In part I we discussed mohair fleeces, and the characteristics of this extra insolating, light, lustrous, strong fibre. Now the fun part, … crafting with mohair!
First the bad news, not all mohair yarn is created equal. For many reasons a yarn to be hand-knit, woven or crocheted is almost always a blend of mohair with other fibres. Yarns need to have the right balance of mohair to wool and/or other fibres, be spun and/or plied with the right tension and twist, firmly enough to hold the fibres together, but not too tight to interfere with the mohair blooming. While this luxury fibre is affordable you will get the quality you pay for, and considering the work you will invest in the creation you make using the yarn getting a well made quality yarn is an essential to a long term happy outcome.
Provided you are selecting from high-quality yarns the most important points to consider will have to do with the technique you are using, the project you are planning, and in the end, what you like! A general rule of thumb is a loosely knitted mohair yarn will bloom more then one that is more tightly knit on smaller needles. Blooming is the way the yarn relaxes and increases a little in diameter while the soft fibre fluffs up after a project is finished and washed. The fluffy part the mohair makes around the yarn is called a halo, and some people love a thick soft halo, while others prefer less of a halo and a denser fabric. The percentage of mohair in the yarn, how tightly it was spun and your handling will all play a role in determining how much it blooms and how much of a halo it has. If you are knitting or using the yarn in a project that has small details then you may want to consider a different kind of yarn, one that will give the piece more definition and show off that detail work. However, mohair can enhance a textured fabric and add its own beauty to lace, while a mohair blend yarn will make an outstanding pair of knitted socks. In knitted socks all the characteristics discussed in part one come together to make a warm, comfortable, highly durable sock, that is hard to beat! (To learn more about why, how and which yarns bloom this is a terrific article on the topic. http://www.heartstringsfiberarts.com/blooming-yarn.shtm)
I could rhapsodise at length about the softness and beauty of Les Belles Bouclettes mohair yarns, and it would all be true. Being an avid knitter I adore working with them all and have particular soft spots for the brushed mohair (softer then can be imagined, even petting the skein is a treat!), and the boucle; which in stocking stitch knits into a thick fluffy fabric that truly has to be handled to be fully appreciated. (A photo doesn’t do these garments justice, but to see some projects made using our yarn please visit our Fibre Inspirations Page. We hope we can add examples of your work there soon!)
However, while you may not have been lucky enough to meet our specific mohair yarn yet, most of the many marvellous ways of crafting with mohair yarn are well-known. What isn’t as widely appreciated is the wonderful ways in which the rovings and locks can be used in crafting.
There is a belief among some spinners that because it is smooth (slippery) it is difficult to hand spin. But in reality the long staple length makes spinning mohair easy, however, it does require a slightly different process because the fibres draw much more freely than wool. Reducing tension can help counter the slightly slippery texture. (A woollen style of spinning will create the light fluffy texture you want when spinning mohair.) The low twist in these soft yarns allows more light to bounce off the fibre which shows its beautiful lustre to full effect. These lighter yarns will be suitable for more delicate garments, a tighter worsted spun yarn is preferred for a harder wearing fabric.
Mohair rovings are beautiful when needle felted. This is a fibre art I practice and I usually find that mohair or blends containing mohair felt faster and create a more solid compact sculpture. Of course gently tacked in place these rovings also lend themselves to giving items a soft and/or fluffy finish.
Some strikingly eye catching effects are achieved when fibre is used to “paint”. With a felting needle fibre from rovings is applied to a piece of fabric that acts as a canvas. The design can be one or two dimentional and as detailed as the artist wishes to make it. Between the wide selection of colours available and the way the needle blends the fibres as it felts, the variations and creative possibilities are truly limitless. This is a process that works well using many different fibres, however, once more mohair’s lustrous quality, sheen and soft fluffy texture give a mohair painting a very different look than a piece made only in wool.
For many years now Les Belles Bouclettes have been using rovings in another way, to make our much loved felted goat’s milk soap. Roving is wrapped around and completely covers a bar of soap, then it is wet felted which makes the roving/felt one with the soap. This does make a soft to the touch, gently exfoliating bar of soap that not only lasts longer but allows you to use your soap to the very smallest piece. (This is a terrific project that the whole family can enjoy, imagine the sudsy fun!)
When locks are thoroughly washed and combed they separate into their natural fine strands. To get this result takes time and involves a long repetitive process. The locks will need to be washed several times and combed more than once. If they are dyed, as much as a quarter of the amount that you begin the process with may be lost by the time the dye has been washed out. Then after they have dried you must give them another thorough combing to separate out the best, softest finest strands. This will reduce your net weight again. However, the reward for all this hard work is Beautiful, silky, lustrous strands of fine mohair, that are perfect for projects that require soft delicate fibres, and/or more precision. One of its most notable uses is as hair for high-quality hand-made doll and doll wigs. Artists who make reborn dolls prize the fine strands of fibre from dyed kid and first year mohair locks. In their craft they use a fine (usually 42 or 43 gauge( felting needle to painstakingly root hair into their dolls head one to three strands at a time. I have read comments from one reborn doll artist in which she mentioned that applying the hair to a newborn sized doll’s head took more time than any other stage of the long process of reborning. However, as you can see their time consuming efforts, precision and care achieve truly remarkable results.
Another use it can be put to is in making luxurious, (not to say sumptuous) powder puffs. Again the invaluable felting needle is used to secure fibre to a base fabric. The result will turn applying body powder into a decadent indulgence that you love to revel in. We plan to share more details about creating these delightfully soft puffs in a future post .
Incredibly this is only a tiny peak at the possibilities offered when you begin crafting with this affordable luxury fibre.
Do you work with mohair? What is your favourite way of crafting with it? Please share your experiences, thoughts, ideas and photos of your creations with us in the comments section.
Note: Reborn doll photographs are of doll Ellen Elizabeth reborn by artist Beverly of Beverly’s Inspired Creations , from a Morgan sculpt. Other examples of Beverly’s artistry can be viewed at: