Sunday, March 29, 2015

What to Do With Less Than Stellar Mohair?

This probably happens to most of us. We buy a fleece, part or whole, online or in person, get it home, then really look at it. And sometimes, we think it just needs a good washing and it'll be better. In the back of our minds, there is a niggle of doubt. So, let me tell you a short story about how this mohair came into my possession.

A billion years ago, on ravelry and facebook, I read from Namaste Farms that 'dandruff' in mohair was actually lice, not skin flakes. Of course, neither of those is acceptable in a fleece, but one is worse than the other--lice will eat the fiber and weaken it. When I set out to buy mohair again, I decided to buy samples from specific animals to double check their fleece for lice, then when none was present, I planned to buy a pound or more of that specific animal's fleece. Great idea in theory, but doesn't always work in real life. So, I had 3 samples, all of which were fantastic, then I bought a pound of apricot locks and realized that it was quite dirty. At the time, I thought it was mostly vm...but that vm wasn't alone.

After rediscovering this mohair at Christmas, I washed the locks to remove more dirt and vm and...lice. Then I picked open the locks and washed it all again. And doing my best whenever I can to shake the debris out of the locks. Even after the spinning, there is still enough leftover for you to notice it in the finished yarn.

It could be that this shepherd didn't realize what was sent to me, because I doubt that a shepherd who caters to handspinners would last long in the fiber world if vm/lice fiber was sent out each time. I will assume that this was an anomaly, because I like to give people the benefit of the doubt. Most people aren't outright mean or scammers.

It looks like a wonderful, super soft and squishy yarn, right? Well, it is. Except for when you bring the yarn up to your nose--mostly, you'll notice that it is still inundated with tiny bits of vm. When I encountered a random cluster of lice eggs, I threw those locks into the trash. I know, into the trash. I like to save and reuse and reinvent fiber everywhere I can, but not this time. By doing that, I at least was able to save most of the rest of the locks, covered in vm as it were.

There are some darker bits of vm that you might be able to see in the picture below. There was a lot of things happening to this poor goat's fleece. Within some of the heavy vm tangled locks, which were also thrown away, I found true skin flakes, large and yellowish-white, which looked like the animal had scratched at the lice until he/she bled, then the skin scabbed over.

Aside from the lice, scabs, and copious amounts of vegetable matter, the mohair is extremely soft. That makes me thing that the animal had the appropriate diet for growing his/her fleece, but since I do not personally raise goats, I can't tell you for certain. So, after all of the washing and shaking and picking and spinning and washing and shaking, the finished yarn contains only about 10-20% of the original amount of gross things. What am I going to do with it? By now, you're probably a tad grossed out, and I am a little bit too.

With the mostly clean yarn, I plan to make a soft rug for Mr. IT Guy's feet when he's busy working at his computer. The floor under the linoleum in our apartment is just concrete, so it hurts your feet if you've been sitting for a while (even if he gets up and walks around for get the blood flow back into his legs, sitting with your barefeet on hard concrete all day can be painful). Mohair spun by the lock doesn't hold up well as a warp yarn, so I chose my remaining Lincoln locks for making a strong, 2-ply warp yarn.

Do you see that little halo of fiber around this skein? I spun the Lincoln from the lock, mostly worsted but occasionally from the fold. Lincoln doesn't flex and bend in the same way merino does, because it's coarser, so the bent locks poof out of the yarn into a halo like this. I did this for two reasons: 1) I wanted to just get it spun quickly, so I didn't worry about the preparation as much; and 2) I wanted to give the mohair something to latch onto when I did the final washing stage.

Here is my Kromski Harp loom all ready to go:

I wove the first two inches with the leftover Lincoln yarn. I plan to tuck the ends under the rug so there isn't any fringe. Since the Lincoln is the thinner of the two yarns, I wove the ends with that so the finished rug won't be so bumpy.

It'll be a quick weaving project. Big yarns are like that. I love how the Lincoln is turning out...kind of makes me want to make a future rug with it! Although this was not the intended use of my mohair, I'm glad I didn't throw it all away. I will only buy mohair in person from now on, and I will not buy any when I can't inspect with my eyes, hands, and nose. Buying mohair can be tricky for new spinners, so if you're planning to buy some, double check with a trusted expert first. My pick from now on? Namaste Farms