Mohair yarn is famous for its insulating properties, softness, and distinctive appearance. Many people are curious about how it is made, as the process of yarn making can seem rather mysterious to people who have not participated. The short version of the story is that mohair is made like all other yarns: by harvesting fibers, cleaning them, combing them so that they are aligned in the same direction, and then spinning them into yarn which can vary in thickness and texture, depending on how the spinning is handled.
This yarn starts with the Angora goat, a special breed which is native to Turkey. Angora goats look rather unusual, because they are covered in a coat of shaggy, slightly curly hair which grows with each year, growing thicker in the process. This hair is shorn to make make mohair yarn. Fine yarns are spun from the hair of young goats, while coarser yarns like those used in upholstery are made from the hair of older goats.
Classically, the goats are washed before they are sheared, to remove major debris and dirt from their hair. After shearing, the raw mohair is washed again, sometimes several times, to strip out oil, dirt, and debris which has accumulated in the hair over time. Once the mohair is clean, it is combed and carded with fine brushes to remove short hairs and unwanted debris while pulling the fibers into alignment so that they all face in the same direction. The carded hair is then split into chunks which are spun.
By maintaining even pressure, a spinner can produce a very smooth, even yarn, which can be thick or thin, depending on how much raw mohair is used. Uneven tension produces a yarn known as “chunky” or “slubby” because it has an uneven texture. This yarn is often used for novelty knitting.
Mohair happens to take dye very well, and it maintains colors excellently, developing a rich, glossy appearance which many people find desirable. It can be dyed in raw form before it is spun, or after it has been spun into yarn, depending on the taste of the producer. One of the advantages to dying raw mohair is that the color will remain even all the way into the core of the yarn, allowing the yarn to wear better with time, while dipped finished yarn tends to have an undyed core which may become unsightly over time.