I had been looking for a baby mohair fleece for a while now. I'm not a huge mohair fan, but the superfine baby stuff is amazing. Really amazing. It blends really nicely and adds strength and luster to anything you mix it in with.
Kid angora goats are absolutely adorable as well.
At Rhinebeck, they have a separate sale for mohair and alpaca fleeces. I got there kind of late since I was petting the Leicester Longwool sheep and watching the nice people from Colonial Williamsburg do a combing demo. They still had lots fleeces left at noon, but it seemed like the really primo ones were gone already. Nothing was striking me until I saw this:
That's my golden fleece right there. It is the first shearing of a six month old angora goat. It had long, silky ringlets of the most gorgeous golden brown color. 6-7 inch staple length throughout, clean as can be. Did I mention how soft and silky it was? Anyway, I was in love.
I took it to the checkout table and the refreshingly honest gentleman there gave me a warning: this fleece had already been returned once because it smelled of mothballs. MOTHBALLS! I shrank back in horror. Slowly, I crept back to the trash bag of fleece and with shaky hands, opened it back up. I inched closer and let my nose hover a couple feet above and took a whiff.
There's no mistaking it.
I whipped out my phone and started calling fleeceophiles and goat breeders I knew. Has anyone ever dealt with a fleece stored in mothballs? I was assured by one goat breeder that the smell would wash out with a little ammonia added to the bath. Other people said that there was no way it would wash out. Finally, we had a very nice goat shepherd stop by, kvetch about how terrible it was for someone to store their fleece in mothballs, but assured me that it would wash out.
A ten dollar discount made me feel better about the situation in general. Baby mohair isn't exactly cheap.
Once home, I set about to washing this right away. The smell was strong- what I didn't originally pick up on right away at the fairgrounds was now filling my apartment with that awful chemical smell. I think the reason why I failed to originally detect the smell when I chose the fleece was a combination of all the sheepy and goaty smells that might have overpowered it, and the fact that it was cold enough out to make my nose run a bit making anything but the most odoriferous smells hard to detect. Once it was home, it was definitely the only thing I could smell.
I did my standard fleece-washing treatment- hot water and a whole lot of Dawn.
Mohair has a wee bit of lanolin in it. No where near as much as a sheep, but enough to leech a little brown into the bathwater. I would usually only give it one wash, and then a rinse or two.
After the third wash (with lots of soap) I finally felt as though maybe the smell was dissipating. I did two rinses with a whole lot of vinegar. Most of a bottle, and a little bit more for good luck.
I then dried the fleece on a window screen with about a dozen of cedar blocks tossed in and a fan in front of it. Once or twice a day, I would come by and give the whole think a flip.
That's my fleece drying condo, built right next to my alcoholic beverage condo.
I'm happy to report that the mothball smell is completely gone. I bagged some of the fresh clean fleece up and passed it around to some knitters and spinners at my local meetup, and it passed the test. Not a hint of mothball remains.
On a side note- I found out it was Steph from Loop who originally bought the fleece and then returned it. Thanks, Steph.