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What is Cashmere?

By KN
Updated May 21, 2024
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Cashmere is a luxuriant wool that many a fashion-conscious woman has dreamed of wearing against her skin. Its silken feel, feather-light weight, and appreciable status make it highly desirable.

Despite the glamour associated with cashmere, it hails from humble beginnings. It is the wool or fur of the Kashmir goat. Kashmir goats are primarily raised in Mongolia, but many are bred in Iran, Tibet, India and China. American herders have also joined the international cashmere production market in recent years.

Cashmere is harvested from the goats during their annual molting season through the shedding or the shearing of their down. In the frigid high desert climates where most of the goats are raised, the dense inner coat guards against harsh winter weather, but once seasons change, goats begin to lose the protective layer of down.

The finest cashmere usually comes from the back and shoulders of the goats. Fibers from the belly and hind area may be usable because they are fine fibers, but they are usually too short to make quality wool. They can be mixed with other fibers though to make quality material, just not quality cashmere wool. Shorter fibers have a tendency to "pill," whereas longer fibers are easier to spin and don't pill as easily when they're woven into garments. The fibers come naturally in white, gray and brown, but the wool is easily dyed.

Garments made of cashmere were once only available to royalty because the rarity of the wool increased its value. Napoleon is said to have popularized its use for shawls or wraps when he gave his second wife, Empress Eugenie, seventeen of them.

In more recent years, Old-Hollywood glamor girls graced the silver screen, bringing cashmere to the hearts of people everywhere. The "original sweater girl," Lana Turner, created a phenomenon when she wore a tight cashmere sweater in a 1937 film called, They Won't Forget. Similar sweaters of all description soon became haute coutre; evening sweaters with heavily encrusted jewels and embroidery became popular during the 1940s, and the famed sweater set of best-dressed college coeds ruled the 50s. Avid collectors are now frantic to snatch up those fine examples of vintage cashmere sweaters.

Woven garments made of cashmere must be dry cleaned, but knitted articles may be hand washed. Home weavers and knitters cherish the yarn for its soft hand and practical warmth; the wool is available for home projects at yarn shops or online via Internet craft and knitting sites.

The quality and feel of cashmere will leave you longing for more. Owning a garment made of of this fabric is a fashion treat to be truly treasured — after all, it takes one little goat four years to produce enough wool to make just one sweater.

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Discussion Comments
By cashmere1999 — On May 08, 2017

If you wash cashmere in water no more than 40 ℃, it will not shrink, so do not wash in water that's too hot.

By anon152302 — On Feb 13, 2011

@ Ebay person: do you still have the catalog? Copy it and send it to her. It had a label that said cashmere, right? Take a sample and send it to a lab? This is the best I can suggest. Good luck.

The best cashmere garments come from Scotland and Italy because they have the oldest mills. Expect to pay a lot for good cashmere. There has been a lot of cheap cashmere on the market in recent years and cheap cashmere is just that: cheap. I bought my wife a cashmere scarf made in Scotland and I ordered it online and had it sent from the UK. It cost about $100 and it has proved its quality with its softness, thickness and durability.

It is easy to be tempted by low cost cashmere, but look for something made in Scotland or Italy, and beware of things that seem too inexpensive. There is good cashmere that goes on sale, but the prices don't start off low for the good stuff. I also had a hat made for my wife, in cashmere made in Italy - the best yarn I could find - I got a good price for the yarn and it still cost about $37 for the yarn alone. Good luck.

By khopemoss — On Feb 06, 2011

I have lots of gorgeous vintage cashmere sweaters that I'd love to sell going back to the 1940's and 50's and triple plys from the 60's and 70's How do I go about selling them. I was thinking of film industry wardrobe people?

By anon149762 — On Feb 05, 2011

So, cashmere is a sheep. Or refers to its fur. Wool. What the hell does it do in soap?

By anon126161 — On Nov 11, 2010

If your contemporary cashmere sweaters look like hell after a few washings or dry cleanings, buy vintage ones. They're generally better made, and for some reason, tend to keep their softness. You can try putting some hair conditioner in the rinse water, too; that's supposed to help retain the soft feel of cashmere. But, I have one modern (designer) cashmere sweater and it's not anywhere near as nice as my vintage ones have been.

