I don’t like mohair. I want to make that clear. I don’t like knitting with it (it’s rough and sticks together), I don’t like spinning it (I like high-twist yarns and it tends to go ropey), I don’t like weaving with it (I tried to use a fluffy mohair as warp once on a rigid heddle loom, it did not go well). I tend to go for smooth yarns and mohair generally has a halo. I find a lot of commercial mohair rough and scratchy. It’s just not for me, I don’t like it.
Now, that said, I have two bags of beautiful mohair locks sitting in my stash. Now and then when I’m going through stuff and I see them, I’ll pet them a little bit because they’re so soft and silky. So I know. I get it. Mohair doesn’t have to be awful, sometimes mohair can be down right dreamy. But I still don’t like it, and generally stayed away from it.
That is, I did stay away from it, until at the last Maritime Spinners Retreat (2016) when Liz Miller of Good Fibrations brought this beautiful braid and I just had to touch it because it was so pretty. I admit I did hesitate a moment when Liz told me the fiber content, but I didn’t quite let go.
It was originally an 8oz braid, which is a lot of commitment that I just wasn’t ready for, but another shopper had also taken a liking to it, and we agreed to split it in half. I wondered if it would join my mohair pile or if I’d actually get it spun.
The braid is a polwarth, mohair and silk blend top, 65%/25%/10%. Polwarth is a fine wool, but has a bit more substance to it than merino or bfl. It’s soft, spins fine without going ropey, and has a nice sheen to it as well. The mohair in the blend gives a bit of a halo and some strength, and the silk does what silk does best – strength, sheen and a little bit of luxury. As soon as I bought it, I decided it was going to be sock yarn.
Let me explain something about my spinning. I tend to spin fine. Really fine. Friends making fun of me because it takes me a whole weekend and I’m still not done the braid fine. I don’t always spin fine – generally if I’m spinning to sell I go for a bit more weight – but its my favourite. Fine, smooth, soft handspun yarn knit into delicate lace is pretty much my dream every time I get my hands on some fiber. By choosing to make sock yarn, I was giving myself permission to spin fine, with plans to chain ply it to keep the colours together.
The first thing I did was strip the top down the length into quarters. I don’t usually separate a braid (it’s more convenient for me to keep it in one piece and spin across the whole width) but I wanted to make smaller colour sections so I’d get striped socks. One thing I love about Liz’s dying is that there’s no need to pre-draft or even fluff things up, the fiber is ready to go as soon as you get your hands on it.
It was love at first spin. It drafted so fine and so smooth. I spun with a short forward draw and there was not a bit of resistance or clumping. I was able to put lots of twist into the fiber without it going hard or ropey, and when I plied my sample back on itself it was smooth and soft with just the tiniest bit of halo. On the bobbin, the singles had a beautiful sheen to them, something I always love to see in a yarn.
I spun the singles very fine with a lot of twist – I’m a fan of high twist yarns in general, but having extra twist in a sock yarn helps give it some bounce and resiliency, and I find it especially important when chain plying. The finished yarn is about 20 wraps per inch, with 14 tpi.
The colours are absolutely beautiful – I posted progress pictures on my page and one follower mentioned it reminded them of Starry Night – gold, blues, greens, purples and pinks blending together beautifully. I showed the finished skein to a friend and she commented it was like a masculine unicorn.
I am absolutely in love with this yarn. I’ve got 474 meters of it, and it was supposed to be for socks but I have a feeling that won’t be happening – seems a waste to put it on my feet and wear it out. I was hoping to have the socks finished before the Maritime Fiber Arts retreat in April, but I might just show of the yarn instead. If you’d like to see more pictures or get the technical info on the yarn, you can find the Ravelry project page here. Now I’m off to look at fair isle patterns. No reason.