Cashmere is highly regarded because it is one of the most luxurious types of wool available. Unlike most types of wool used to make apparel, cashmere is extremely soft and light against the skin and it comes from goats, not sheep. In fact, it’s so soft that it almost has a silky feel.
Genuine cashmere is a natural fiber that happens to be one of the most expensive in the world because of how it is made, which involves tediously separating fibers from the moted coats of goats – by hand. Because cashmere fibers are so fine and thin, they are often blended with other types of wool, like merino, to give it added weight.
But where does cashmere come from and what sets it apart from other types of wool? In this guide, you’ll learn everything there is to know about cashmere.
Where Does Cashmere Wool Come From?
Cashmere wool is made only from cashmere goats and pashmina goats. The wool gets its name because it was predominantly produced in Kashmir, a region in Northern India. In fact, the original spelling of cashmere was Kashmir. Today, cashmere goats are also raised in China, Iran, Mongolia, and other locations around the world where temperatures can vary wildly.
A cashmere goat produces two types of hair, a rough outercoat and a soft undercoat. Cashmere only comes from the soft undercoat, typically taken from the underside of the goats or from around the neck, as this is where the wool grows the softest. Because the goat’s cashmere coat is designed to keep the animal warm during the colder months, it grows the fastest during the winter.
How Cashmere is Made
Cashmere carries such a high price because it has one of the most complex and time-consuming manufacturing processes. The process starts in the spring because it is the molting season for the goats. The goats naturally shed their coats at this time, but for the cashmere to be collected, the goats need to be combed or shorn. Combing is preferred because it yields less of the coarse hair compared to shearing and traditionally produces higher-quality cashmere.
After gathering the wool, all the coarse overcoat hairs need to be separated from the soft undercoat hairs. This is done by entirely by hand. Once the fibers are separated, the cashmere fibers are assembled into bales and spun into yarn which is then dyed and knit or woven into fabric.
How to Care for Cashmere
Due to the super-soft nature of cashmere fibers, high-quality cashmere is very delicate. As a result, special care and attention needs to be used when cleaning it. For the best results, cashmere should be washed by hand using cold water and gentle soap only (or a detergent specifically made for cashmere).
After washing, the item should be rinsed by soaking the garment in cold water and then it should be removed, and the excess water squeezed out. It is important to avoid wringing the garment, as that could stretch or ruin its shape. After the excess water has been removed, lay the garment flat to dry. Never hang cashmere, as this will cause the delicate fibers to stretch.