Let’s Talk About Sparkle Fluff

words by Jacqueline Harp | photos by Susan Schroeder

Have you ever heard of Sparkle Fluff? Oh, my! Envision a handful of fiber goodness that features a colorful mixture of mohair locks and glitz, and it is known to make handspinners smile when they get their hands on it. Sparkle Fluff is a fiber preparation composed of a color-coordinated mix of mohair locks, sheep wool locks, and loose Angelina fibers. It is ready-to-spin and full of texture and sparkle. You can spin it into a wide variety of chunky, fantastical art yarns or sprinkle it into carded preparations to add some extra pizzazz.

Let’s meet the innovative mind behind Sparkle Fluff, Susan Schroeder of Rusty Spur Ranch and Creations, located in Rathdrum, Idaho. Be prepared to be inspired to use mohair in ways that bring the most joy to your spin projects.

Meet the fiber creative

I came across Susan a few years ago, at a fiber arts festival in the Pacific Northwest, and was impressed with her creativity, hard work, and effervescent personality. Susan is an expert indie dyer, fiber artist, and Angora goat shepherdess to a well-cared for flock that provides high quality mohair for her fiber projects.

Susan’s fiber arts journey started with knitting as a way to pass the time during family road trips. She bought a handspun skein from Symeon North, author of the book, Get Spun (2010), and this beautiful yarn inspired Susan to learn handspinning. She started with a drop spindle and eventually learned to use a wheel. She then taught herself the art of dyeing fiber to bring unique colors to her own spinning fibers. A few years later, four Angora goats made their way into Susan’s life to provide mohair fleeces and natural weed control for her farm. Inspired by the growing flock of Angora goats on her farm, she started a fiber arts studio and named it the Rusty Spur Ranch and Creations.

Susan strives to use the whole mohair fleece in a productive manner. The prime locks are used for Sparkle Fluff, while clean belly fleece goes into cat toys. Remaining parts of the fleece go into the garden as mulch or into the bottom of plant pots to improve water retention.

Gathering the elements

Raw fleece selection is step one. Within a batch of Sparkle Fluff, there may be two or three different textures of mohair depending on what Susan has available. She knows the fleece of each goat in her flock, as it varies from goat to goat. Some fleeces are Navajo-style, with long, straight locks, while others have tiny curls.

Along with the mohair locks, each batch of Sparkle Fluff may have wool locks from up to five different breeds of sheep. While the mohair comes from her own flock, the sheep wool is sourced from different farms. For both fiber types, Susan looks for well-separated, open locks that are not felted and that contain the least amount of hay.

Secondly, she uses gentle washing methods so the locks don’t stick together. Once the locks from all fleeces are clean, she will dye bulk batches of locks in different colors.

Susan: I don’t have a Sparkle Fluff color idea in mind when I start dyeing fleeces. I will dye up to five fleeces at once. Each fleece is dyed a different color. After the fleeces are dyed, I start playing with the colors I created. The key is to take a few handfuls of various proportions and start mixing them together. If I like what I have, I will pull large amounts of dyed fleece and weigh it into about 10 ounce batches before I start mixing.

Mixing it up!

Once she has selected the color and fiber mix, she makes a pile and starts handpicking the locks and placing them into a large bin. She uses her hands to carefully pick and separate the locks because a fiber picker would rip the locks apart. After filling the bin, she gently tosses the fibers like a salad to ensure the Angelina is well distributed and the locks are evenly mixed to her satisfaction. She wants the locks and Angelina mix to be loose and flowing, not clumpy.

When mohair is mixed with wool and Angelina, the mohair pops! All fibers in Sparkle Fluff support the pop and shine of mohair.

If Susan had to select three words to describe her Sparkle Fluff, she would choose:

Sparkle – because the Angelina throughout the fluff looks dazzling in the sunlight.

Shine – since mohair has a mirror-like shine.

Texture – the feel of so many different locks, wools, and fibers to be enjoyed however one wishes.

Spinning Sparkle Fluff

Chunky. Fine. Direct to wheel. Carding and blending.

Sparkle Fluff has no limits to its creative use. Susan’s favorite way to spin Sparkle Fluff is to take handfuls and let it flow through her wheel for a highly textured, bulky art yarn. She notes that Sparkle Fluff can also be lightly blended on a blending board for those who want more control over the texture and weight of their handspun.

Susan: I have seen other handspinners run a batch through a drum carder and spin it fine, with amazing results. As a person with curly hair, I appreciate the different textures of wool and mohair, and I like that my Sparkle Fluff preserves and highlights the texture of the locks.

Other surprising ways to use Sparkle Fluff: Fill little glass bottles with it and place those bottles around your studio to liven things up. Felt it into a gnome’s beard for some spice and color. Weave it into a wall hanging with some driftwood you picked up from the beach. The possibilities are endless!

As a parting thought to handspinners looking to start their next mohair spinning projects:

Susan: Don’t be afraid to try something new. A lot of spinners stick with wool because it’s a fiber they know. It takes courage to branch out and try something new. Especially when spinning with locks – you have to let go and let the locks flow. It is not precise. You are not looking for a specific twist direction or the perfect spinning ratio. Sometimes it takes a new spinner a long time to feel comfortable enough to be able to flow. But give it a try. Maybe you will get it right away, maybe you won’t, but just keep playing with it and practicing. I promise the Angora goats will keep growing fiber, so we won’t run out!

