Cashmere is characterized by its luxuriously soft fibers. For a natural goat fiber to be considered Cashmere, it must be under 18.5 micrometers in diameter and at least 3.175 centimeters long. It is noted as providing a natural light-weight insulation without bulk. Fibers are highly adaptable and are easily constructed into fine or thick yarns, and light to heavy-weight fabrics. Appropriate for all climates, a high moisture content allows insulation properties to change with the relative humidity in the air.
The finest fibers are gathered from the saddle of the Cashmere goat; most of the cashmere comes off of the sides and back, from the shoulder to the rump. It is a misconception that the finest fibers come from the neck and belly, as these parts most collect debris. If the goat is shorn, the fiber must be "de-haired" to remove the coarse, unusable guard hair. Sometimes the fine fibers are collected by combing the goat; either method is time consuming and tedious, thus the high cost of cashmere.
The colors come in different ranges of grey, brown and white.
Source of the fiber
The Cashmere (Kashmir) or goat down is the source of the wool that becomes cashmere fiber for clothing and other textile articles. The goat (Capra hircus laniger) is a mammal belonging to the subfamily Caprinae of the family Bovidae. The goats produce a double fleece consisting of the fine, soft undercoat or underdown of hair mingled with a straighter and much coarser outer coating of hair called guard hair. In order for the fine under down to be sold and processed further, it must first be de-haired. De-hairing is a mechanical process that separates the coarse hairs from the fine hair and after de-hairing the resulting "cashmere" is ready to be dyed and converted into yarn, fabrics and garments.
The name is from the contested region of Kashmir. The cashmere products of this area first attracted the attention of Europeans in the early 1800s when India was under the British Raj. The goats reside predominantly in the high plateaus of Asia with the most significant populations being found in India's Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh, Pakistan, himalayan regions of Nepal, the northwestern provinces of China (Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang, Gansu, Shanxi, Shaanxi, Qinghai and Tibet), Mongolia and Iran (Kerman and Khorasan provinces).
Many nations in that area rely on cashmere as a luxury product that is exportable for high profit.
Specialty animal hair fibers including cashmere are collected during the spring moulting season when the animals naturally shed their winter coat. Depending on the weather and the region, the goats (in the Northern Hemisphere) moult over a period beginning as early as March and as late as May.
In some regions, the mixed mass of down and coarse hair is removed by hand with a coarse comb that pulls tufts of fiber from the animal as the comb is raked through the fleece. The collected fiber then has a higher yield of pure cashmere after the fiber has been washed and dehaired. The long, coarse guard hair is then typically clipped from the animal and is often used for brushes, interlinings and other non-apparel uses. Animals in Iran, Afghanistan, New Zealand and Australia are typically shorn of their fleece, resulting in a higher coarse hair content and lower pure cashmere yield. In America, the most popular method is combing. The process takes up to two weeks but, with a trained eye for when the fiber is releasing, sometimes it is possible to comb the fibers out in about a week.
China has become the largest producer of raw cashmere and their clip is estimated at 10,000 metric tons per year. Mongolia produces somewhat more than 3,000 tons, while India, Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, Turkey and Central Asian Republics produce significant but lesser amounts. The annual world clip is estimated to be between 15,000 and 20,000 tons. "Pure cashmere", resulting from removing animal grease, dirt and coarse hairs from the fleece, is estimated at about 6,500 tons. It is estimated that up to 500 grams of fiber is produced per goat on average, with 150 grams of under-down.
Pure cashmere can be dyed and spun into yarns and knit into jumpers, hats, gloves, socks and other clothing, or woven into fabrics then cut and assembled into garments such as outer coats, jackets, pants, pajamas, scarves, blankets and other items. Fabric and garment producers in Italy, Scotland, England and Japan have long been known as market leaders.
The famous Johnstons of Elgin began cashmere weaving in 1797 and is the oldest cashmere mill in use. In the US, the town of Uxbridge was an incubator for the cashmere wool industry. It had the first power looms for woolens and the first manufacture of "satinets". Capron Mill had the first power looms, in 1820. It burned on July 21, 2007, in the spectacular Bernat Mill fire.
Types of fiber
Virgin — New fiber that has not been processed in any way, or has been made into yarns, fabrics or garments for the first time.
Raw — fiber that has not been processed and is essentially straight from the animal.
Processed — fiber that has been through the processes of de-hairing, washing, carding, and is ready either to spin or to knit/crochet/weave.
Recycled — fibers reclaimed from scraps or fabrics that were previously woven or felted and may or may not have been used by the consumer.
The above information is available at WIKIPIDIA