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Issue #28: Mohair(s) for Crochet

Rachel in Weightless Tunisian CrochetMohair is brought to you by my extreme travel schedule last week, because I packed Weightless in my carry-on. (My friend Rachel tried it on at left.) 
In Ravelry:

I'm more grateful than ever for the mohair yarn I used for it. It was my stalwart friend and protector through eight plane flights, dressy events, and unpredictable weather. It was a 'snood,' evening stole, and hotel room robe. I crushed it in my carryon, bunched it under my arms, stuffed it into a small handbag, and stepped on it with high heels. It still looks new.

Before I awakened to mohair about four years ago, it was an acquired taste. Based upon things I’ve heard other crocheters say, I’m not alone. For instance, over the years complaints like these discouraged me from getting to know mohair: “It sheds”....“It’s terrible for my wool allergies”....“You can’t rip it out if you make a mistake”....“It’s itchy, scratchy,  rough”....and, "There aren't many crochet patterns for it."
If you agree with any of these statements, please keep reading anyway. I offer strategies.
Here’s why: mohair is such a good investment! My time and cost have been fully rewarded. Not only can I create special, elegant gifts and accessories, they will last like heirlooms. They keep me warm weightlessly (like cashmere), but are more practical and durable than cashmere and most other fashion yarns I’ve used. A good mohair yarn holds its block, doesn’t crease or crush, and doesn’t show wear.

My Mohair Strategies

1. Scratchy: Only some are scratchy; others are shiny and silky. Some are dramatically coarse, others are very fine. I like to use the plural “mohairs” because so many kinds exist that there might be a perfect mohair yarn for every person.
2. Sheds: Some mohair yarns shed more than others. As I see it, there are two kinds of shedding: fibers that float in the air as I crochet it or wear it (I avoid these!), and fibers that cling to clothes like lint. I’ve learned to manage these: I make it a point of never wearing anything crocheted (or hand knitted) over clothes with a textured surface. If the yarn sticks to a fabric, it will pull fibers out of the yarn, whether it's mohair or not. My goal is for the crochet to be a floating layer over smooth-surfaced clothes. Reduces pilling too.
3. Allergies: People who are allergic to wool because of the lanolin might not be allergic to mohair, because it’s not from sheep. Mohair comes only from the angora goat (confusingly, angora yarn comes from the angora rabbit. Both of these animals probably originated in Turkey.) Other people react to the airborne fibers. I do, and my eyes and sinuses react to loosely-spun angora too (even some acrylic yarn). The good news is, some mohair doesn’t shed much, if at all. Also, you can find great imitations of mohair in yarn shops and craft stores. My favorite for lace weight is The Alpaca Yarn Co. Halo (suri alpaca in place of mohair):
4. Ripping out stitches: It’s easier when: I’ve used a larger crochet hook; I don’t delay (to avoid the hairs intermeshing); and I unravel the stitches slowly from the same direction that I crocheted them (reduces friction). When the yarn starts to catch on itself I stop before it becomes a tight knot. Sometimes I stretch the stitches as I’m undoing them to open up the loops. (Some people freeze it for a day. I haven’t tried this.)

