Discover the World’s Finest Wool – Mohair
Discover the World’s Finest Wool – Mohair
Mohair wool is undeniably one of the best-quality textile materials out there. It is a long, smooth fiber derived exclusively from Angora goats. However, note that mohair wool is produced from the Angora goat, which is different from the Angora rabbit. The wool derived from the Angora rabbit is known as the angora wool, while that of the Angora goat is called the Mohair wool.
Unlike other goats, the Angora goat is wholly covered in shaggy hair, which is believed to be a protective mechanism developed by the goat to help it cope with the harsh environmental conditions within its area of origin. Angora goats are primarily bred for their incredibly soft inner coats, which are shorn twice yearly.
Shiny, durable, and resilient, Mohair wool is one of the world’s most delicate fabrics.
The Angora-goat was not known before the Turks in Asia Minor. However, the exact origin of the Angora goats is unknown. There are theories about a pre-Biblical Anatolian origin, but scientists also consider an import theory from the Central Asian region.
With the immigration of nomads from Turkestan in the 13th century, this breed might have arrived in Anatolia and then mainly been bred around the area of Ankara (former Angora).
After a short export ban of the Turkish Sultan and the lifting of the ban in 1838, the breeders would have crossed local Kurdish goats to satisfy the great demand for wool goats. However, this had a disastrous effect on the thickness of the goats’ wool fur!
These goats, which were very sensitive to moisture and cold, with magnificent fine hair, and therefore not very suitable for the Central European climate, were exported to South Africa as early as 1838 and a few years later to California. Already in 1885, there was a population of 100,000 so-called Angora goats in California. 12
Angora goat is a small breed of goats when compared to sheep and milk goats. They are domesticated goats covered with uniform locks or ringlets.
The angora goat is a cute creature with horns and a well-structured and slim body. They are very picturesque to look at, and unlike sheep, they can stand on their hind legs to graze weeds and grass at higher locations.
The pure white coat is silky shiny and hangs down long and curly. The bucks develop imposing, corkscrew-like horns turned to the back. With the goats, the horns are shorter and sickle-shaped.
Since Angora goats are very sensitive to moisture, they are only conditionally suitable for the Central European climate. They are kept almost exclusively for wool production; from them comes the fluffy, matt-shiny mohair wool.
If they are sheared twice, the annual wool yield is between three and six kilograms. The late-maturing goats, which usually lamb for the first time in their second year of life, are only moderately fertile and rarely give birth to more than one kid.
The Angora goat is believed to have originated from Central Asia – Turkey, to be precise. Though Angora goats have been raised in Turkey for centuries, records show the existence of mohair wool in parts of England as far back as the eighteenth century; which indicates that the mohair fabric has been traded across the Middle East, Asia, and Europe for thousands of years.
A large chunk of global mohair production can be traced to South Africa and the U.S. (particularly in Texas). The weather conditions in South Africa are very conducive for angora goats, which explains why the country is responsible for more than half the global mohair production.
Mohair wool, which belongs to the noble class of wool, is one of the finest wool materials out there. The hair comes in various degrees of softness, which is measured in microns. Mohair wool is exceptionally soft, unlike ordinary wool, which is itchy against the skin.
The age of the animal determines the level of softness of each wool. The younger animals tend to produce softer and shinier fibers, while the wool from older angora goats is not considered as desirable as that of their younger counterparts. Mohair wool can be divided into three different classes:
However, there is more to mohair wool than its soft fibers and beauty. This wool also offers a high degree of wearing comfort. Here are some of the other benefits of this noble fabric:
Mohair wool is softer than sheep wool, with a notable luster and sheen that is only peculiar to this fabric. These unique attributes have earned it the nickname “diamond fiber,” and its high compatibility with almost every type of dye has made it even more popular. Mohair is also extremely elastic, non-flammable, and crease-resistant.
Mohair is widely considered a luxury textile, which means the garments produced from this wool are quite pricy. However, you’re more likely to find a mixture of mohair and other fabrics, even if it is in small quantities, as it makes the fabric more durable, shiny, and elastic.
Its high felting resistance level is another unique quality of the mohair wool. Most wool materials contain scales that fuse into an unsightly mess when washed at the wrong temperature. Mohair wool scales, on the other hand, are not entirely developed, so there is no risk of felting even when the garments are not washed correctly.
The Mohair wool production process has certainly evolved a lot over the years. Records indicate that the production of mohair wool in Turkey dates back thousands of years, and Tibetan nomads likely used the coats of Angora goats to produce wool. Mohair wool production became industrialized and gained more following after its introduction to England in the first half of the 19th century.
The demand for this wool became very high during the reign of the British Empire, so its production understandably spread to countries like Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. Angora goats were also exported to the U.S, which is why they’re still producing this fabric to this day.
Mohair wool production starts from the shearing of the Angora goat. During the shearing process, the goats are kept completely immobilized to prevent them from getting hurt, while a large scissor is used to shear off their hair.
The shorn hair is then washed carefully, to get rid of impurities. Their even hair length makes it easier to card (the process of making wool chunks into strands) the hair. The next step is to spin the strands into yarn using treadle spinners or automated machines.