Jacqueline Harp is a freelance writer and multimedia fiber artist who spins, felts, weaves, crochets, and knits in every spare moment possible. She is also a certified Master Sorter of Wool Fibers through the State Univ. of N.Y. (Cobleskill) Sorter-Grader-Classer (SGC) Program. Her Instagram handle is @foreverfiber

Dehairing Cashmere by Hand

Words & Photos by Meagan Condon

If there is one thing I can say about librarians, it’s that they’re in the business of enabling people. Do you need the latest James Patterson novel? They’ve got you. How about an article from the July 24, 1972, issue of Time magazine? A librarian has your back. My colleagues at the library know of my passion for fiber arts and are often eager to provide me with any “reference material” they come across, as was the case when I found a ziplock bag full of hair stashed in my staff mailbox. The name “Blackie” was sharpied across the top. Blackie was a goat – and not a special type of goat – just your generic, crossbred farm goat used for clearing brush. My teammate, who lived on a farm outside of town, had brushed out his winter coat and figured I might want it. Well, why not?

This particular fiber from Blackie was cashmere. While there are specific breeds of goats generally associated with cashmere production, almost all goats produce a soft, downy undercoat. For most breeds, there is less usable fiber and more guard hair, which can make it a nightmare to prepare by hand. Many would choose not to use the term cashmere here, as there are strict industry guidelines for classifying commercial cashmere. Ultimately, we’re talking about the same fiber, though. Let’s talk about preparing this “inferior” cashmere for spinning.

The first task at hand is to dehair the cashmere. This means to remove all guard hairs in the fiber. Guard hair is usually longer, is coarser, lacks crimp, and will be black or white in color. It is nothing like the soft fluff we’re looking for, and it is pretty easy to spot. If I were to spin it into my yarn, it would make the yarn prickly, cause all kinds of neps, and be generally unpleasant. Some mills offer a dehairing service, but it can cost an additional $10–20 per pound, and there is usually a minimum quantity of fiber they will accept, often in the 2–10 pound range. If you’re like me and only have a few ounces, this isn’t an option.

Instead, we have the herculean task of removing the guard hair by hand. How does one go about removing all those tiny hairs? While there are several tricks you can try to make the process easier, I’ve found that the quickest way to process cashmere is to skip the tricks, grab a pair of tweezers, and get to work. Fingers work just as well, in a pinch.

Pinch off a small amount of fiber. You’ll be able to see the guard hairs poking out in all directions. Start removing them. Then, when you don’t see any more guard hairs, turn your fiber over, fold the fiber in half, and look again. As you fold the fiber, the less-flexible guard hairs aren’t as willing to fold and will poke out. When you don’t see any more guard hairs, stretch the fiber open into a thin web and look at it with a light behind it. This should reveal any remaining unsavory bits.

After a session of dehairing, my fingers are almost completely black with dirt. Remember, these animals roll around in the dirt and who-knows-what to cool down and keep bugs away. Even so, I find it easiest to dehair the fiber before washing and spinning it. Every time I’ve tried to wash the fiber first, it has been impossible to dehair and work with later. The fiber is prone to pilling or felting in the wash.

Once the hair has been removed, what is left is a beautiful cloud of spinnable joy. Sometimes I spin straight from the cloud. Sometimes I card the fiber into rolags using a fine carding cloth or cotton carders. For Blackie’s special fiber, I blended it 50/50 with muga silk. The delicate, gold silk matched the warm undertones in Blackie’s fiber perfectly. What’s not to love about a cashmere/silk blend, anyway? While carding, I was careful not to overwork the fiber by passing it over my carders too many times. As I mentioned before, cashmere is prone to pilling and I didn’t want to lose the luxury of the fiber through my own careless preparation. One or two passes with the carders is enough.

I then spun the rolags using an American longdraw technique on my Ashford Joy II at a ratio of 11:1 with low brake band tension. I think cashmere craves being spun with a woolen preparation and technique. The short, fine fibers are ideal for the technique. This is the point in the process I wash the yarn, soaking it in warm water multiple times, until the water runs clear. I also treat it to some rough handling and snapping to cause the halo to bloom.

The resulting yarn has a fine halo and matte appearance. When paired with the shine of the muga silk, which lies just beneath the halo, the yarn ends up having a depth of texture and color which the cashmere just doesn’t have on its own.

Dehairing fiber by hand will never be my favorite task, but the value in this fiber has less to do with the fact that it boasts the title cashmere and everything to do with where it came from. Sometimes we spin for the joy of working with a particular type of fiber or a specific style or technique. Sometimes the history \ matters to us. No matter why we choose to spin, it always has to do with connection: connection with nature, with our past, with ourselves. In this case, the connection was Blackie, a sometimes-ornery goat who was a vital part of my colleague’s family . . . a goat who had been raised in the kitchen and who had grown up alongside my colleague’s daughter. That emotional connection made it some of the most valuable fiber I have ever spun.

Video with tips on dehairing cashmere:

Meagan Condon is a librarian and fiber artist with more than a decade of spinning experience. She focuses on digital connection and teaches fiber arts across the midwest and online. You can follow her at

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