It's official – hand-knitted items have made a big come-back with natural fibres being the preferred yarn of choice. Probably the most popular at the moment is mohair, which knitters love for its amazing look and feel. It has also become a great textile for various homeware items like carpets and rugs. If you're thinking about using the wool for knitting or crocheting, there are certainly many reasons to give it a go. We chatted to Andrew Lang of African Expressions, which sees the process of mohair production through right from the farm to the store. Here, he tells us more about mohair and why it is currently in the spotlight. How did the African Expressions range come about? African Expressions was created in response to a demand from hand knitters in South Africa who were searching for good quality mohair yarn and other natural fibre yarn blends. Our unique yarns are naturally soft to the touch, easy to knit and luxuriously versatile, so we were ideally placed to meet this demand. In creating the African Expressions range SAMIL (the holding company) has added wholesaling to its original purely manufacturing business. As the demand for home-grown yarns has grown we have expanded to meet the demands of even the most discerning of crafters. Is mohair at the core of the yarns and why the focus on mohair specifically? At present four of our six different yarns in the African Expressions’ current range contain mostly mohair. The other two are either 100% merino wool or a blend thereof. We focus on mohair because it is versatile, has a lustrous sheen and durability, making it one of the world’s most luxurious natural fibres in garments. How is the hand-knitting range from African Expressions unique and what does it offer creatives who want to get busy knitting or crocheting this winter? SAMIL constantly researches the changing needs of the African Expressions market by maintaining a close relationship with all our retailers. Our substantial resources have allowed us to develop six yarns and patterns which cater for the experienced knitter as well as the novice enthusiast. Our yarns come in over 36 shades and can be creatively combined to create breathtaking garments and accessories. As a result of the overwhelmingly positive feedback from our initial three yarns, JOY, HARMONY and LOVE, we have expanded the range to include three new yarns called COMFORT, FREEDOM and HOPE and we now offer a wider selection of colours. Do you agree that the perception of crafts like knitting and crocheting have altered over the years? Rather than these activities being reserved for the older groups in society, they’re now seen as trendy and something that everyone can do… We believe that trends cycle and this is certainly the case with knitting. We have seen a younger generation exploring their creativity with various mediums and knitting is fast becoming a new form of expression. With young designers discovering the benefits and flexibility of working with natural fibres, mohair especially, because of its innate elasticity that ensures that it holds it shape, an increasing number of high-fashion garments are being designed using mohair, inspiring a new generation of knitters. The desire to create Africa-inspired garments in natural fibres may also have something to do with the fact that people have grown tired of mass produced garments and have become more environmentally responsible. Do you think there is a renewed interested locally in these yarns, and if so, why? Most definitely,yes. SAMIL recently had the pleasure of participating in this year’s Mohair Journey, an initiative by Mohair South Africa at the Absa Kirkwood Festival, where we met many people who have rediscovered the joy of working with and wearing mohair. As people have become more aware of the characteristics and benefits of mohair products compared to synthetic products they have begun to appreciate our superior yarns. The many years that we have spent developing a method to ensure a softer more luxurious yarn is evident in our African Expressions range and it is this that is responsible for the renaissance in hand-knitting in natural yarns. Where does African Expressions source their mohair fibres from? SAMIL has always sourced the very best of Cape mohair. Working very closely with reputable suppliers, farmers and spinners in the Eastern Cape, we insure that only the finest mohair tops are used to spin our yarns and the mohair used in the African Expressions range is no exception. Tell us more about the different yarns in the collection and the range of colours you’ve included? The African Expressions range currently boasts six very different yarns. All have carefully chosen names which express an emotion:
- Love is a luxuriously brushed yarn with a 78% mohair composition, giving it magnificent lustre.
- Joy is affordable and versatile and is a perfect blend of mohair, wool and acrylic, producing a delicate double knit yarn with a sheen finish.
- Harmony is a 100% soft and warm South African wool.
- Hope is a delightfully luminous and lusciously brushed 80% kid mohair yarn.
- Comfort is a fanciful, reflective and cosy yarn which is imaginatively blended with a gentle loop.
- Freedom is a classically blended and worsted wool blend for the ultimate knitting experience.
Our colour palette consists of more than 36 colours in the range, boasting the classical soft pantones best describe as Sage, Sand, Lilac and Rose as well as the more vibrant Fuschia Pink and Lime Green. Mohair is such a delicate fibre – what elements/ characteristics do you think it adds to a garment or object? Mohair may be delicate but it is a strong, durable fibre. It adds great lustre to yarn and it enhances comfort because mohair breathes, absorbing and releasing atmospheric moisture, thereby controlling its own 'climate' to ensure optimal comfort. Finally, where can our readers find African Expressions mohair products in store? African Expressions can be found in more than 57 retailers country wide, with our yarns reaching as far north as Polokwane, Upington and across the border in Windhoek. All major cities in South Africa including Cape Town, Joburg, Pretoria, Durban and Port Elizabeth have at least one shop where our yarns can be purchased. A full list of stockists can be found on our website and the website also contains a number of great knitting patterns that can be downloaded free of charge. We also invite people to join our Facebook group and Ravelry to share their creations with other enthusiasts. For more information, or to download free knitting patterns, visit africanexpressions.co.za. You can also follow them on Twitter @Africanyarn.