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Lately, I’ve been a little obsessed with Mohair.

Now before you recoil in horror, let me assure you that I am staying right here on this side of the computer screen and you can stay right where you are: no one is asking you to sniff Jerry Seinfeld’s Mohair Sweater.

For the winter issue of PomPom Quarterly, I knit a rectangular shawl called Palindrome. When I proposed a mohair stripe, the editors called my bluff and sent me three colors of Shibui Silk Cloud for the entire thing! Knitting it took some getting used to, but soon I was sailing along. I kept holding it up to the light, admiring the colors, the diaphony (is that a word?), the elegance. I began to consider a whole knitting arc of silken mohair: hats, sweaters, ruanas even: a backlit silken mohair corona framing me from every direction. Zsa-Zsa, eat your heart out!

(Palindrome. Photo by Amy Gwatkin.)

Two Great Tastes (That Taste Weird Together?)

While I was writing my article about Shetland, I could not help but think about the potential for silk/mohair applied to stranded motifs, and my mind just danced with the idea. So I got my hands on some beautiful colors of Mohair Luxe from Lang Yarns, and started to play.

With the exception of one polka dot sweater I saw in Patricia Roberts’ Covent Garden yarn shop window 30 years ago, I don’t remember seeing mohair used in color work, and I’ve certainly never seen it stranded. If I haven’t seen this before, there might be a good reason. I knew that I had to proceed with caution. My motifs would have to be simple. Too much detail and what I was after would be lost. Going whole hog down the Shetland XOX road might prove too muddy to be pretty. So I tried out my idea with simple squares, using one color at a time for each repeat, a row of spots in a rainbow array. And because mohair is potentially sheer, I also tried to use a larger gauge so that the stitches would allow the strands behind the fabric show through. I wanted the mechanics to be visible.

My first draft emphasized the colors I was using. I was insecure about how many stitches I would need for the color to read, so in my 6-stitch repeat, I used 4 stitches of color, so they would dominate the fabric. What I saw when I finished was nice enough, but it was disappointing. Maybe a little too, um, aggressive?


What I was hoping for was something just a little blurry, dreamy even, like a Helen Frankenthaler painting or a Nani Iro double gauze print (examples in the gallery above). So I tried again, changing only the ratio of color to background, and what I got was so much better.


See the faintest whisper of the strands behind the fabric there? Exactly what I wanted. Magic. So once I settled on this series of dots, I had to make the next step: what do I do with this?

What To Do With This?

As a designer, I always think first about sweaters, and for this motif I think there’s at least two possibilities. An oversized round yoke would be lovely. Silk Mohair should have a lot of room to move so it doesn’t cook you in your boots. With the airy quality of the fabric, a sweater with 10 inches or more of extra room would still be very flattering, like a soft focus filter or candlelight. (Trust me, I’m in my fifties, I know about such things.) It’s a little bit Gabor sister, a little bit Bardot. You’d need a simple tank to wear underneath, unless of course you are more daring than I. Throw over slim jeans and the perfect boots, and voila, dahling. You are instantly a glamour kitten.


As a cardigan, I might move the stranding as a wide band above the hem and crop it a little. At this point I have to think again about the outfit it would complete, which is why I worked it up in another color, thinking of it as a party topper for the perfect sleeveless dress. Navy as the background color is the perfect way to turn this into an evening out (or in) affair. The little dots of color suddenly pop in a stained glass kind of way, and now I’m wondering what would happen if I tried in with that yellow as the background color. I could do this all week!

Version 2

So I have the sweaters covered, but what else could it do? A cowl possibly? Silk/mohair is pretty spineless as a fabric on its own so it would collapse immediately. Mohair is best as an accent in this situation, like the ridges in the Breton Cowl. So I thought instead about a poncho, again capitalizing on what silken mohair does best. Three ideas, two the usual folded rectangle, one a seamed mobius so that the equally pretty back of the stranding could play a role as well. I’ve never been much for ponchos myself, but when I sketched up the possibilities, I wobbled a bit. okay, I wobbled a lot. I’m actually quite smitten with the one on the left. I would wear that. Oh yeah.


If you like the idea, I invite you to play with it, or at the very least, throw a little silken mohair into your next shawl, even knit the whole thing with it. Give it a try, and tag me on Instagram if you do. I’d love to see what you come up with!

About The Author

As a blogger, writer, teacher, lecturer, designer, and catalyst in the knitting world, Julia Farwell-Clay has for the past ten years dug herself ever deeper into the world of textile traditions and personal decoration. She is the designer of all of the patterns in Modern Daily Knitting Field Guide No. 7: Ease, and  has been published as both a writer and a designer in Knitty, Interweave Knits, PomPom Quarterly, and Twist Collective, among others.

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  • Kate Davies’ latest Inspired by Islay would be perfect for this!

  • I’m so in favor of all of this! And Palindrome is totally in my queue already… I love the hazy look of the smaller dots in your swatches. I’ve experimented with doing stranded colorwork with mohair too, although in my case it was simply spun, not brushed – my Rosenhoff Mittens use an 80% mohair yarn:
    Even though it’s not brushed mohair the finished mittens have a lovely halo, and they seem to get fuzzier with wear. But since it isn’t brushed, the motifs don’t get lost, either. Another option!

  • I love seeing your whole design process. I’m a fan of mohair’s weightless warmth. Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Alice Starmore in her first Fair Isle book had a beautiful mohair sweater in stranded work. It basically took the small pattern and enlarged it. I know it has a very 80’s vibe to it and I still think its beautiful. A truely different take on fair isle knitting!

  • Mohair also looks fabulous in intarsia colorwork. Yes, I’m a true fan of The Mo, and always have been.

  • Stephen west has also been playing with mohair combined with his super bright colors. Using white or natural mohair stranded with the brights softens the brights and gives a great halo to a shawl.
    Do you know where I could buy mohair/silk by the cone?

  • I love both the sweaters! Please design/publish one of them, so I don’t have to figure it out myself!

    • I too would like patterns too for both sweaters. I am experienced enough to design one but lack both time and patience for the requisite trial and error. Besides, frogging mohair ain’t fun. 🙂

    • Absolutely agree with Janna! Great article; prolonged drum roll! No final pattern with yarn kit options from MDK? Some of us are pattern writing challenged…

  • Mags Kandis designed a mitred square shawl in KSH some years ago. But I’m sure you knew that. Love your swatches! Personally I’m scared of the fine mohair.

  • Oh Julia, thank you! What a marvelous technique! Inspiring…xoA

  • Love the ponchos, Julia! and the way you write, as always

  • Beautiful! I want to be a glamour kitten!

  • I see flecks of color like Norwegian lice pattern. Maybe not a sweater but a large wrap with some rows of stranding just peeking out.

  • I had to dig deep into my magazine library to find it, but Issue 17 of Knitter’s (Winter 1989) featured several mohair colorwork projects: a slip-stitch cabled afghan by Cheryl Oberle, a slip-stitch blanket by Elena Malo, a black-and-white intarsia cardigan by Susan Duckworth, and the one I actually made – a stranded colorwork cardigan by Nancy Bush, in which the background color was wool and all the contrast colors were mohair. She called it the Rose Window Jacket, which was a perfect name for the way the mohair glowed against the plainer wool background. Too bad about the oversized 80s silhouette, or I might still be wearing mine today!

  • How about encouraging knitters to be sure any mohair they buy is certified cruelty-free .Many major retailers, including the GAP, refuse to stock mohair. I will not purchase *anything* from a merchant or dyer who stocks mohair. Google mohair and cruelty before deciding to buy.

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