As warm weather approaches, so does shearing season! In my opinion, itís ďThe Most Wonderful Time of The Year!Ē I am a shearer, but I specialize in camelids. But long before I go out shearing in May, the fiber that I have reserved throughout the year starts to arrive at my home. One of those extra special treats is mohair.
Mohair is the fiber of the angora goat. It is strong, lustrous, and ever so enticing. It is usually a very long staple length compared to wool. Mohair is also a bit more user friendly in the preparation than wool. When you purchase raw mohair, one of the first things you will notice is the coating over the fiber. This protects the fiber from the elements including sun damage, stains, and also keeps the dirt relatively suspended away from the fibers themselves.
To begin processing the raw fiber, remove the fleece from the bag, and spread it cut side up on a table, bed sheet, or large screen. Remove any short, or second cuts from the fleece, and examine the fiber in a few areas of the fleece. Check for variations in length, texture, and overall appearance of the fiber. At this point, you can decide if you want to process the fiber in one large batch, or if you want to separate it according to any of the variations in the fiber. If you intend to process in separate batches, now is the time to separate it.
As you continue, turn the fleece over and pick the loose bits of hay and chaff from the lock side of the fleece. Unlike wool, the little stuff will fall out during washing. Also take this time to remove any extremely contaminated fiber. This is fairly rare with mohair, but still give it a thorough look.
To wash the fiber, much as I like my wash basins for other fiber, for mohair, it is best to use either a set of wash tubs, or the bathtub. If you can get the net bags that football gear is kept in with the very large holes, they work wonderfully to contain the fiber and let the dirt pass through. Onion bags also work well. Donít hesitate to ask at the grocery store. Often the loose onions on display arrived in really large net bags that the grocer will save for you upon request.
Fill the tub with very hot water. I use the hot from the tap with a kettle of near boiling water added to it. It should be over 140 degrees. Add a very liberal dose of dish soap, nothing fancy, I usually use Gain (yes, Gain makes dish soap). Place the bagged fiber into the tub, use a wooden spoon, or other utensil to submerge it. To keep the tub water hot, cover it with a towel. It also helps to close shower curtains or doors if you are using a bathtub. For washtubs, I find it best to put a piece of plywood over the top. Just anything to hold the heat in. After about 25 minutes, turn the fiber over. If the water has gotten too cold, add another kettle of very hot water to it.
The water must remain hot to keep the waxy coating suspended in the water and not allow it to redeposit on the fiber. If it does redeposit on the fiber it becomes exceedingly difficult to remove.
Once the fiber has soaked, remove a lock from the bag and rinse it in hot water. Roll it in a towel to absorb most of the water. You can squeeze and agitate the fiber more than you can wool because it is far less prone to felting. If the test lock feels tacky, add more heat to you soak and allow the fiber to soak awhile longer. If it feels clean, go ahead and take the entire bag from the wash water. Squeeze as much of the wash water from it as possible then place it in the rinse tub. At this point, work the fiber to get the dirt and wash water out of it as thoroughly as possible.
To dry the mohair, roll the bag to remove as much water as possible. Open the bag and spread the washed locks onto a sheet or screen to dry.