adult Mohair 8-16 # fleece 4-5.5 inch staple 23-27 microns strand diameter
Kid Mohair 3-5 4 20-23
Merino wool 7-13 2.5-4 18-24
Rambouillet 9-14 2-4 18-24
Targhee 10-14 3-5.5 22-27
Shetland 4.5-6.5 3-4 26-30
Suffolk 5-6.5 2-3 26-28
Jacob sheep 4-5.5 3-6 26-30
The finer the strands, the softer it feels on your skin. This is why they make the finest woolen underwear from the Merino sheep, and not Jacob sheep.
How does spinning work?
The uniform twisting of wool causes a fairly large number of fibers to wrap around each other. The scales on the surface of each fiber grab onto their neighbors, locking them into a “single ply” strand. In order to keep the single ply strand from turning itself into a giant knot, it is usually spun in the opposite direction with another single strand. The result is a balanced yarn.
Can I spin mohair?
Yes, you can, but it won’t be like standard yarn. A mohair fiber, being hair (remember the smooth-fiber-shaft thing?), doesn’t want to grab its’ neighbor in a death grip like wool does. It would rather slide past adjacent hairs. If you twist enough hairs together, tight enough, it will create a kind of super tough rope, though, but not yarn. Consider that string girths (the things that hold horse saddles on) were made of mohair and mohair blends. Super strong, but not elastic or fine. This is not what I want to knit, weave, or crochet with.
So what do I do with all this mohair?
The very best thing is to blend it with a compatible wool. Choosing a wool with similar staple length and fiber diameter, mohair adds strength and luster to the wool yarn. The little scales of the yarn are happy to grab onto the mohair fibers, so you can spin extremely fine yarn if you are into that sort of thing.
As a weaver, I value yarn that isn’t too elastic, and is lustrous, fine and takes dye well. The addition of mohair to our Targhee fleece is absolutely perfect…. A veritable spinner’s dream.
Blend the kid mohair with the lambs’ wool to make the finest next-to-the-skin garments. Blend the courser adult mohair with the older sheep’s wool to make rugs, wall hangings, and other household accessories.