Why Do We Love Cashmere?

Thursday, 4 July 2013  |  Admin

Why Do We Love Cashmere?

The word cashmere is often taken as shorthand for a soft and silky wool, but the truth is that it is so much more than that.

The cashmere fibre comes from the coat of the cashmere goat.  These hardy animals live in only one area of the world, the steppes of Mongolia.  It is due to the harsh winters that the animals have evolved with a remarkable insulating coat.  The coat is sheared and collected after natural moulting.

The key property of the cashmere fibre is that it has a hollow shaft, making every fibre function like a miniaturised duvet.  In addition the fibres are only about  14 to18 micron wide, compared with a standard wool which can be up to double the thickness.  Finer fibres produce a lighter, finer and softer yarn when spun.  Combined with the unique insulating properties of the cashmere fibre, fabrics woven from cashmere yarn are therefore lighter, softer and warmer than the equivalent in sheep's wool.

The arid steppes of Mongolia can only support a finite number of cashmere goats, so there is a limited global supply of the fibre....hence it is not only a scarce resource, but one that is subject to volatile movements in price as demand for this exquisite fibre increases.

You'll find cashmere at all sorts of prices in the shops.  Why is this?  Cashmere fibres are graded by quality.  For example,  the fine white fibres from the belly of the goat are a higher grade than the more scratchy black fibres on the back of the neck!  Not all cashmere is equal, and naturally, the finer qualities command a higher price.

The fibre and the yarns produced are sold by weight, so fine gauge lightweight v-neck sweater should be cheaper than a heavy gauge roll neck sweater in the same grade yarn.  There are exceptions to this rule:  Super-fine gauge knitwear is difficult and slow to produce, and hence commands a premium price.

In order to make the cashmere yarn go further and produce a less expensive garment, it is often blended with other cheaper wools or synthetic fibres.  Retailers have long used the word Cashmere to convey luxury and exclusivity, but be sure to check the actual cashmere content on the sewn in composition label - it might be as low as 5%!

Of course there are valid reasons to blend cashmere with other fibres:  Price is a major factor, and this versatile fibre can be mixed with many other yarns to enhance more mundane fabrics and garments.

Cashmere is a soft and precious fibre and should be treated with respect, but it is remarkably strong and durable. 

 

 

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