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Published on February 1st, 2014 | by Rosie


What is it, exactly?

Merino… Cashmere… Mohair… Do we really know what it is?

Recently Serena wrote a piece on “Angora wool: is it cruel?” questioning the process of how the angora rabbit’s fur is farmed. So we know that angora wool is made from 100% of angora rabbit’s fur (hence the name). But what about the rest of the yarn fibres? Well here are the facts:

Merino: A merino sheep is one of the most highly regarded sources of wool, and has been since the middle ages. With a reputation for having some of the finest and softest wool available, it’s clear why it’s still so popular. Bred traditionally in Turkey and Central Spain, predominantly for its wool, of which the quality depends on the precise strain of breed. Therefore, not all of the wool grown by each of the merino sheep, could be suitable for producing yarn. In particular, merino sheep that are bred for their meat, don’t produce the best quality wool.


A Turkish Merino Sheep

Cashmere: Cashmere wool comes from the neck area of (predominantly) a cashmere goat – but sometimes it can comes from other breeds of goat. What sets cashmere apart from sheep’s wool, is that the fibre obtained from the goat, is actually hair rather than wool. This trait enables the cashmere to be soft yet strong. India is currently the country producing the largest amount of raw cashmere – an estimated 10,000 metric tons per year, which is over double the amount produced by its rival distributing countries.

australian cashmere goat

An Australian Cashmere Goat

Mohair: Mohair is produced using the hair of angora goats. Suprisingly, it is one of the oldest fibres in use and has many redeeming features, such as: its soft and supple; durable and flame resistant; naturally elastic and has a lovely sheen. It is also a material for all seasons – it’ll keep you cool in the summer and warm in the winter. As the angora goats age, their hair becomes thicker and more coarse, increasing the suitability of using mohair for other purposes, such as heavy fabrics in outer-garments, and carpets.


A Canadian Angora Goat

Other: Interestingly enough, there are many other sources for the production of yarn. Some you may or may not have heard of in this context. A few everyday materials such as silk, cotton and linen, are commonly known to be natural materials for fabric and yarn. However lesser obvious animals than those listed above, such as the llama, possum, muskoxen and alpaca (plus other camelids), are all also used.

About the Author

loves changing her hair colour, buttons and the rain. As a relatively new knitter with an Interior Design background, she loves to make cushion covers using chunky yarn. Especially colourful ones.

Last updated: February 4th, 2014.

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