All About Cashmere
What is cashmere?
Cashmere is the fine under-down hair shed annually by goats living in the high and dry plateaus surrounding the Gobi Desert, which stretch from Northern China into Mongolia. These goats have a coarse hair that repels the weather. Under that outer coat lies a much finer fibre; cashmere, which insulates these animals from the bitter cold.
Why is cashmere reassuringly expensive?
The harsh geography of this area of the Gobi Desert supports a very limited number of goats. It takes one of these rare goats four years to grow enough cashmere for one sweater. Each goat is combed by hand every spring. The fleece is then collected and sorted by hand. Cashmere sweaters are usually knit on hand-operated machines. Therefore, the scarcity of the fibre and the handwork required to convert that fibre into a luxurious garment both contribute to cashmere’s price.
Quality of the cashmere is also a contributing factor to the price tag. The cashmere fibres taken from the throat and underbelly of a goat tend to be the most expensive, as these fibres are long and substantial in order to keep the goat’s vital organs warm. fibres taken from the back and legs of a goat tend to be cheaper, because these fibres are shorter and thinner, as they don’t protect vital parts of the body.
Why do similar looking sweaters have very different prices?
As touched upon above, there are a few reasons why similar looking products have different prices; looks can be deceiving. There are significant differences in the quality of cashmere, and therefore, the price of the fibre that can be used in a cashmere garment. There are variations in the fineness of the cashmere from various origins. There are also more subtle variations within origins. Finer cashmere is more expensive than coarser cashmere. Color also plays a role. The whiter, more expensive fibre needs less dye to color it. Dying harms the feel of the cashmere so this is important. Cashmere fibre is also priced by its length. Longer fibre is more expensive because it makes stronger yarn that pills less. All of these variables play a role in the cost variation between seemingly similar garments. As with all things, you get what you pay for.
How can I tell a good quality cashmere sweater from a poor one?
Trust your senses; your fingers are very good judges. If a cashmere sweater doesn’t feel smooth, soft and luxurious, don’t buy it. The other critical factor is density/weight. Pull the sides of the sweater apart and then let them go. The sweater should snap back to its original shape. Loosely knit, limp fabric is the hallmark of a cheaply made sweater. A good sweater should feel hefty and substantial even if it is lightweight.
How do I care for a cashmere sweater?
Treat your cashmere like your hair. Gently wash it in luke warm water with a mild soap. Block it out on a towel to shape and let it dry. Dry cleaning may be the only answer for stubborn stains. Why not look at our article on ‘Caring for Cashmere’?
Is two ply yarn best?
. In a single-ply garment (1 end of yarn) the torque may translate into a bias in the fabric. Two ply (2 ends) is better than one because the ply twist in the opposite direction offsets the torque inherent in a singles yarn – the yarn is called “balanced”. Two ply yarn is also more even because the thick and thin paces tend to average out. But that is as far as it goes. Further plies add no additional quality. Sweater designers use additional plies to add weight and color options.
What are the differences between European and Asian made cashmere sweaters?
The world’s cashmere comes from China and to a lesser extent Mongolia, so the source of the fibre is the same. Chinese garments have the highest level of handwork and because the labour cost is relatively low, these garments usually have good value. However production units can be quite large. European production offer exceptional style, color and flexibility, which offsets their higher price.
What causes pilling?
Pilling is caused by the abrasion of short fibres into small balls on the surface of the fabric. Some pilling will occur in most new sweaters, especially those worn under other garments or against other fabric or objects like car seat belts, desks, bags etc. But the problem will not persist in a good garment after the first cleaning. Persistent pilling is the result of a high percentage of short fibres combined with a loosely knit fabric. Lower quality manufacturers use shorter fibre because it is cheaper. They also knit loosely to keep the weight of the garment and thus the amount of cashmere used to a minimum. To make these low quality garments feel better, they are produced with a significant amount of surface fibre. This fuzzy surface is initially pleasing to the touch, but signifies long term pilling problems.
Why do lighter coloured sweaters feel softer than darker ones
Dying harms the feel of all natural fibres. Cashmere is naturally pale, fawn or white hair and so it takes more dying and more dye stuff to convert it into a darker solid shades. Experienced producers can minimize but not eliminate the difference in “handle” between light and dark colours.
How long will a cashmere sweater last?
That depends on the quality, how it is worn and cared for. More expensive sweaters tend to last longer than less expensive sweaters. Under normal wear circumstances a well-made cashmere sweater should last many years.
Read more about cashmere here:
Contact Richard Hirst Agencies for these fine yarns:
Cashmere : Coarse hair, Baby Coarsehair, Super cashmere, Shappe Silk, Kid Mohair, Copper blends, Wood tech blends, Cotton blends, Nylon bleds, Polyamide blends, Viscous, Cincilla, Wool blends .. from Loro Piana and Lanecardate