Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Processing Mohair - part 2 - Success!

I just wasn't satisfied with how my mohair turned out. So I did some more research and then thought I'd throw caution to the wind and just dye the stuff with food colouring for fun as it seriously could not have looked worse than before and in any case, I didn't want to throw any more money at it. And here is the end result.

Seriously, I could not be prouder of this bit of fluff if I had grown it on my own back! It's shiny and luscious and perfect (even if it is pink)! As it turns out, the secret to gorgeous mohair is all in the combing.

When I was preparing to dye it, I thought I had better brush it as the locks were so tight that there was no way that the dye would have penetrated to the centre. So I divided it into lots of little locks - about 12 for the ounce of fibre I had, brushed each lock into a big fuzzy cloud and tied it together at the top with string. All of the little bits of VM and dirt came out in the brushing process so it looked much cleaner. The floor did not. It's a pretty messy business and not for the squeamish. I am reasonably certain that a lot of the little bits of "stuff" in there was goat poo and it was obvious that my previous attempt to wash it had not been all that effective as my hands were still getting oily from the lanolin.

There was quite a lot of mohair caught up in the brush - I wasted heaps, but from what I have read this seems to be pretty normal. Then dyed it with the food colouring. I chose pink because I thought there was less chance of it being completely unacceptable if I made the colour too strong or too weak as I was not sure how well the fibre would take the dye. For the record, it really grabs it! I was aiming for palest pink and it turned out much darker than I had anticipated, but it's still ok.

I wet the brushed locks with hot water and laid them neatly in a glass dish. I used a lasagne dish - as I was using food colouring it was perfectly safe to use regular cookware - obviously if I had bought the acid dye I could not have done this. Then I made up my dye bath using a few drops of pink food colouring, hot water, a glug of vinegar and a squirt of dish soap - very scientific. I didn't measure anything! Then I just poured the dye mix over the top of the mohair and "baked" it in the oven for about an hour. This method works well because the water stays nice and hot without violently boiling, which can cause felting. Water + agitation is bad news for mohair or wool, so don't stir it.

When I pulled it out the water was clear as all the dye had gone into the mohair. Then I rinsed it in hot water and conditioned it (just put some conditioner in your hand and run it down the length of the lock from the top - don't scrunch it up like you would your own hair or it will felt!), and left it to sit (ie...I went out!). When I returned 3 or 4 hours later I combed the mohair with the conditioner still in it (lost quite a bit more hair), rinsed it and left it to dry. And that's all there is to it!

Things I've learned for next time:

Separate into lots of small bunches as it's easier to comb.
Brush before washing to remove all the VM & make it easier to remove lanolin.
Comb again with conditioner still in the hair, then rinse thoroughly.

A lot of people dye their fibre "in the grease" - ie unwashed, but I think that I would probably wash it first as the mohair I had was quite greasy. I really want to do this again and experiment with some different colours. I wonder if it would take parisienne essence or tea/coffee for a natural brown?

My only concern now is that there is a LOT less fibre than I started with. I just hope that I have enough to give poor Poe a decent looking head of hair. It is a good thing that the mohair I bought is long so I can use a technique where I double it over, thereby getting double the thickness.

Now I just have to remove the paint from her scalp and repair her torn partline.


  1. This is reaaally useful information :), good to learn from others experiences. Thank you so much for sharing!

  2. Glad I could help :) I am by no means an expert, but sometimes other peoples mistakes can teach you just as much as their successes imo.

    BTW, you did the most amazing job on Lollipoppet's French Trench - do you have a price list for your commissions anywhere?

  3. Wow! It looks really beautiful, so soft and lush like cotton candy! i just wanna eat it! Great job!
    : )

  4. This is ABSOLUTELY gorgeous. Wow. I've never processed mohair before, but this gives me courage to try ;)

  5. Go for it! Once I had worked out a few little hints (like brushing it out when dry) it made all the difference. I am going to comb and condition some cotswold locks I bought a while ago and I think that it will be much much easier this time around.