There are many different breeds of goats, and they have long given humans milk, meat and fiber. Most most of the goat fibers we use, however, come from one of four goats.
Angora goats give us mohair. While they originated in the Himalayas, they were named after the Angora region of Turkey. (“Mohair” comes from an Arabic word.) As anyone who’s ever worked with mohair knows, its luster is amazing and it picks up colors beautifully in dye baths. Its micron count varies depending on the age (kid, yearling or adult), ranging from 23 to 43. Its strength and long staple length (4-6 inches/10-15 cm) combine to allow fiber artists to put large spaces between the yarns which in turn allows lovely halos. As you can see from the picture (source), mohair goats have amazing curls (I always want to sink my fingers into their locks!) but the fiber has no crimp.
I do not recommend mohair to beginning fiber artists and crafters. Undoing knit, crocheted or woven fiber can be daunting, as it tends to grab hold to itself and other fibers. I’m not against challenge, of course, but I think the difficulty in undoing mistakes in a mohair project adds unnecessary frustration for the newer artists.
The undercoat of the Kashmir goat gives us cashmere. Their name comes from India’s Kashmir region. These goats are sensitive to cold and, particularly, to wet weather. Cashmere fiber is extremely soft, has no crimp and a staple length of about 2 inches (55 mm). Cashmere fiber must be under 19 microns and, by law (U.S. Wool Products Labeling Act of 1939), cannot contain more than 3% by weight of cashmere fibers with average diameters over 30 microns. (Pic source)
Not surprisingly, the quality of a particular cashmere comes not just from the health and diet of the goat. It is also affected by the climate in which the goat lives. The angora goat raised in cold climates (e.g., the Himalayas!), will produce a higher quality cashmere than if raised in warmer climates.
Then there’s the Pygora goat, which is a cross between the Pygmy goat (which produces a short, difficult-to-spin down) and Angora goats (mohair). (Read the story of these goats! Pic source) Pygoras produce one of three different types of fibers:
- Type A: 6+ inch staple, ringlets, usually has a silky guard hair, very fine, mohair-like, usually <;28 microns.
- Type B: 3-6 inch staple, usually curly, has an obvious guard hair and second silky guard hair and should average <;24 microns.
- Type C: 1-3 inch staple, a very fine fiber, usually <;18.5 microns, and can be acceptable as commercial cashmere, must show crimp and have good separation between a coarse guard hair and fleece.
Last, but not least, is the Nigora goat (a cross between a Nigerian Dwarf goat and an Angora goat). (Pic source) Its fleece produces multiple fiber types like the Pygora.
Are you now wondering where cashgora and pycazz come from?!