Yesterday a customer was looking for something fluffy and organic to knit together with Bio Shetland from BC Garn, something kid silk alike. Kid silk usually refers to a mix of 70% kid mohair and 30% silk. The silk is used to create the core of the yarn and to hold the mohair together. It’s the mohair that creates the fluff of the yarn. In cheaper alternatives the silk is replaced by a synthetic fibre type.
Mohair is spun from the hair of angora goats. The fibre gets thicker with the age of the goat, so kid mohair refers to the finest variety of mohair, from younger goats. Mohair is not to be confused with angora, which is made from the coat of the angora rabbit.
Silk is harvested from the silkworm. There are different varieties of silk, but by far and large the bigger part is mulberry silk, produced by the mulberry silkworm (Bombyx mori). This caterpillar forms a cocoon for its transformation into a moth. The cocoon is entirely made out of one single thread that can be as long as 2 km. In silk production the cocoons are boiled before the moth eats its way out of it. That kills the caterpillar and dissolves the glue that keeps the cocoon together. Then the cocoon is unrolled to harvest the thread.
Other types of silk exist. In some cases the silkworm is allowed to eat its way out of the cocoon. The cocoon can no longer be unrolled in one single thread and the shorter fibres are spun into a less smooth type of yarn. That’s called wild or Tussah silk, but my reading didn’t help me understand how exactly those two words match or overlap. Tussah silk is supposed to come from a “wild” silkworm of a different species than the mulberry silkworm. This silkworm doesn’t create its cocoon out of one single thread. That’s why the silkworm is allowed to come out of the cocoon. But I guess one could also use the term “wild” silk for mulberry silk if the silkworm was allowed to come out of the cocoon.
All of this doesn’t have anything to do with the end product being organic or not. For silk to get an organic certification, the silkworms have to be kept in organically certified agriculture. Then the complete post processing (washing, spinning, dyeing) has to be done according to a set of organic and fair trade standards.
Both mohair and silk exist with a GOTS certification, but so far no certified hand-knitting yarn has been created from these fibres.
Looking for alternatives I remembered Florence, a French lady whom I met at a training about wool from laines.be. Last year she started her angora goat farm annex bed and breakfast in the Vosges: La ferme sous les Hiez. Twice a year she brings the clip from her goats to a cooperative that spins the fibre into yarn, then she sells the yarn and knitwear in her online shop. There’s no guarantee for its organic status, because a certification would be too complex and costly for this type of operation. It’s a business model that does not allow for wholesale, so even if I would want to, I couldn’t offer this type of yarn in my shop. But it’s as local as it gets and there are no big corporations involved, so if you’re looking for something fluffy, this is what I’d recommend.