What Is Cashmere?

Cashmere-goats-gobi-mountains

You are probably wondering:

What exactly makes this wool such a coveted fibre? What does cashmere even mean and are there any official guidelines on this matter?

Fortunately, you find here answers to these burning questions. Keep reading to learn:

 

Cashmere Definition

Textile-fibres-classification-diagram
Fig. 1 – Textile Fibres Classification Diagram (Source: Fashionpedia by Fashionary)

Fibres are classified as Natural and Man-made.

While the man-made fibres comprehend the regenerated cellulose from natural polymers (e.g. viscose and bamboo), synthetics (e.g.polyester and acrylic) and inorganics (e.g.ceramics and glass fibres), the natural fibres are organised as Mineral, Cellulose and Protein.

Cashmere belongs to the natural protein fibre group for it grows in Cashmere goats (see fig. 1).

However, the term ‘Cashmere’ can only be commercially used if it fulfils the 3 following criteria, established by the US government1:

 

1. The fibre consists of the fine (dehaired) undercoat fibres produced by a Cashmere goat (Capra hircus laniger);

Each Cashmere goat grows a double fleece which is made up of thick, coarse guard hairs that overlay a fine down insulating layer of hair.

Cashmere is the general term for fibres and fabrics that are constructed from this thin underlayer of hair2.

While the name was originated from the Kashmir region of North West India, the Capra Hircus goats found in the high plateau regions other than Kashmir, such as Nepal, China and the central plains of Inner Mongolia, are also called cashmere goats.

This area includes part of China’s mythic grasslands, where Genghis Khan rode with his horde over the endless horizon. Temperatures reach 40°C in summer, falling to -40°C in winter.

 

2. The average diameter of the cashmere fibre does not exceed 19 microns

A micron or micrometre (μm) is equal to one-thousandth of a millimetre (mm):

1 μm = 1/1000 mm

Just like with cotton, the finer and longer the cashmere fibre, the higher is the quality. Top quality cashmere is 14 – 16.5 μm thick which is classed as grade A. They result in softer, more insulating, longer-lasting and less pilling material.

When comparing under a microscope, a single cashmere strand makes a human hair looks like a rope:

Natural-fibres-diameters-in-microns
Fig. 2 – Diameters of Natural fibres in microns

 

3. The cashmere fibres in the wool product contain no more than 3% (by weight) of cashmere fibres with average diameters that exceed 30 microns

The average fibre diameter may be subject to a coefficient of variation around the mean that shall not exceed 24%. Fibres from a Cashmere goat that do not meet this definition should have a label that identifies them as wool.

Cashmere fibres are graded as A, B and C quality (see fig.3):

Cashmere-grading-table
Fig. 3 – Cashmere grades and related diameters / average fibre length

Technically not considered cashmere, grade C offers the lowest quality of fibres. Measuring between 19 – 30 microns, they are significantly coarser than grades A and B.

Fast fashion products often fall into this grade, being this the quality predominantly sold in the domestic Chinese market.

Fibres with more than 30 microns as the average diameter must not be present in quantities greater than 3% of the total weight of the yarn.

 

Cashmere Physical Properties

It’s prized worldwide as ‘the diamond of fibres’. The buttery + fluffy texture, combined with costly manufacturing process and scarcity are the main reasons for its exclusive and expensive titles.

But what else can cashmere offer us?

Let’s make a comparison between cashmere and sheep wool performance.

Why? Because they share some magical characteristics that are exclusive only to them. Merino is the most similar of the wools regarding quality attributes, feel and performance.

 Rarity 

Here are some numbers to illustrate how rare cashmere is compared to wool:

  • Global wool production is about 2 million tonnes per year, from which approximately 18,140 tonnes (≅0.91%) is raw cashmere3
  • Only 5 tonnes (≅0.03%) of raw cashmere yearly production is Australian. 
  • 475,000 tonnes correspond to greasy merino wool (24% of the total wool production).
  • On average, a goat produces 150 g of cashmere per year, whereas one merino sheep, depending on the breed can yield from 3 Kg up to 18 Kg of greasy wool.

 Softness 

One of the softest materials available.

 ↑ Generally way softer than sheep wool, but the finest of the merinos does not fall far behind.

