Your frequently asked questions about cashmere – what it is, where it comes from and how it turned into fibre – answered.
What is Cashmere?
In short, cashmere is a type of wool from the Kashmir goat. Unlike sheep wool, cashmere is finer, stronger, lighter, softer, and more insulating.
Where does cashmere come from?
Cashmere comes specifically from the Kashmir goat, Capra hircus laniger, which has a double fleece coat. The outer coat is a layer of course hair known as guard hair present all year round. Beneath this guard layer is a layer of soft undercoat, it is this soft undercoat layer that is used to make cashmere wool. This undercoat layer begins to grow as the days become shorter.
The goats take their name from their origin in the Himalayan region of Kashmir. Kashmir goats are typically found in regions of Mongolia, China, Afghanistan and Iran. China and Mongolia are the leading producers of raw cashmere.
How is cashmere turned into fibre?
The process of gathering the wool occurs during spring. As the weather warms the goats naturally begin to shed their coat. Once the hair is gathered from the goat it then begins the process to be transformed into yarn. The first stage of the process is de-hairing, this is a mechanical process that separates the coarser guard hair from the fine hair of the undercoat. In some regions combing is used to remove the hair yielding a higher amount of undercoat finer hairs. Once the de-hairing is completed the hairs can be dyed and spun into yarn that can be knitted or woven to make cashmere clothing and accessories.
Hawick in Scotland and Umbria in Italy are market leaders in the production of cashmere fabric and garments.
What is cashmere used for?
Cashmere can be used to knit clothing such as jumpers and accessories such as hats, scarves, gloves and socks. Cashmere can also be woven to make fabric that is then used to make coats, jackets, blankets and trousers.