Now, before I mention a few interesting (I hope) facts about Cashmere, please note that I am no expert but, delving back into my Raw Material notes from university, I can hopefully do my bit for this beautiful material and help you appreciate its journey, thereby ensuring you love your cosy Cashmere products even more. After all, some Goat has happily given up it’s naturally soft duvet in Spring so that we can do amazing things with it’s Goaty gift.
Why choose Cashmere?
Did you know, it is 3 times more insulating than lambswool, which, by the way, is amazingly warm too.
The cashmere goat originates from the indian subcontinent, hence the name Kashmir.
It has evolved to grow an outer coat of coarse hairs called guard hair and an inner coat, which is stimulated to grow as the nights become longer therefore insulating the goat as it becomes cold. This fine, soft, cosy undercoat is called the down.
The fibre has a very evolved and clever mechanism, thanks to evolution and the need for the Goat to keep warm in the cold mountainous winters of the Himalayas and Inner Mongolia, but equally needs to keep cool during the incredibly hot summer months.
This clever little fibre will adapt to the humidity and temperatures via its surface scales on the hair and crimping ability..hence being able to reduce surface area when necessary and raise or close its scales to either let moisture in or keep it out.
The Cashmere wrap or blanket is a popular choice for those living in climates which vary from blistering hot days to cold temperatures at night. Equally it will adjust to the heat from your body and will stop you overheating. A good choice of fibre for baby blankets in winter.
How to collect the cashmere?
By expertly combing it out and therefore avoiding mixing in with the guard hairs.
Shearing, but this means ensuring the goats have adequate warmth and shelter as the shearing will take off the guard hairs. An added process of separating the guard hairs from the down is then required.
Why is it so expensive?
On top of all that trouble, these goats have a pretty low wool yield, making the raw material quite rare.
A goat produces, on average, 4 ounces a year.
Therefore it takes two goats’ yearly yield to make one two-ply cashmere sweater. And up to six goats for higher quality garments made from thicker yarn.
Our Rushworth 8 ply cashmere hats and scarves will use considerable amounts of yarn to knit.
The price of the raw material will rise and fall depending on the yield, as with all things natural this can be interrupted by weather changes and breeding fluctuations.
Why is some cashmere so cheap?
Raw cashmere hair is sorted into grades based on the length and thickness of the hair, measured in density units called microns.
Grade A is the thinnest and longest of the fibres. Measuring 14 to 15.5 microns diameter with 30 to 34 mm hair length. (note human hair = 75-100 microns (1 micron = 0.001mm)) Most expensive.
Grade B is slightly thicker. Measuring 16 to 19 microns diameter. Less soft than Grade A.
Grade C thicker again. Measuring approximately 30 microns diameter. Least expensive and has a less soft handle than A and B.
In short…The finer the hairs, the softer the texture of the garment and the higher the quality.
Back to uni notes: having looked at various fibres under the electron Microscope, we also compared them to our own hair…now for anyone who knows me ..I am, without doubt, on the opposite end of the spectrum in terms of hair fibre quality……the slightly lifted, thick scales on the surface of my individual hairs which are subjected to any moisture or humidity cause a large ball of curly, frizzy hair. Hence why I love a woolly hat!
Why does cashmere pill?
The fibre is a fine fibre which is spun and twisted into a yarn, however if the yarn is insufficiently twisted and combed leaving little ends to be easily pulled out when agitated through either friction or washing then pilling will occur.
The spinners of the cashmere yarn are crucial to ensure you have a high quality cashmere yarn…even a badly combed and spun Grade A yarn will pill.
Look after your cashmere and it will look after you.
Wash gently, either by hand or machine. Use a garment bag to avoid agitation and use a gentle/handwash programme, with good quality soap flakes, as the low temperature will not dissolve other washing powders and you will be left with some powder marks.
Note: I generally dissolve my soap flakes in a jug and then pour the soapy solution into the drawer of the washing machine.
Dry by gently easing to shape and dry flat or on a hanger.
Moths? Dry Cleaning can help with this as the chemicals can dissuade and eliminate moths. However, getting rid of the eggs can be a problem. One suggestion is to vacumn pack your cashmere and place it in the freezer for 24 hours. This will kill off any eggs.
Pilling? Avoid by ensuring there is minimum friction during wear. Such activities like, wearing seat belts, under unlined coats and jackets and washing with other garments can all contribute to the surface fibres forming bobbles. You can keep your garments free of surface fibres by using a cashmere comb (easily found in shops and on the internet).
Whatever else, regardless of the luxuriousness of this beautifully home grown soft fibre, its’ journey from goat to jumper makes me appreciate it even more. So, enjoy wrapping yourself in your favourite cashmere which is just as good as a hug……I know if I were a goat, I would love to know you were wearing my winter Down which would otherwise have shed during the moulting season and drifted off across the plains.