All About Angora: An Intro to Vintage Turkish Goat Hair Rugs
An introduction to Angora, or mohair, a fiber in which the weft is woven from shorn goat hair. Turkish Angora mohair rugs are a beautiful and luxurious type of handmade rug, quite different than most Americans are used to seeing. Traditionally referred to as Siirt, these rugs have a long history and are deeply rooted in Turkish culture.
You’ve most likely heard of angora in reference to rabbit fur, woven into a silky fluff of a sweater, or scarf. But you already know that we’re not here to talk about your grandma’s knits. We’re here to introduce to you a different kind of angora, or mohair, a fibre in which the weft is woven from shorn animal hair. Angora goats have roamed the Anatolian countryside for thousands of years; providing weavers with a durable, flame-resistant and silky smooth coat of hair to craft gorgeous, soft, rugs.
the history behind the angora
The Turkish angora goat is a breed that is known for its long, fine hair, which has been used to make a variety of products including rugs, or siirt battaniyesi – a mainstay of their regional economy and culture for centuries. Although goats were domesticated as early as 10,000 years ago, the Angora breed is estimated to have originated around 2400 BC. It wouldn't be until the 19th century that Angora goats were traded outside of their namesake Ankara province of Central Anatolia, or modern day Turkey. The end of Turkey's monopoly on Angora mohair is often blamed on Sultan Abdulmecit, who gifted Queen Victoria twenty-two goats in the 1840s, albeit a whole decade after it was legally safe to do so. Much of today’s mohair still comes from Turkey but there is also production in the United States, South Africa and more.
In addition to being used as a luxurious floor covering, siirt or Turkish Angora mohair rugs have a long history of practical use. Nomadic tribes in Central Anatolia used these rugs to cover their tents, providing insulation and protecting the interior from the heat of the sun. The long, fine hairs of the angora goat are able to trap air, which helps to regulate the temperature inside the tent and keep it cool in the summer and warm in the winter. This also translates to clothing, providing a textile which offers those same advantages to humans. Unlike most types of sheep’s wool, mohair is a much softer and silkier texture, making it an overall great option for lounging spaces and for those worried about “itchy” rugs or blankets.
These tribal rugs also served a regional purpose of protecting nomads against scorpions! The long hairs of the angora goat create a sticky surface that is able to catch and hold small insects and pests, including scorpions. By placing the rugs on the floor of their tents, nomadic tribes were able to protect themselves and their families from these potentially dangerous creatures.
How is it produced?
The process of making a Turkish angora goat hair rug begins with the shearing of the goat's hair (or mohair). This is typically done twice a year, in the spring and fall, when the weather is mild and the goat's coat is at its thickest. One adult angora goat can produce up to about 17 pounds of mohair a year! The hair is then cleaned and combed to remove any dirt or tangles, and it is dyed and spun into yarn using a spinning wheel or machine, more traditionally a wooden spindle or paddle (photographed above).
Once the mohair is spun into yarn, it is ready to be woven into the rug. This process is typically done by hand using a loom: the weaver uses the mohair yarn to knot a weft of the desired pattern and design onto a cotton or wool warp.(more on the hand knotting rugs here* link to other blog) The process can be time-consuming, with a single rug taking several weeks or even months to complete.
A traditional Turkish style hand spindle for preparing or spinning clean mohair into yarn to be woven.
But is it ethical?
While a mohair rug is certainly an animal product, there is a common misconception that Angora goats are harmed in the process, or that the animal is killed for its hair. On the contrary, farmers take very good care of the animal. In fact, if the goats are left unshorn, they will eventually become entangled in their own coat which can lead to serious health problems. The average life span of an Angora goat is a healthy 10-12 years when their primary use is mohair; meaning they’re not used for meat or milk. So most farmers are incentivized to keep their goats healthy to yield years of mohair.
Many of today’s producers of angora mohair rugs follow ethical and sustainable practices in their production, and consumers can support these efforts by researching the farming practices of an artisan before purchasing.
Another way to mindfully purchase Angora mohair is to go the vintage or antique route. All of our mohair rugs are vintage sourced, from around the 1970's era. While this is era is considered more modern, we are still purchasing second hand and confidently sourcing ethically.
Watch the Youtube video below to watch the entire process!
Minimal Chaos stands by mindful purchasing and ethical consumption when possible, so this topic is important to us as merchants and consumers ourselves. It is important to ensure that the goats are treated humanely and that their hair is harvested in a way that does not cause them any harm or stress. It is also important to us to support the Turkish artistry and culture by supporting the original Angora Artisans.
Michael Ofei writes a really succinct article about the basic ethics and animal welfare issues surrounding the production of angora goat mohair and agrees buying mohair second-hand is “a great way to reduce your impact and avoid supporting the animal agriculture industry.”
Okay, love. But how do I style Angora?
Mohair rugs are so beautiful and can add a luxurious touch to your living space...did we mention how soft they are yet?!
We love adding these deep neutral colors and textures to our interiors, add it to any room or sofa that could use a rich accent and a little bit of rustic charm, and watch it transform your space! You’ll catch a mohair thrown over the top of our showroom sofa almost always. The dramatic length of the weave almost replaces the complex patterning we are used to seeing in hand-knotted rugs, and the simple tribal designs let the color and movement of the mohair really shine.
These rugs can instantly add a warm, masculine and romantic energy to your space and are SO soft underfoot (just in case we didn't mention how soft they are yet!). These tribal rugs are typically found in a mid-size (usually in a 4x6 or 3x5 size) due to their historic uses.
Another fun styling tip: they would also make wonderful tapestries! If you're looking to spice up your wall art, try adding one of these beauties on a large scale wall to make a statement!
Our favorite styling tip: LAYER!
The common mohair sizing also makes for a great layered look; center one on a larger neutral rug like a jute or hemp rug to extend the oversized rug look. This option is also a great option for anyone working on a budget but wants to elevate the look of their space!
PS: we love finding jute rugs on Facebook Marketplace!
thanks for reading rug fam!