By anon67691 — On Feb 26, 2010

anon5490: This is Shabbir. You have a misconception about pashmina. It is not from the belly and chin portion. it's true that when this goat lies down, dust sticks in its wool but not in the chest and the chin portion.

If you have goats you can see from there that when they sit they did not sit from its chest er and chin. these goats sit on their side belly. From this belly portion we get cashmere that is not pashmina.

Pashmina is from the chin and belly portion and if you have seen the belly portion there is a smaller quantity of wool there. it is impossible that dust can stuck there for a long time.

By anon50898 — On Nov 01, 2009

I happen to raise cashmere goats, and the finest cashmere does not come from the belly! I don't know where this information keeps coming from, but the belly is where the goat lies down in the dirt, etc., and it gets matted and pretty much unusable. And yes, I do take very good care of my goats.

By anon43603 — On Aug 31, 2009

Can cashmere have an unpleasant smell? If it does, what is the cause? I just received a sweater online that is 10 percent cashmere and the odor actually makes me nauseated. Smells like a wet animal!

By anon22670 — On Dec 08, 2008

anon15160,

does this lady know that Cashmere is wool from the Kashmir goat, the finer cashmere is from the underside and neck area and does not pill, and the coarser is from the back, legs butux, it is not as soft as the under belly and pills easily. Talk to the catalog company where you bought the cashmere and ask if it is cashmere or cashmere mix., maybe the lady is just a disgruntled customer that likes to take things out on others ( i have them once is a while in the store where i work, all because they are in a bad mood and take it out on others). Do, contact ebay first and explain to them what the company said, and also explain that you were going on the description of the item that you had bought.

I wish i could wear cashmere, unfortunately i am allergic to wool, i tend to break out in hives and welts.

By anon22451 — On Dec 04, 2008

Very interesting...I've always wondered what's the difference between a $40 "cashmere" sweater and $400 one. I know that our goats (who produce a small amount of cashmere)would be hard-pressed to produce enough cashmere for a pair of infants' socks! (I've tried combing it off...the goats weren't amused.)

If you're wondering about the fiber content of your sweater, you can always tell the buyer to send a sample to a lab. It's usually pretty easy to distinguish fibers under a microscope. A local large-animal vet might even be able to help in this...or a college that has a camera affixed to a microscope.

By anon20425 — On Oct 30, 2008

what insects eat cashmere?

By biancamoes — On Oct 26, 2008

I agree cashmere is wonderful but has to be taken care of in a certain manner. I found good cashmere information online and after reading about it bought their cashmere red scarf and was blown away at how soft and heavenly it was! Sent it for Dry cleaning the first time and it came back like new second time I followed directions and hand washed and line dried and then lightly ironed it and it looks great.

By anon15606 — On Jul 16, 2008

to anon13496, it depends on the quality of the yarn used, not the ply. The cheaper the yarn, the more pilling will occur. Cashmere made in Scotland is still the best there is and the least likely to pill, so ask where it was made.

to anon6897, it's the lava of the moths that eat the cashmere, not the actual insects.

to anon6363, no sorry, the finest cashmere yarn does indeed come from the stomach. The cheaper yarns come from the areas you are talking about, and are often not usable.

to anon5490, only if you wash it in either very hot or very cold water. Woven cashmere can only be dry cleaned.

By anon15160 — On Jul 03, 2008

i bought a sweater from a catalog that listed it was cashmere a few years ago- it was very expensive- over $200. not i just sold it on ebay and the lady is saying its made of wool. not cashmere. and she wants to open a dispute against me. any ideas? i listed it as cashmere like the catalog did. help!

By anon13496 — On May 28, 2008

I love cashmere sweaters but after they have been

washed or dry cleaned a few times they look awful.

What kind of cashmere sweater should I buy to prevent this. Most cashmere in the department stores say 2-ply.

By anon6897 — On Jan 11, 2008

what insect eats cashmere?

By anon6363 — On Dec 26, 2007

It's a misconception that the finest fibers are harvested from the neck and belly of the goat as these are generally the dirtiest part of the animal and most subject to collecting debris. The finest fibers are gathered from the saddle of the Cashmere goat; most of the cashmere comes off of the sides and back of the goat's body from the shoulder to the rump.

By anon5490 — On Nov 27, 2007

does cashmere shrink upon cleaning?

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