Over the course of years, we have seen teddy bears made from every material imaginable. While the list includes glass, wood, plastic and a host of other materials, a soft, cuddly plush fabric gives teddy that huggable quality preferred by children (and adults), and the number one choice is mohair.
Just what is this magical material that is so popular with teddy bear artists and collectors alike?
Mohair actually comes from the Angora goat and is considered a luxurious fiber, like cashmere, angora and silk.
The word Mohair derives from the Arabic word "mukhayyar" and dates back many centuries to Turkey.
Angora goats were so prized that importation was not allowed until the 16th century, when they were introduced to Spain and France. They did not appear in the United States until 1849, according to the Mohair Council of America.
We like to think that we use an enormous amount of mohair in the making of our beloved teddy bears, but in fact our use of this magical material is but a small fraction of the many uses it has; fashionable wearing apparel, including hats, scarves, sweaters, jackets, suits and other clothing items; throws and blankets, carpeting and rugs, home furnishings, and one product that may surprise you - paint rollers!
The use of mohair in children's toys actually predates the teddy bear, and some of the most valued toys from the mid 19th century were made of mohair, including a host of domestic and wild animals on iron wheels.
While real fur has been used in the making of toys for many years, mohair is a much better choice because no animal is sacrificed to obtain the fur.
GROW YOUR OWN MOHAIR
I have been told that if you cross a sheep with a kangaroo - you get a wooly jumper! Aside from that very bad joke, you may want to consider raising your very own angora goats so supply you with all the mohair you want.
It seems rather simple, really.
First you start with a herd of perhaps 100 angora goats. They range in price from $300 to $700 each. Then you will need several hundred acres of farm land… not just any farm land mind you, but a very special type of land that is primarily found in two locations …. Southeast Texas, or in Africa.
You need to be aware that angora goats have high nutritional requirements and are subject to parasites and disease, and do not do well in cold weather.
You will need to shear your goats twice a year, and each will produce perhaps 11 to 17 pounds per year.
You can sell the raw fleece for $2.00 to $4.00 per pound, or you can process it by cleaning and carding, getting it ready for hand spinning. This will then increase the value to $30.00 to $50.00 per pound.
Since you want to end up with a finished mohair fabric to turn into beautiful teddy bears, there are a few additional steps to take.
The raw fleece needs to be scoured; a cleaning process that goes through a series of tubs of soap, water and rinsing to remove natural grease and soil. This results in a loss of approximately 20% of the total weight.
The next stage is dyeing which can be done at this stage or after spinning.
Carding is the next step, which blends various fibers and removes vegetable matter.
Depending on the end use, you may then move to combing, which removes short fibers and strengthens the long fibers.
A phase that follows combing is called Drawing, which is done on a spinning frame, transforming it into yarn. This is the process that twists two or more yarns to give added strength.