The popularity of cashmere jumpers has always been high and, according to some, so has the price. Admittedly, the price of a cashmere piece is higher than other woollen pieces but you can't deny that you get what you pay for. So why exactly is that?
To know this you need to know where cashmere comes from, and just by knowing this can feed your appreciation for the product.
Cashmere wool is the underdown coat of goats in China and Mongolia. Each year these goats moult their winter coat, a coat that has kept them warm and protected throughout the harshest of weathers, and it's this underdown that is shed. The people of China and Mongolia have been specialising in the production of this wool for centuries and it is their most precious commodity. With skill that has been passed down generations, they are able to gather the wool in a way that ensures only the best fibres are collected. The most popular form of gathering this fur is by combing with a coarse comb. This helps to separate it from the guard hair which is the longer, coarser coat on top. This task of separating the two coats is called 'dehairing'. Some countries sheer their goats but this method results in a fibre that has a lower cashmere yield and that won't be as soft.
China has become the largest producer of raw cashmere, producing on average 10,000 metric tons of fibre every year. Mongolia follows with an average of 3,000 tons - and with their methods this fibre is then manufactured into the highest quality cashmere. It is dyed and spun into yarns and then knitted into clothing such as cashmere jumpers, scarves, hats, gloves and other pieces of clothing.
Companies like Brora in Scotland specialise in manufacturing quality cashmere. They've been sourcing their best selected fibres from the same Mongolian farms for years. This fibre is then brought to their mills every season where it is dehaired, ensuring that only the finest, longest hairs make it through. They have specific guidelines that need to be followed, that only hairs 34mm or over in length and a maximum of 16.5 microns in thickness are used. This ensures the quality of the end product. Hairs that are shorter or thicker are weaker and result in quick pilling. It can also result in cashmere jumpers losing their shape after a mere season.
From here it takes skilled craftsmen to spin and dye the wool ready for use in the production of the high quality cashmere jumpers that we love so much. And when you choose cashmere you know you're wearing cashmere. The wool is soft against your skin unlike other wools which can be coarse and itchy. It is warm and cosy, and with a huge range of cashmere jumpers available, it will be an item of clothing you'll never want to take off.