There’s nothing like the feeling of cashmere against your skin. Whether burying your face into a silky cashmere shawl or snuggling down in a sumptuous sweater, the soft caress of cashmere will have you smitten. We’re going to investigate how cashmere is made.
Cashmere goats are shorn only once a year. That is why the cashmere is more expensive than wool.
The countries that produce commercial quantities of cashmere are China with 70% of the world’s output, Outer Mongolia at 15-20%, Iran and Afghanistan at a combined 10-15%. There are some small weights of cashmere produced in the Central Asian Countries of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan, in Turkey, India, Australia, New Zealand and Pakistan, but these quantities are small in comparison to the 3 primary producers listed above.
Beneath the animals’ coarse hair lies an undercoat of superfine fibers concentrated on the underbelly. Much like us, when the harsh, bleak winter is over the cashmere goat casts off its cold-weather coat and embraces the springtime sun. The spring moulting season is when the goat’s hair is collected for the production of cashmere wool. When the goats molt, local workers comb the belly hair, sort it by hand, and send it to a dehairing facility to be cleaned and refined. After harvesting the cashmere, the shepherds will keep the goat’s food highly nutritious and regular. Regardless of shearing, cashmere goats will continue to moult, losing even the stubble that remains after shearing.
De-hairing is a key stage in how cashmere is made. After the hair has been collected, the soft down is separated out from the greasy, coarse guard hair. This is a mechanical process called ‘de-hairing’. If poorly executed, the resulting fibre may contain dark, wiry hairs which have to picked out after the fibre has been knitted into fabric.