Mohair and Its Uses

Mohair has been coveted as a fiber for hundreds of years. The word mohair generally refers to hair from an Angora goat but can cover Tibetan lamb and any goat hair cross bred with the Angora. Once Turkey controlled all Angora goats. They started sharing the wealth in the late 1800's though and now South Africa is the largest supplier of mohair, followed by the US, specifically Texas. 

Mohair itself is a great medium. It's easily dyed, molded, curled and applied. It can soften a masculine sculpt, invoke thoughts of magical beings or reproduce baby hair. Today I'll introduce you to 4 different types of mohair and different ways to use it. Hopefully it will help you in choosing your next project!

*While working with it I also find it has the same effect as rubbing a cat on my face so if you are prone to allergies you might have to use goggles and a nose/mouth mask, both easily found at Home Depot.

The first fiber I'm sharing is Tibetan lamb. It comes in a rainbow of colors, measures 4-6" long, is sold attached to the skin in patches and is used to make mohair wigs. It's usually curly and soft so if you're going to create a doll with short hair this is perfect to root in because it has volume. You can also cut the hair low to the skin and "troll" (glue) it to the head with a hot glue gun. Once applied you can leave it curly or wet it down and take a flat iron to it. A typical swatch pack will run from $5-$20 depending on what's been done to color or change it. I prefer to root or troll the doll first to get the feel of what the paint needs to look like. Undine below has a green Tibetan mohair wig by Deb West permanently attached to her head. I also dyed and rooted in some longer pieces in the back for contrast.

Tibetan Lamb patch

English felting mohair comes in gorgeous colors and in yard long strips. It's slightly dull and coarse but at $10 a packet you really can't complain. This is the type of mohair I used on my Goddess, Amphitrite. The length is what drew me in and I was really excited to receive it. Once it arrived I realized it's actually many wefts woven and packed together to give the illusion of long hair. "Damn!!" Undeterred, I got creative and devised ways to make the wefts permanently attached. First I dyed the blonde hair light sea green. The mohair takes dye very easily so very little dye was necessary and even then it soaked maybe 5 minutes. I let it air dry overnight and the next day rooted the hairline and part with the rooting tool (it can be glued but I really like my girls to have those). The rest of the hair was delicately separated into long strands, glued and fixed together with jump rings. This seller, BJs Babes, deals in the hair as well as glass eyes so check it out! 

English Felting Mohair

The next mohair I'm sharing is top quality. It comes in 1 oz. packs of 5-7" hair divided into 4 bunches which you clip off; handy as you don't lose any hair trying to separate it out. It's been tripled washed, triple combed through and any wasteful hair has been removed. The hair is clean, shiny, not coarse at all and beautifully colored. This is the hair I used to create Tisiphone. I rooted in the part and hairline to map out where to paint and then added the rest of the hair when she was finished. With what's delivered you can do two heads. You might balk at the close to $20 price per pack, especially when you want to buy 10 at a time but the quality is fantastic and well worth it. Try this seller: Top Quality Mohair

High quality mohair

Finally I come to the tops! The primo! The good stuff! At $36 for 1/2 oz. it better be, right? Well I can attest it is some of the silkiest, smoothest, most gorgeous mohair on the market. It's also some of the longest, coming in around 8+ inches. It's so gorgeous that I'm hoarding it until I find exactly the right project. I am dying to make a hard cap wig with it or even reroot a girl or two. It's a luxury but definitely worth the investment: Bella Bambino Nursery

You just want to take a Benedryl and bathe it in!!

I hope I was able to guide you through the mohair waters and inspire some new creations! Have fun!


A Tool's Tale

Tomorrow I'll be talking about the different types of mohair and their applications. First I'll need to come clean about something, something to which there is a lot of stigma, judgement and shame attached. Yes, I'm coming out of the rooting tool closet! I use the rooting tool not just for mohair but all my rooting. The rooting tool aka "punch tool" aka "tension method tool" has been around forever and has had quite the bad reputation with customizers and collectors alike. I'd like to change that though. 

Unlike traditional rooting where each plug is sewn in and hand knotted, the tension method uses an open ended needle to punch the hair through the scalp and uses only the natural tension of the vinyl to hold the hair in. Main concerns have been the worry the hair will fall out and the possible tearing of vinyl caused by the tool's needle. I believe though that any tool's end result falls squarely on the user. I couldn't use a chainsaw to cut wood but we've all seen the amazing sculptures some are able to create. Most of us can't drive properly in the rain but precision drivers can create ballet. Hell, even the paint brush was a weapon of mass destruction in my early days (but I'll get to that next month when we discuss repainting)! As for the hair falling out, I've had more hair loss when brushing out a brand new Tonner than from a tension reroot and there are even diamond rings utilizing the science.

Small, Medium and Large

Here's how I was introduced to it and the proper way to use it:
I used to believe staunchly in the knot method and nothing else. I would take dolls to reroot to set with me and work on them in between set-ups. As it is, knot rerooting can take anywhere from 12-24 hours so you can imagine how long a full reroot would take me. I'd been rerooting a Rosie O'Donnell doll with floor length blonde hair so I could turn her into an operatic Valkyrie and was finally done after a full week of working on her. I was so excited to get to the painting! However, the night I completed her my car was broken into and the case I kept my doll work in was stolen. My tools, some fashions and of course my weeks' worth of work literally went out the window. 

After losing all that time invested, I set out to discover the truth about this evil rooting tool and the claims it could cut a reroot down to 6-8 hours. I ordered the tool and some needles and set about experimenting. It's now been 13 years, I'm still using it and it does indeed cut the time down to 4-8 hours. As a repainter this of course helps my hands out immensely. The knot method hurt them a lot. Also, considering the chances I'll end up with carpal tunnel or arthritis between computer work, photo work, hair and painting, I need to be selective about how they are used. With so many more commitments now, 12-24 hours working on a reroot no longer makes sense and as long as I know I'm still putting out a quality product I have no regrets.

For beginners I suggest practicing on an old Tonner head that has had all the hair cut off or been scalped. Heat the head in a heating pad. When the head is sufficiently soft, select 10-20 strands of saran hair, slide it into the needle head at the mid section and insert the needle into an existing hair hole in the head at a 45 degree angle. Insert all the way in and quickly but carefully pull out. Tearing can occur if the holes are too close together or if you rush and jam the tool in. Think grace, flow and gentility while rerooting. You'll need to occasionally reheat the head while you fill all the holes up but this won't affect the previous work. Using the heating pad cuts down on needle breakage and keeps the needle eye from closing on itself from pressure. I've been using the same needle for years but I still bought back up just in case. Also, the hair will lay in the direction you root it from so keep that in mind. Pretty soon you'll be a rooting fiend!

I use the larger tool for reroots using existing holes. If you find you need to create a new hairline then I suggest using the smaller tool. Draw the new hairline in using a pencil and check the reflection in the mirror to make sure it's symmetrical. Use dots to plan out the new holes and proceed as usual. As you're creating new holes take your time to get it right: A micro-millimeter difference in placement shows.

Here's the link to the site I used to purchase my tools: Reroot Tool

Good luck and I'll see you back here tomorrow to show you what you can accomplish!

Happy Chinese New Year!

We're ushering in the Year of the Rabbit today! What does this mean for you? Find your Chinese sign and element with this site: Astrologize Me. Then check out this great blog article that comprehensively breaks it down: Wayang Times. Hope your new year is better than the last :)