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The Magic of Mohair

Angora goats - one of the farming mainstays of the Karoo.

Angora goats – one of the farming mainstays of the Karoo.

By Julienne du Toit

Photographs by Chris Marais

With more than 668 000 angora goats, South Africa produces an annual clip of nearly 2.3 million kilograms, which makes up about half of the world’s mohair.

The vast majority of that comes from the Eastern Karoo, and angora goats are often seen grazing their way across the grassy veld, either freshly shorn and white (shearing happens twice a year, in January and July), or somewhat shaggy in their wavy uncut fleece.

Mohair is sometimes called the noble fibre or the diamond fibre because it is so lustrous, durable, lightweight and warm.

lowmo0001Part of the reason it is so rare is that angora goats are difficult creatures to raise. They appear hardy, but often succumb to cold and wet conditions. When weathermen warn small livestock farmers about bad weather, it’s the angora goat farmers that pay the most attention. Angora farmers will often herd their goats into shelter before a cold front, and it’s not completely unusual to hear of farmer’s wives settling a small flock of angora kids in front of the warm Aga stove as snow falls on the Karoo bossies outside.

Most of South Africa’s angora goat fleece is exported. Italian leader in luxury men’s wear, Ermenegildo Zegna (who has 525 stores all over the world) said “South African mohair is without doubt the best in the world. We have used it in our men’s suiting for many years.”

First Lady Michelle Obama caused a fashion sensation when she wore a designer cardigan made of Karoo mohair at the presidential inauguration in 2009.

In Middelburg, you can visit the Umsobomvu Mohair Weavers, a project started in 2001. In a building on Van Reenen Street, more than a dozen women spin and weave mohair and wool, creating wall hangings, floor rugs, scarves and blankets for sale.

Contact Grace Sawule of Umsobomvu Mohair Weavers on 049 842 2197 or 072 455 2068 or email her on umsobomvu@telkomsa.net.

Middelburg is also home to Sneeuberg Wool Duvet Factory, which sends Merino wool bedding, pillows and insulation all over the country from their headquarters in Church Street. Contact them on 049 842 1829 or email shop@sneeuberg.co.za.

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