The consolation is, this is the only time you’ll need to baby this fiber! Remind yourself: the finished project will respond well to blocking and resist all the bad things: creasing, crushing, pilling, abrasion and other signs of wear.
5. “Mohair” as a yarn can be 100% mohair fiber, or some kind of blend. Mohair fiber is so distinctive that even a small amount in a blend is noticeable in look and feel. Only you will know, as you crochet with different yarns, if you prefer your mohair straight up, or watered down with other fibers. I’ll list my current top preferences below.
6. I'm glad I learned to see through mohair's hairy halo to the yarn's twisted core to know if I’ll like it, or what might be a good crochet hook size to start with. At first I couldn’t tell that one mohair yarn was thicker than another, so I had to go only on its label.
Not only that, two mohair yarns can be labeled with the same weight category but not be interchangeable. I’ve learned to look through the halo for whether its core has a texture, or how tame and sleek the mohair fibers are spun (as if well-combed first) versus those that have even the slightest loopy or bubbly tangle in the twist (a micro version of “boucle” texture). 
A Few Mohair Yarns to Know
S.R. Kertzer Ovation (lavender yarn, above, and white yarn used for Weightless): sheds very little, fine and sleek look and drape, very durable and soft, all at a good price. I may shock some knitters, but I prefer it over the popular Rowan Kidsilk Haze, because Ovation is simply sleeker and finer.
Wagtail Farms 100% Fine Kid Mohair 4ply (red yarn at left): In a class by itself. Glossy, silky, drapy. And, no shedding.
Ellen’s Half-Pint Farm: (100% mohair). Very spirited (springy and textured), handpainted, and luxurious; it turned me on to 100% mohair. Little to no shedding. Soft except next to my neck.
Fun magical, glittery mohairs: Tilli Tomas Symphony Lace, Fiesta Yarns La Boheme, Trendsetter Dune (pricy, but sheds much less than the look-alike Lion Brand Moonlight Mohair); the mohair-free Online Linie Punta.
Seems any crochet stitches I swatch look fabulous in:
Stacy Charles Collezione Ritratto, Lana Grossa Chiara, Artyarns Silk Mohair Glitter (pastel rainbow yarn above).

That's it for #28! If you know someone who would enjoy this kind of newsletter, please forward this to them so that they can subscribe. (Click here to subscribe: ) If you have any comments or suggestions, please email me. Thanks!      --Vashti
Special Stitch & Fiber Affinities
Love Knot heaven!

Mohair is my first choice for this stitch (a.k.a. Solomon’s Knot). 
Above is Lovepod Boa swatched in a great new yarn, Kollage Delightful. 
Below, Lovepod Boa in two other kinds of mohair twined together. 
Love Knots are most stunning when their lacy strands are held open while the knotted parts stay locked. Mohair does both: like alpaca and Jelly Yarn™ it has the “sproing” (see issue #11 on this), but unlike these, mohair locks the knots well.
A slippery yarn would let the knots loosen over time, and a limp yarn would let the lace collapse on itself.

Mohair and Tunisian crochet share a special affinity.
So much design potential with the flatter, fine texture of Tunisian stitches, and mohair’s springy loft. 

I can also use much larger crochet hooks without the stitches looking loopy or stringy. For example, I used a 9mm/M-N hook with lace yarn for Weightless (at far left, first photo).

Felted mohair looks quirky, artsy and cool. I’m still experimenting. Below: felted love knots :-)

Felted crochet mohair love knots

Links I Enjoyed This Week
Amazing fashion crochet at a Spanish blog, crochetmes3 (crochetmestres in Ravelry):

One of 3 car tire doilies The Crocheting Fool (Linda) made for her Jeep:

Photos compiled for International Crochet Day of people crocheting in different parts of the world:

DesigningVashti News
More news about Doris Chan than myself this week!

If you're in the UK,
GO SEE DORIS NOW at the Knitting and Stitching Show, Alexandra Palace, now until Oct 9 in the Tulip booth, N8: She blogged it:

If you like Doris' Snow Day Mobius Cowl you'll probably like her Crocheted Mobius Cowl pattern in the Holiday 2011 issue of Knitsimple magazine: BUT: her tutorial here shows the correct way to do its foundation row.

Now that I'm home from vacation, I see new crochet patterns stuck at the same finalizing stage before I can release them. Hmmm. Finding a solution for that.

Meanwhile, new designs in development are: an ultra-toasty hooded Thaxton Cowl, named for my newly married cousin; and I'm in a geeky mood to design more classroom aids for teachers, or for young crocheters. (Not quite as geeky as Gallon Friend, but close.) Photos next time.

Vashti and Jan with Waterlily Layer in Greensboro

It was great fun meeting crocheters and newsletter subscribers in Greensboro at the Chain Link conference! I met Jan and she tried on Waterlily Layer because she's making one of her own right now. My roommate Diane Moyer came up with a fourth way to wear it. 

A few of you suggested that I make the text of this right column darker. Thank you for that. The default setting was gray, so this black text should help.

Vashti models Urmie Seenarine's crochet Maternity Dress Here's a memorable moment from this year's CGOA fashion show:
I was honored to be asked by Urmie Seenarine to model her design, a pleated maternity dress! (It was very comfortable) Jen Hansen's runway photos:
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