The hair is washed again, after which the mohair yarn becomes ready for weaving.
Due to the strength of the mohair wool and its blinding shine, it is commonly known as the ‘diamond fiber.’ Mohair fiber is used for knitting clothes and making socks, gloves, beanies, etc. At the same time, the mohair fabric is used in making scarfs, carpets, winter hats, suits, and sweaters.
The average growth of the angora hair fiber is about 8 to 15 inches. Angoras can be clipped twice a year and give up to 5-8 pounds of fleece. The kid mohair is comparatively softer than the mohair obtained from adult angora goats.
The unique attributes of the mohair wool and its diversity means it can be used for a variety of consumer applications. People use Mohair to produce insulative winter gears like coats, sweaters, and hats. It is also used for suits, scarves, and socks. The fact that only mohair wool can be utilized for the production of two-tone suits is another testament to the uniqueness of this fabric.
Mohair wool is not only used for the production of consumer apparel. It can also be used to produce doll wigs, wall hangings, pillows, upholstery, blankets, stuffed animals, and craft yarns. Mohair wool was very popular in the 1970s as carpet material. Furthermore, the high cost of natural mohair fibers has necessitated the production of mohair textiles with a nice blend of other textile fibers.
Mohair wool is very delicate, which is why it should only be washed in cold water. It is better to wash by hand or apply the delicate cycle when using your washing machine. Do not hang in direct sunlight or use a dryer. Avoid soaking the mohair fabric in water for a long time.
Few wool materials are as expensive as mohair wool. It’s unique and delicate features, means it commands a very high price in the market. However, the concurrent decrease in demand and supply of this fabric has helped to stabilize the cost of the fabric.
According to Pennsylvania mohair wool producers, this fabric can go for as high as $10 per pound. For context, materials like sheep wool can be gotten for as low as $0.40 per pound.
Mohair is one of the Oldest fibres in the Textile Industry – and is still very popular!
South Africa is responsible for about 50% of global mohair production, hence they have a responsibility to ensure sustainable mohair production. The country has about 1000 Angora goat farms engaged in the production of mohair wool. Angora goats are reared primarily for mohair production in South Africa.
The history of angora goats in South Africa is a fascinating one. It started in 1838 when twelve angora rams and one ewe was sent to Port Elizabeth, by the Sultan of Turkey. In a bid to protect the country’s monopoly of mohair production, the Sultan ordered that the rams sent to South Africa be rendered infertile. However, unknown to them, one of the ewes was pregnant and eventually birthed a kid en route to South Africa.
South Africa manufactures a variety of mohair products, including blankets, scarves, duvets, and a range of décor and clothing items. 95% of the mohair fabrics produced in South Africa are exported while the remaining 5% is sold locally. Taiwan, Italy, and China are the largest export countries for South Africa’s mohair fabrics. As of 2018, the country hard 5 major brokers, 3 brokers, and about 30 manufacturers.
Unlike small-scale farmers that can use communal shearing points for their shearing, commercial farmers have to arrange with other shearing teams for farm visits during shearing season. Once the shearing is complete, the mohair is grouped according to strength, texture, and length, then packed and marked in bales with the quality class and producer number. Registered mohair producers in South Africa all have their producer numbers.
Animal rights organizations like PETA, have however condemned some of the mohair wool production methods as inhumane. Though not all farms engage in this inhumane treatment, PETA has accused some South African Angora farms of causing physical harm to these animals during production.
Given the above, Mohair South Africa hired an independent quality assurance organization to look into the allegations. They also requested that the contractor provide them with a full report on the alleged breach of guidelines referred to in the PETA report. The company traced the shearing in PETA’s video footage to two farms.
The farms incriminated in the footage were all suspended from mohair auctions. The farms will also be required to undergo a process of trial monitoring in which they’ll have to notify mohair South Africa before commencing with their next shearing.
Furthermore, additional resources have been expended by Mohair South Africa to conduct appraisals of the Angora Goat Farms across the country and to encourage as many appraisals as possible from parties involved.
Mohair South Africa has now updated its guidelines for sustainable mohair production to align with international standards for sustainable production.
South Africa’s mohair industry has recorded exponential growth over the years. About 30,000 workers around the semi-desert Karoo region which is the largest producer of mohair in the world, earn their living from mohair production.
These people will be affected by any loss in the mohair industry, which is why crucial efforts must be made to ensure sustainability in the industry.
Like other fibers derived from animals, mohair wool does not have any notable negative effect on the environment. Mohair wool, unlike synthetic textiles, does not contain any hormone-disrupting, organ-damaging, or carcinogenic chemical. And its production does not release toxins of any kind into the environment.
However, when it comes to mohair production, its effect on the animals is a major concern. This is why PETA and some other animal rights organizations have come out to condemn inhumane practices against these animals like castration without anesthesia, dehorning, rough handling, and sub-par living conditions
Like every other thing in life, while there may be some farms that are guilty of these inhumane practices, a lot of Angora goat farmers are compliant with the ethical standards of wool production.
The mohair fabric is entirely biodegradable, and the implication of this is that textiles or garments produced from this substance are quick to breakdown in nature. So they do not contribute to the pollution of the environment.
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