Cashmere is a sought after, soft, cosy and comforting material that makes up some of the most beautiful and luxurious garments suitable for colder weather. Cashmere is made from goat’s hair and has a lengthy process before it reaches our stores and your wardrobe. In this blog, we explore more of what cashmere is about and how best to look after it.
What is cashmere?
Cashmere originated from the Kashmir goat, and not from sheep as many people might think. Cashmere is also a hair and not wool which comes from the deep hair fibres of the Kashmir goats, which have the main function of protecting the animals through the coldest temperatures – which can reach below -40 degrees! The fibres of the goat’s warm undercoat need to be separated from the rougher, protective outer coat of hair, which is a lengthy and labour intensive process involving combing and sorting the hair by hand. It takes two or more goats to make one 2-ply sweater.
How is cashmere made?
When the Kashmir goats start to shed their winter coats the hair is collected in very small quantities by being combed from underneath the goat’s belly, mainly in the springtime when the hair starts to release as the goats moult.
The fibres are first dyed to the required colour; this can leave the fibres tangled and matted, and teasing the hair helps open up the fibres to help with the next process. This is when the cashmere hair fibres can be blended with other colours or other fibres, such as Merino wool or silk. There are many combinations of colours and materials available. After this cashmere is processed in a carding machine which detangles and combs the hair into rovings – thin sheets – which is a process that has been unchanged since the 1800s.
The rovings are spun into yarn by twisting the fibres together, which helps to give the cashmere its strength. It is then woven, laying out the colour, design and pattern of the cashmere garment, which has been decided before the weaving process starts.
The cashmere garment is then very carefully washed to help the fabric to return to its original soft feel. Cashmere is a very delicate fabric but if it is looked after properly and treated, washed and cared for correctly it can be a luxurious garment that lasts a lifetime.
Why is cashmere so valuable?
As mentioned before Cashmere is the hair taken from the undercoat of a Kashmir goat’s hair. This process is not only labour intensive but also these goats are only able to produce about 200 grams of soft hair a year – far less than sheep, which can produce over three kilograms of wool a year. As the fashion industry now has a high demand for cashmere, the demand for cashmere is greater than the availability thus resulting in an expensive product.
How to wash and care for cashmere
Due to its delicate nature, the ideal method of cleaning your cashmere garment is gently, by hand. As tempting as it may be, even the hand-wash setting on your washing machine can be too vigorous for the fine quality of Cashmere. Spot cleaning as opposed to washing can prolong the life of a garment you wear regularly, however, if you plan to store your cashmere for a prolonged period, it is best to give it a thorough clean. It may not look dirty, but any trapped particles in the fibres, such as dust, skin or hair, can attract moths. The last thing you want is to find your favourite cardigan full of holes!
Washing your garments
- To begin, source a clean bowl or sink. This must be absolutely devoid of food, dirt, or any cleaning chemicals, as this residue could damage your cashmere. We recommend having a dedicated bowl for the hand-washing of cashmere and knitwear for this reason.
- Handwashing is best – Place in lukewarm water with a small amount of gentle detergent. Ideally, you should use a specially formulated cashmere shampoo for the best results and least risk. Once you add the detergent, ensure that it is fully dissolved in the water before adding your clothing. Move the garment around gently and soak for up to 30 minutes, although five minutes if often enough time.
- Turn your garment inside out and squeeze gently to remove excess water. Do not wring out the garment, however, as this can stretch the delicate fibres and lead to damage and misshaping. Each garment should be washed separately to avoid any colour leaching and allowing you to give the cashmere the attention it deserves.
- Thoroughly rinse the garment in a new bowl of water – ideally at the same temperature used initially. Once again, ensure that the bowl is completely clean and free of any residue, especially anything that might have been dislodged from the garment.
Dry your Cashmere gently
When drying your garment, under no circumstances tumble dry – the cashmere will shrink and become damaged. Once you have rinsed and squeezed some of the excess water, it is recommended that you re-shape it to its original size, and dry it flat over a towel. Avoid radiators, direct heat and sunlight, and ideally do not hang out to dry, as this can also stretch and damage the fibres.
To iron any creases from your cashmere, press the garment under a damp cloth, with the iron at the lowest possible setting. Treated with patience and care, quality cashmere will get softer and improve with age. Giving it time to rest after wearing will also help prolong its life.
Storing Your Cashmere Clothing
As mentioned earlier, before storing for any length of time, you should ensure your cashmere is thoroughly cleaned to avoid attracting moths and other insects. De-creasing and de-pilling before storage will also extend the lifespan and quality of your cashmere.
Garments should be stored inside out in a dust-free and well-aired cupboard, away from direct sunlight and any risk of damp. A dedicated storage bag is highly recommended to keep your cashmere as new.
Moths & Repairs
Of course, there is always the possibility that moths will haunt you regardless! We recommend using aromatic cedar blocks and hangers to fend off any potential invasion, as well as keeping your garments thoroughly clean.
If you’ve already fallen victim to the little monsters, fear not. It’s worth having a thorough clean of your storage area to ensure it doesn’t happen again – moth traps are always an option, and we’ve heard that freezing your cashmere is an option!
Pilling/Bobbling of Cashmere
If you notice small balls of fibres on the surface of your garment, don’t be alarmed! Knitwear can sometimes shed small fibres during initial wear, and softer fabrics such as cashmere are more prone to this than others. They can also occur in response to friction, such as when another, coarser material is worn against the garment, such as wool or synthetic fibres. They will naturally disappear during the washing process. Regular washing will minimise the appearance of these bobbles.