What is Mohair?

MOHAIR comes from an angora goat and WOOL from a sheep.

Mohair 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 from the Arabic mukhayyar – which is a type of haircloth, literally ‘choice select’ cloth of mohair. Mohair fibre is approximately 25-45 microns in diameter. It is one of the oldest textile fibres in use. It is both durable and resilient. It is notable for its high lustre and sheen, and is often used in fibre blends to add these qualities to a textile. Mohair also takes dye exceptionally well. Mohair is also warm as it has great insulating properties. It is durable, moisture-wicking, stretch and flame resistant, and crease resistant.

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 feel like wool does. Important to know that Mohair comes from an Angora goat and Wool comes from a sheep.

Mohair increases its diameter and roughness with the age of the goat, growing along with the animal. This means fine hair from younger animals is used for more expensive and finer applications such as clothing, and the thicker hair from older animals is more often used for carpets and heavy fabrics intended for outerwear.

The term mohair is 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 should not be confused with the fur from the Angora rabbit, which is called angora wool.

Production & Uses

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 grows in uniform locks. Angora is a single-coat breed, and unlike pygora or cashmere, there is no need to dehair a mohair fleece to separate the coarse hair from the down hair.

Mohair is used in scarves, winter hats, suits, sweaters, coats, socks and home furnishing. Mohair fibre 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 also used in ‘climbing skins’ for Alpine Touring (AT) or randonnée equipment which is specifically designed for ski touring in steep terrain . The mohair is used in a carpet allowing the skier an appropriate ascension method without sliding downhill.

History of Mohair

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. Raw mohair was first exported from Turkey to England around 1820, which then became the leading manufacturer of mohair. 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 mohair producer, with the majority of American mohair being produced in Texas.

In December 2006 the General Assembly of the United Nations proclaimed 2009 to be the International Year of Natural Fibres, so as to raise the profile of mohair and other natural fibres.