What is Cashmere?
Cashmere is wool gotten from goats that are bred because of their undercoat. Cashmere comes from Pashmina and Cashmere-producing goats. The material was once home to Central Asia, but regions like America and Europe have also developed cashmere industries.
Goats that produce cashmere often have two layers of coat. The outer coat is rough and serves as a protection to keep the goat safe from the elements.
The undercoat is the fine, soft, thin, and dense hair that gives us the cashmere wool used to make fabrics.
One question many people ask is ‘why is Cashmere very Expensive?’
The answer to this question rests in the nature of cashmere. It is breathable and lightweight, but still warm and soft, making it one of the most comfortable fabrics for you whether in winter or fall.
Cashmere of great quality is also elastic and durable, meaning you can use and enjoy it for many years. It remains in shape even with multiple uses and doesn’t lose its softness or breathability.
When you combine these qualities with the time and labor involved in producing cashmere, you’ll come about why cashmere fabrics are high-end, and can even cost a pretty thousand dollars.
However, there is a cheaper and more expensive cashmere fabric, depending on the production process and the type of cashmere.
Origin of Cashmere
The Origin of Cashmere lies in the high plateaus of the Himalayas in Tibet and Ladakh.
At an altitude of 4,000 meters lives the Cashmere goat, a goat tamed today, also known as Pashmina. To survive the six-month winter and the extremely cold temperatures, the animal has a coat of long hair.
From this animal, whose size is between the domestic goat known to us and the dwarf goat, comes this extraordinary wool that has made the term “cashmere” famous throughout the world.
Marco Polo is said to have discovered representations of wild goats tamed by humans in caves in Mongolia in the thirteenth century.
It is known for certain that cloth made of cashmere was first produced in Srinagar, the former capital of the Kashmir province.
Types of Cashmere
Did you know that cashmere had grades? There are broadly 3 grades of cashmere, depending on quality. They are graded upwards from grade C to A.
Cashmere that falls into Grade C has the poorest quality, which amounts to a width of about 30 microns per cashmere hair. Grade B cashmere is of medium quality and has a width of around 18-19 microns per cashmere hair. The best quality is Grade A cashmere that has a width as low as 14 microns per cashmere hair.
The rule for calculating and grouping cashmere states that thinner cashmere makes for finer construction and eventually higher quality of the product made from the material.
Cashmere products can also vary depending on the region they’re produced. Different countries have different production methods that can cause their cashmere to appear different. For instance, Mongolia and China lead the crowd when it comes to producing large numbers of cashmere products. However, their cashmere quality cannot equate to the quality of cashmere produced by the local communities in India’s Kashmir region because it is of the finest quality.
Assumptions are that the extreme winter conditions in Kashmir, alongside the diet of the people, make their goats grow undercoats that are denser and finer, translating to high-quality materials for producing cashmere cardigans, sweaters, and shawls. However, the restriction to handmade production makes these products highly expensive.
Look-out for Cashmere blends
Just like women have to be on the watch for human hair blends paraded as pure human hair, you’ll also find some companies selling cashmere blended with cheap nylons and wools. Such blends can’t offer the quality you get from cashmere.
If your goal is to own cashmere products, always buy 100% cashmere and nothing less!
Full cashmere is warm enough to supply heat to you in winter but also breathable to keep you cool in autumn and spring.
Understanding Cashmere Ply
Ply means how many cashmere threads were joined to create the yarn strands.
1-ply cashmere is thinner and largely elastic and isn’t as thick and warm as a higher ply.
2-ply is a balanced cashmere type because it balances elasticity, warmth, and is lightweight.
3-ply or 4 is considerably heavier than 2-ply cashmere. However, it isn’t significantly better than 2-ply in the area of softness or warmth.
Here’s how to determine Cashmere Quality
1. How it feels
When you touch cashmere, your hands should come in contact with a soft fabric that gives your hand a pleasant sensation. However, while the fabric is soft, it should also be firm enough to prove that it wasn’t treated. The fabric should soften more as you use it.
If you hold a cashmere fabric and it feels too soft without any firmness, it might have undergone chemical treatment to make it feel artificially soft. Chemical treatment or excessive washing can damage cashmere fibers and reduce their lifespan.
When you stretch cashmere, you can judge its elasticity. While a well-constructed 100% cashmere will revert to its normal shape after stretching, poor-quality cashmere would be very loose and slack.
Study the knitting when you stretch the cashmere. Loose, see-through knitting screams poor quality.
Slowly and firmly run your hand down the cashmere product and see whether any fiber will come off into your hand. If this happens, it means short cashmere hair was used to make the material.
Long cashmere strands are the fibers used to make high-quality sweaters, scarves, and clothes. They won’t shed immediately like the short fibers, although you can expect little shedding over time.
Cashmere care tips
1. Wash sparingly
Don’t wash your cashmere too often if you have no reason to. Because of their breathable nature, you can air out your cashmere after a day out and put it on again and it’ll be fresh.
2. No machines
It might seem natural to tosh all your clothes in the washer, but don’t do that with cashmere because a washing machine can exert pressure on the fibers. When it is wet, cashmere is prone to stretching and getting disfigured. Wash the cashmere with your hands, small amounts of mild detergent, and cold water. Opt for dry cleaning if your cashmere has multiple colors or added designs and buttons.
3. No fabric softeners
Keep your cashmere as far away from fabric softeners as possible. The material gets softer with use, so using softeners on your cashmere will make it mushy and reduce its lifespan.
Don’t throw your cashmere in a dryer. Instead, allow it to air dry. Heat drying can reduce the lifespan of your cashmere’s fibers, so allow it to dry naturally.
5. Avoid friction
Cashmere is quite an investment, so take care of it by avoiding friction. Be careful when carrying a bag so your cashmere sweater doesn’t get hooked to your bag and cause the fabric to shed. If you’re hairy, shaving often and keeping your skin smooth will ensure that the inner part of your sweater doesn’t pill.