What is Cashmere?
You’ve probably seen Cashmere in high-end fashion boutiques or lavish gift shops, at the fingertips of captivated shoppers. But what is Cashmere? This sought-after fabric has become synonymous with luxury; the soft, insulating material is one of the most valuable natural products used in the fashion industry today. It is characterised by an incredibly soft finish. This is the result of delicate fibres that are almost silky to the touch. It doesn’t have the itchy quality of wool but still provides insulating warmth. Hence why Cashmere is such a coveted fabric.
What is Cashmere made of?
Cashmere is made from the soft fleecy under layer of a goat’s coat. Its growth is fuelled by the chilly air and grows in Winter. In fact, the colder it gets, the more it grows; it’s designed to insulate and protect the goats from harsher climates. As soon as the weather warms, the goats naturally shed their coats. Cashmere producers then comb out the valuable product before it is spun and usually dyed all sorts of.
There is a breed of Cashmere goats which the soft fibres often come from. However it can be taken from any herd as long as the hairs are fine enough to make the cut. That’s under 19 microns, comparatively a human hair is 50-70 microns. Those goats are usually found in nomadic herds across the world, typically in Mongolia, China and Iran. The large fluctuations in temperature make the conditions more suitable for cashmere growth. In Mongolia, the goat population actually grew from 5 to 20 million in the period 1990-2009 due to an increased demand in Cashmere.
Types of Cashmere
Types of Cashmere vary a huge amount. It all depends on the environmental factors around the animal it comes from. Up in the Himalayas, goats grow very fine hair to keep them warm during the colder Winters. This fine hair is much better for producing super soft Cashmere. The most luxurious Cashmere wool comes from this area, where the yarn is noted for its long, smooth straight fibres. As well as the thickness of the hairs, the length of the hair makes a difference in the fabric’s quality. The longer each hair, the better the fabric will be in terms of pilling and achieving the fluffy quality that we love so much.
Why is it so expensive?
There’s no doubt that cashmere is one of the priciest materials to use in fashion manufacturing. But why is it so expensive? Well, that’s down to two main issues; the complexity of the manufacturing process, and the rarity of the raw material. Amazingly, a single goat only provides about 200 g of Cashmere which isn’t even enough for one jumper. Considering it will take a year’s worth of fur of about 2-3 goats to create a cashmere garment, it’s no wonder the price has soared. Alongside this, there is unfortunately a finite amount of Cashmere readily available in the world.
What is Cashmere used for?
You’re probably wondering – what is Cashmere actually used for? It can be used for almost any lightweight clothing product; everything from light Summer jackets to scarves and shawls. Known for its heat retaining qualities, cashmere is particularly effective for Winter wear. It will keep you cosy without being too bulky. You’ll also find it being used for some home furnishings and the softest blankets you’ve ever felt.
Origins & History
The name Cashmere is derived from the location Kashmir. The fibre was originally produced there as far back as the 13th century. In the 1500’s to the 1800’s, emperors from Iran and India used cashmere shawls in religious ceremonies and political proceedings, for example in the Mughal Indian courts. This fabric has a long and rich history, particularly in Europe where its popularity has soared over the last 500 years. It began being imported into Scotland in the 18th century, after a Scottish manufacturer discovered the Cashmere shawls in India. Since then, its use in the textile industry has increased dramatically, defining its luxury status.
How to Tell if Your Cashmere is High Quality
Generally, the higher the percentage of Cashmere in a garment, the higher quality that product will be. Often the fabric is spun with silk to retain its luxurious silky soft quality, without being prone to excess pilling. (That’s those small bobbles which form on the fabric’s surface). Pilling can happen with 100% Cashmere garments. Another way to check you’re getting the good stuff is by looking for a tightly knitted product. A tighter knit is generally indicative of two ply yarn. This means two pieces of yarn were twisted together in the manufacturing of the product. Consequently, a stronger and warmer garment which will last much longer. It’s also important to look out for bright colours. Brighter hues means the Cashmere was very clean to start with and the dying process was first-class.
Benefits and Disadvantages
With any fabric there are benefits and disadvantages; here are Cashmere’s most noteworthy qualities:
- Very warm
- Extremely soft
- Luxury item
- Limited quantity
- Difficult to source
So, now that you’ve got an answer to the question ‘what is Cashmere?’ Why not try designing your own fabric? Explore over 100 other fabrics in your own swatch pack.