It starts warm and smelly, it gets loud and dirty and it ends with the luxurious whisper of the world’s finest mohair against your skin… I’m talking about the Hinterveld Mill Tour, an unexpected highlight on a recent trip to Uitenhage, hosted by Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism.
With Hinterveld Mohair’s marketing manager Jackie Gant as guide, we explored the world of merino wool and, in particular, mohair production in South Africa. Jackie herself grew up on an Angora goat farm outside the village of Jansenville, where the country’s earliest Angora flocks were established.
From the account of how the first Angora goats arrived in South Africa from Turkey in the 1800s to the volatile world of today’s global trade in Mohair; I was fascinated.
I found myself picturing the small goats that seem to thrive in the austerity of the Karoo and the farmers who, for centuries, have raised and sheared them for their pelts. Fingering the ‘raw’ mohair and then its silky counterpart, the coils of washed and processed mohair fibre, I appreciated the mechanics of its production. I considered the way in which the large, noisy machines process pelts as they come in from the farms, auctions and brokers, and how the processed pelts are baled for export around the world in a highly competitive market. Watching the looms at work, I imagined the elegant end products, the knits and weaves that are bought by top European fashion labels and used to make high-end, luxury couture items.
The tour ends in a store full of gorgeous Hinterveld products: their own beautiful range of mohair and wool blankets, scarves, hand knitting yarns and other products. They often collaborate with local designers to ensure that the products reflect their South African origin and express the full character of the mohair blends they work with.
Trying on scarves, feeling the softness of beautifully woven blankets and marvelling at the colours of the yarn, I thought how removed these products seem from the piles of raw wool and mohair I saw at the start of the tour. How marvellous to have seen their transformation – and to buy a few wearable souvenirs to remember it all.
- Dianne Tipping-Woods