The Pygora goat is a cross between an Angora goat that produces mohair, and a Pygmy goat that produces a short, very fine down. The fiber of Pygora goats reflects the best qualities of both the Angora and the Pygmy. From the Angora goat comes long, silky-smooth, lustrous ringlets. The Pygmy goat contributes its’ very fine down, in some cases fine enough to be classified as cashmere. This combination of qualities results in fiber with an excellent range of characteristics that maintain fineness as the animal ages.
Pygora fiber may be spun and then knitted, woven or crocheted. Because of the fineness of the fiber, it spins into a lovely yarn that is soft enough to be worn next to the skin. Items such as baby garments or luxurious shawls are well suited to Pygora yarn. Pygora also felts beautifully and locks of Pygora may be used to create wigs, beards or novelty toys. Pygora pelts make wonderfully posh rugs or chair accessories. Thus, Pygora fiber is fast becoming crafts persons’ and fiber artists’ preferred choice for any number of diverse projects.
- Origins of Pygora Fiber
- Pygora Fiber Types
- Fiber Preparation
- Harvesting Pygora Fiber
- Fiber Terms
- PBA Fiber Studies: 2004 Fiber Study or 2012 Fiber Study
- Finding a Fiber Processor
Origins of Pygora Fiber
Pygoras were developed by Katharine Jorgensen of Oregon City, Oregon in the 1980s. How did she come to breed these cute, fuzzy, hardy little goats?
Katharine was a National Pygmy Goat Association Pygmy breeder and a 4-H Pygmy goat judge, and she loved fiber. Because she enjoyed spinning, knitting and weaving, it wasn’t surprising that on a trip through an Indian reservation in the southwest some longhaired colored goats wowed her. She decided she wanted to make colored mohair. “I thought: ‘wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a goat that produced mohair the color of the blue-gray grizzle of Pygmy goats?’ I wanted to try and create a mohair-type goat and the traits that were best from both breeds” (Precious Fibers Magazine, Jan. 1986, p.14-15).
Pygora goats produce a luxurious, soft, fine fiber that is wonderful for hand spinning. It works well for warm garments that are soft against the skin and for delicate lace items. It also felts well. Pygora fiber comes in a range of natural colors, including white, black, browns, caramels and greys and is easily dyed. Pygora fleece remains very fine as the goat ages.
The only fiber that may be called Pygora™ is that which comes from goats registered with the Pygora Breeders Association. All Pygora goats must conform to the Pygora Breed Standard that includes conforma¬tion, color/patterns and fleece characteristics.
Pygoras usually are sheared in the fall and spring, depending on the fleece and the weather. Check your Pygoras often, particularly the hindlegs and thighs, for signs that the fleece wants to mat. That is the time to shear if the weather allows. Many breeders shear before their does kid in late winter/early spring.
Brush and/or gently blow out the goat’s fleece before harvesting to remove as much hay, seeds and debris as possible (too much air pressure can cause the fleece to felt). Pygoras may be shorn using household scissors such as Fiskars (spring-loaded work well) or electric shears/clippers with an appropriate comb. Cleanliness and the absence of second cuts are important. Having a goat stand to hold the goat during shearing is very helpful.
To pluck or comb a fleece, check your goats to determine when they first start shedding. Use a plastic hairbrush, pet grooming brush or cotton hand card to comb out the fleece. To hand pluck, gently pull the fleece from the goat; it should come off easily! Goats generally do not shed all at once so should be combed or plucked every few days. Experiment to see what works best for you.
Supplying freshly-shorn goats with good bedding and shelter is very important. Do not coat Pygora goats once their fleece starts to grow as the fleece will mat under the coats.
If the fleece on a Pygora goat is not harvested, it will mat on the goat. Type B and C goats will shed (blow) their fleeces in the spring if the fiber is not removed, however, the partially-shed fleece can make a goat more susceptible to external parasites. Also, once a fleece is blown, it is no longer usable.
Break: A weak spot in the fiber. It can be caused by disease, illness, stress, or nutrition.
Crimp: How kinky or wavy the fiber is. Crimp describes the individual hairs, not the lock as a whole. A fiber can have crimp without being curly.
Dehairing: The process of removing guard hairs from fiber.
Finish: The very end of the lock or curl. Is the end curly or straight? Type “A” should be consistent throughout the lock, type “B” should have curl on the end of the lock, type “C” may have some curl on the ends.
Fulling: Process of soaking skeins in hot followed by cold water, then beating them against a clean surface to produce a “halo” effect, i.e., to make yarn soft and fluffy by bringing out the down fibers.
Guard hairs: The coarse body hairs that protect the fleece. If present in type “A”, they should not be obvious. In type “B”, there are 2 types, a very coarse, obvious one and one that is finer and less obvious. Type “C” must have only one type of guard hair that is very coarse and obvious.
Handle: The way the fiber feels (e.g., “A”: silky, smooth, cool; “B”: light, fluffy; “C”: creamy, warm). Fiber should not feel sticky.
Luster: The amount of shine in the fiber. Type “A” has a lot of luster, type “B” also has luster, and type “C” has none.
Matte: The lack of shine in the fiber. Type “C” has a matte finish.
Micron: Scientific and objective measurement of fineness. A unit of length equal to one thousandth of a millimeter. A low micron figure indicates a very fine fiber; a higher figure indicates a larger diameter or greater thickness.
Second cuts: Short, uneven bits of fiber found in a fleece caused by improper shearing. These are very undesirable in any shorn fleece.
Separation: The difference between guard hair and fiber. Type “C” should have excellent separation.
Skirting: Removing part of a fleece that is not top quality. Usually belly fiber and stained or coarse, brittle (“kempy”) areas are skirted.
Staple: Length of an individual lock.
Style: The amount of curl in a lock of fiber. Type “A” has ringlets. Type “B” has soft curls, and type “C” has little or no curls.
Yield: How much usable fiber comes from a harvest.