 Warmth 

Both provide excellent insulation since their fibres create pockets of partially isolated air.

Cashmere and wool are capable of actively giving off heat while absorbing moisture – “In fact, a kilogram of dry wool placed in a damp environment releases about the same amount of heat as an electric blanket running for eight hours.”4

Cashmere vs. sheep wool:
↑3 times more insulation
↑Grade A cashmere can be up to 8 times warmer

 Moisture absorption 

The interior of the fibre immediately wicks moisture, including perspiration in vapour form.

Cashmere can absorb water much faster, taking only seconds to complete full absorption. In contrast, the same quantity of wool needs minutes in a soaking bath for the same outcome.

Cashmere vs. sheep wool:
↑Better moisture absorbing property
↑More air pockets within the core of the fibre
= Same waterproofing effect

 Water retention  

Cashmere can retain 35% of its weight in water, while still keeping your body warm.

= Same water retention capabilities as sheep wool

 Anti-odour 

Unlikely other fibres, both cashmere and wool are distinguished for their anti-odour feature.

Cashmere is naturally antimicrobial.

Sheep wool is also antibacterial and water repellent due to the lanolin existing in it. This is the reason why merino can’t absorb odours as promptly as cashmere does.

↑ Faster odour absorption than sheep wool

 Anti-allergic 

Sheep wool feels prickly on your skin due to the coarse nature of its fibre.

In addition to that, it contains rests of lanolin which remained after the scouring process.

Lanolin itself may cause allergy or, since it facilitates dust and other impurities to stick on the yarn, it can trigger a skin reaction. When in direct contact with skin, it feels uncomfortable, resulting in itchiness and redness.

Cashmere is distinct from wool when it comes to comfort. One of its highlighted characteristics is the coziness that people feel when wearing high-quality cashmere jumpers against bare skin.

The absence of lanolin (cashmere goats don’t produce this oil) combined with the advanced yarn spinning techniques results in a knitted product which is soft and smooth.

Cashmere vs. sheep’s wool:
↓ Fewer scales on the fibre cuticles
↑ Smoother yarn’s surface
∄ Lanolin-free
↓ Fewer skin discomfort reactions
↓ Fewer allergy reactions

 Durability 

Long lasting, cashmere becomes softer with age, pilling less and less after being worn and washed. It’s mendable and can last for generations.

Depending on the fibre length and number of plies of the yarn, it can offer exceptional resistance to holes.

The durability of both cashmere and sheep’s wool products will depend heavily on the fibre quality and spinning methods

On the other hand, the superwash merino yarn is more felting and shrinking resistant due to the protective coat applied.

= Cashmere is as durable as sheep wool, both handle well dye and can be used on performance activewear. However, if superwash treated, merino is more durable.

 Resilience  

Resilience is the ability to stretch and return to the original position once the applied tension ceases.

Both cashmere and sheep wool are the most resilient among the natural protein fibres, being silk the least.

The higher the quality, the faster is the knitting construction’s elastic memory.

↓ Slightly less resilient than sheep wool

 Breathability 

Both fibres perform well when evaporating moisture while keeping our bodies dry.

Their ability to wick lots of moisture vapour and to dissipate all of it into the air describes the temperature-regulating process.

= Same temperature-regulating capability as sheep wool

 Wrinkle-resistance 

Thinner yarns produce knits that wrinkle more than the ones made of thicker yarns.

Cashmere is lighter than wool, hence more convenient to bring on a trip and for the lack of need for ironing.

Knitwear made of cashmere keep their original shape even after years of use.

↑ Less wrinkly than sheep wool

 Weight  

Cashmere fibres are significantly finer than wool, and the proportionally warmer.

Light cashmere knits offer compact storage, being able to be easily carried around in handbags and backpacks.

Travelling light and warm using little space makes cashmere the best companion for the travellers among us.

↑ Lighter and less bulky than sheep wool

Biodegradable  

Buried in the ground, pure cashmere, like other wools, decomposes within one year, while man-made petroleum-based fibres take up to forty years.

= Cashmere is as much biodegradable as sheep’s wool

You are probably wondering:

What exactly makes this wool such a coveted fibre? What does cashmere even mean and are there any official guidelines on this matter?

