Cashmere goats originally came from the Himalayas and migrated with Chinese herders to Mongolia, Tibet and Northern provinces of China in the 10th and 12th centuries. With the development of the Asian empire, cashmere slowly began to enter the trade routes in the West.
In the 13th century Marco Polo brought cashmere to Italy where it became the fiber of choice among the aristocratic elite.
Processing the Fiber
Cashmere goats have a fine, downy undercoat that protects them from the cold winters. Each spring the cashmere is removed with a special comb. Once the cashmere is off, the dirt, grass and other non-fiber contaminants must be removed. The fiber is then sorted by fineness and length. Rough hairs are removed leaving behind the fine medium and long hairs.
After sorted by color, the cashmere is washed, dried and spun into skeins of yarn. It takes approximately a year’s worth of cashmere from three to four goats in order to make a single cashmere sweater.
Cashmere versus Wool
Cashmere is eight times warmer than sheep’s wool and 33% lighter. Cashmere fiber has a crimp or curl that sheep’s wool does not have. This extra crimp holds pockets of warm air close to the body.
It is the softest animal fiber readily available on the market measureable by its low micron count. The micron count is the measure of the diameter of the fiber and the lower the number, the softer the fiber.
A world of soft Cashmere
The world produces 9,000-10,000 tons of cashmere each year. 50-60% comes from China, Tibet and Inner Mongolia, 20-30% comes from Mongolia 10- 20% comes from Iran and Afghanistan.
Cashmere garments are very soft. It is the length of the fibers that determins the softness of the garment. And since the fibers are so short some peeling may always be expected on garments made of 100% pure cashmere. By everyday use of your cashmere garment may result in the short cashmere fibers to turn into small soft garment balls. Particulary in areas with high abrasion. You may gently remove these either by hand or by using a cashmere comb.