Friday, October 15, 2010

Mohair processing - not for the impatient or inflexible!

As some of you might know, I've been in the process of trying to find some fibre the right length (and price) to reroot poor Poe with for a while now. A few days ago my fibre arrived and I've began processing it so I can begin the reroot.

The mohair I ended up buying is from an Aussie seller, and as I mentioned, pretty much straight off the goat's back. I will admit that I was expecting it to be kinda gross and stinky, but I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. While it was absolutely not perfectly clean and lovely, it wasn't too bad and even better, the seller kept the locks all nice and together so I don't have the nightmare of untangling a big messy wad of fibre. Here's how it looked straight out of the bag.

In it's unwashed state it is kind of greasy, and there's a bit of "VM" (that's vegetable matter - hay and possibly...goat poo!). It does smell a little bit goaty, but not terribly so. All the same, if you are finicky about such things, then attempting to process your own mohair is possibly not for you. Looking at the fibre in its raw state it is difficult to imagine it gracing the head of one of my Blythes!

Most of the info out there on processing mohair is geared towards spinners rather than doll makers, who need that lock kept nice and intact through the cleaning process and if you follow their methods you will end up with nice clean mohair that has ended up in a tangled clump, rather than the nicely combed locks we need. Luckily I found this excellent guide to washing mohair by Mohairhouse. Quite possibly what I did is not the best way to wash mohair, but here's the method I used.

I basically separated the mohair into three smaller bundles, tied at the top with a silicone hair tie and followed the method for washing locks using dish detergent and very hot water. If I was to do this over again, I would have picked out the bigger pieces of VM before I wet the mohair. As I discovered it doesn't come out in the wash, but the water does help to distribute all of those tiny pieces right through the entire lock, making your locks really dirty. Oh well, you live and learn...

The fibre was very dirty, and after three washes was still not looking lovely and white so I soaked it in some very hot water with dish soap for a good 20 minutes to see if I could get it any cleaner. Next time I'd pick out the VM first, then wash once to get most of the dirt out, soak in hot soapy water and then rinse and wash again. It is entirely possible that my mohair is stained or the goat that it came from isn't white but cream (actually I don't really know why I assumed that it was white as the goats come in several colours including blonde and a silvery colour) because even though it was much cleaner looking after the soak, it still wasn't really super white like other mohair that I have seen - more like white with blonde tips. So at that point I figured that that was as clean as it was going to get, rinsed off the dishsoap and conditioned the fibre using a generous amount of human hair conditioner (just squishing the conditioner into the tied locks, not agitating at all) and put it into ziplock bags for 20 minutes or so. I was pleased that at this stage I had barely lost any hair at all from the 3 bunches - yay for silicon hairbands!

After I rinsed, dried and brushed a section of it, (at which point it turned into a cloud of frizz that was only subdued by dampening it), I couldn't help but feel a little disappointed with the result. My mohair seems to be of the super crimpy variety rather than the loosely curling type that I wanted, not especially shiny and worst of all, it's a pale straw colour that I am not a fan of at all.

It is also apparent that I will have to dye it as the colour does not suit Poe's skintone. Ironically it looked pretty good against the paler Blythe-in-bits, but I have already got a scalp for her. I am looking at using Landscape Acid Dye to improve the colour in either Pacific or Tasman - both are shades of blue/green in different intensities. They are really pretty colours, I just hope that it dyes up nicely and doesn't end up going bright green on the cream mohair. I am also considering playing with food colouring to see if I can get a pretty pastel colour I can live with.

At this point after all the work and the less than satisfactory result I've achieved, I would not recommend trying to save a few dollars by processing the mohair yourself if you have a particular look in mind for the finished scalp. It's not the amount of work involved that I consider to be the issue, but rather the unpredictable (and in this case, somewhat disappointing) result. At the end of the day, the look of the combed mohair depends mostly on the animal it came from (age, genetics, colour, living conditions) and also the part of the fleece that the locks were taken from (some parts of the fleece are guaranteed to be stained or just very very dirty). Buying mohair fibre without knowing these things means that you can't be certain how the processed fibre will look.

I wanted to achieve white or cream shiny mohair with a gentle wave and so far, after several hours work have ended up with pale blonde mohair that is matt and crimpy. It's still quite nice, but it isn't what I wanted and will look very different to the way I had envisaged.

The fibre (including postage) cost me $14.00, and I also spent an extra $10 or so on a brush, conditioner and conditioning spray. On top of that, I now need to purchase the dye which will set me back another $14 or so. I think that all up it would not have cost me much more to have purchased the fibre I really wanted in the first place and I have had to accept that the look that I wanted for Poe's customisation will now have to change to accommodate the mohair that I have ended up with. If you are patient and flexible with your customisation than it is quite doable, but for specific results you are much better off buying your mohair already processed.


  1. Oh, wow! So, I know this didn't turn out exactly how you wanted, but what a cool adventure! Most people will never in their life see or touch raw mohair, lol-- so it's really cool that you got to mess around with it. It's wonderful when people are brave enough to just give something a go that way. Wonderful! Thanks for sharing! :) (And the end result is very pretty, even if not what you were looking for.)

  2. Hehe, when I posted this I think I would have been happy to never touch the stuff again! Now that I've worked it out though, I'm itching to do some more!

  3. Somehow I ended up on your post and found it very interesting! I raise colored angora goats and you definitely did not get the looser locks. A true angora curl is tight and springy. The only way you are going to get the looser locks is from kid mohair that is so fine it won't hold its curl, or an older, finer adult goat that is losing its curl. Looks like you got prime kid mohair that would have probably won in the show ring. The goat owner looks like he sent you some of his best. :) Next time you order raw mohair, specifically request the looser curls and let the person sending it know it is for dollhair. I set aside all of my loose locks for a dollhair maker. She does not want them touched at all. She likes the fleece to go right from the goat and into a bag. She sorts through it on her own and picks and chooses what locks she wants to turn into dollhair. It goes to her with VM, poo, and anything else a goat will encounter during the six months it took to grow those locks. Enjoy your mohair locks -- they really are beautiful -- a spinner would be drooling over them. :)

  4. Thanks for your knowledgable comment Angela. It's funny...I think that when I bought that fibre I believed that the looser curl was somehow the result of the processing and that I'd done something wrong. It wasn't until later that I realised that no amount of conditioning was going to relax that curl! Thanks for the advice on requesting the looser curls - I'll definitely remember that for next time.