Cashmere is shed down annually from goats living in the high, dry plateaus that stretch from northern China into Mongolia, surrounding the Gobi Desert. In order to survive, these goats have coarse hair that repels the bad weather. Beneath that external coat lies a much finer fiber, cashmere, which insulates these animals from the bitter cold. Cashmere is the sleekest, soft and luxurious natural fiber in the world, therefore we need the highest standards to process it. As spring comes, and before the goat begins to molt, the shepherds and their families, begin the laborious work of combing the precious under fleece from their goats. The combing seasons lasts three to four weeks and the amounts produced are small – around 200-250 gram per goat. The next task is to collect raw cashmere. Cashmere is collected in its three base colors – brown, grey and white and is sorted by hand to remove impurities. First, the fiber is treated to remove dust, and then gently washed. Cashmere consists of a coarse guard hair and down which has to be separated. Only after washing and the hair has been removed, by which time it may be reduced in weight by as much as 50%, is the cashmere deemed top quality. Cashmere, like all the best things in life, has an eternal quality.
Why is cashmere usually so expensive?
Cashmere comes from goats living in the high and dry plateaus surrounding the Gobi Desert of Mongolia and China. Because of the harsh environment, there are not so many cashmere goats. The annual amount of cashmere produced is between 10,000 to 12,000 tons all over the world. Cashmere produced in China accounts for about 70% of the world and consumes the cashmere from 5 goats in one year. In every spring before goats molt nomadic farmers begin the painstaking task of combing out the precious hair. It’s called raw cashmere. Before weaving the cashmere, we must sort, scour, dye and spin them, etc. Handwork is indispensable in making of an excellent finished product. Cashmere products are expensive because of exiguity of raw material, complicated processing course, and handwork.
How to choose cashmere
Generally speaking, your finger is the best tool to check. A good cashmere sweater should feel hefty and substantial, even if it is a lightweight garment. Density, loosely knit, the limp fabric is the hallmark of a cheaply made sweater. Pull the sides of the sweater apart and then let them go. the sweater should snap back to its original shape. Texture: Finer cashmere is softer and therefore more expensive than coarser cashmere. Feel the sweater with your fingertips, they are very sensitive and you will easily be able to spot a sweater that has been cheapened by using coarse fiber.
How to wear your cashmere
Pilling is caused by abrasion during regular use, it often develops on elbows, on the seat of skirts, and in areas rubbed by a bag or briefcase, even seat belts. Soft, fuzzy surfaces are more susceptible than others. So for cashmere and silk/cashmere, it is normal when pilling develops in some areas after times of wearing. To avoid pilling, it is important to not rub the garment with rough clothing, metal accessories, bags and all kinds of belts. In case you can not avoid the belts such as seat belts, cover your garment with a silk or synthetic fiber scarf, make sure it is the smooth surface that is next to your garment.
- 1. Always take care and keep your cashmere sweater clean. To wash it frequently will shorten its longevity.
- 2. Do not wear the same garment too long; allow the garment two or three day’s rest after one day’s wearing.
- 3. Avoid dirty objects while wearing the garment because it will stain.
How to wash your cashmere
Most stores would recommend professional dry clean when it comes to cleaning your cashmere garments, but hand washing is also another option (see the how-to below). Treat stains as quickly as possible; rinse them immediately with cold water; hot water may set the stain. If garments get wet, allow drying away from direct heat, and then brushing it with a soft nap gently. In the event of stubborn stains, dry cleaning may be the only solution. Gently wash in warm water with a mild soap shampoo will do. Also thoroughly rinse with water of the same temperature. Special care must be taken as wet cashmere fabric can weaken and stretch out of shape. Never wring or twist it. Gently press excess water from garment. Don’t put multi-color garments into water at the same time to avoid color matching. While supporting the weight of the wet garment lay the sweater on a dry towel. Ease the sweater back into shape and roll up in the towel, until thoroughly air-dried. Once your cashmere sweater is dry you must fold it carefully, avoiding a center crease. Never hang a cashmere sweater, as it will stretch the garment out of shape. Lay flat in a drawer or on a closet shelf.
How to take care of your cashmere
Fortunately, because you can wear cashmere in any season, you probably won’t let your cashmere sweater get too far from sight. However, if you do store your garment, make sure it is clean.
For your convenience, store your cashmere garment in a bag. Keep in mind that you want to repel moths, not poison yourself. So try some of nature’s own true methods: cloves, lavender, rosemary, thyme, dried orange peel or cedar. To avoid staining, always wrap any of these items in a sachet or, simply tie in a handkerchief.