Fortunately, you find here answers to these burning questions. Keep reading to learn:

Cashmere Definition

Textile-fibres-classification-diagram
Fig. 1 – Textile Fibres Classification Diagram (Source: Fashionpedia by Fashionary)

Fibres are classified as Natural and Man-made.

While the man-made fibres comprehend the regenerated cellulose from natural polymers (e.g. viscose and bamboo), synthetics (e.g.polyester and acrylic) and inorganics (e.g.ceramics and glass fibres), the natural fibres are organised as Mineral, Cellulose and Protein.

Cashmere belongs to the natural protein fibre group for it grows in Cashmere goats (see fig. 1).

However, the term ‘Cashmere’ can only be commercially used if it fulfils the 3 following criteria, established by the US government1:

1. The fibre consists of the fine (dehaired) undercoat fibres produced by a Cashmere goat (Capra hircus laniger);

Each Cashmere goat grows a double fleece which is made up of thick, coarse guard hairs that overlay a fine down insulating layer of hair.

Cashmere is the general term for fibres and fabrics that are constructed from this thin underlayer of hair2.

While the name was originated from the Kashmir region of North West India, the Capra Hircus goats found in the high plateau regions other than Kashmir, such as Nepal, China and the central plains of Inner Mongolia, are also called cashmere goats.

This area includes part of China’s mythic grasslands, where Genghis Khan rode with his horde over the endless horizon. Temperatures reach 40°C in summer, falling to -40°C in winter.

2. The average diameter of the cashmere fibre does not exceed 19 microns

A micron or micrometre (μm) is equal to one-thousandth of a millimetre (mm):

1 μm = 1/1000 mm

Just like with cotton, the finer and longer the cashmere fibre, the higher is the quality. Top quality cashmere is 14 – 16.5 μm thick which is classed as grade A. They result in softer, more insulating, longer-lasting and less pilling material.

When comparing under a microscope, a single cashmere strand makes a human hair looks like a rope:

Natural-fibres-diameters-in-microns
Fig. 2 – Diameters of Natural fibres in microns

3. The cashmere fibres in the wool product contain no more than 3% (by weight) of cashmere fibres with average diameters that exceed 30 microns

The average fibre diameter may be subject to a coefficient of variation around the mean that shall not exceed 24%. Fibres from a Cashmere goat that do not meet this definition should have a label that identifies them as wool.

Cashmere fibres are graded as A, B and C quality (see fig.3):

Cashmere-grading-table
Fig. 3 – Cashmere grades and related diameters / average fibre length

Technically not considered cashmere, grade C offers the lowest quality of fibres. Measuring between 19 – 30 microns, they are significantly coarser than grades A and B.

Fast fashion products often fall into this grade, being this the quality predominantly sold in the domestic Chinese market.

Fibres with more than 30 microns as the average diameter must not be present in quantities greater than 3% of the total weight of the yarn.

 

Cashmere Physical Properties

It’s prized worldwide as ‘the diamond of fibres’. The buttery + fluffy texture, combined with costly manufacturing process and scarcity are the main reasons for its exclusive and expensive titles.

But what else can cashmere offer us?

Let’s make a comparison between cashmere and sheep wool performance.

Why? Because they share some magical characteristics that are exclusive only to them. Merino is the most similar of the wools regarding quality attributes, feel and performance.

 Rarity 

Here are some numbers to illustrate how rare cashmere is compared to wool:

  • Global wool production is about 2 million tonnes per year, from which approximately 18,140 tonnes (≅0.91%) is raw cashmere3
  • Only 5 tonnes (≅0.03%) of raw cashmere yearly production is Australian. 
  • 475,000 tonnes correspond to greasy merino wool (24% of the total wool production).
  • On average, a goat produces 150 g of cashmere per year, whereas one merino sheep, depending on the breed can yield from 3 Kg up to 18 Kg of greasy wool.

 Softness 

One of the softest materials available.

 ↑ Generally way softer than sheep wool, but the finest of the merinos does not fall far behind.

 Warmth 

Both provide excellent insulation since their fibres create pockets of partially isolated air.

Cashmere and wool are capable of actively giving off heat while absorbing moisture – “In fact, a kilogram of dry wool placed in a damp environment releases about the same amount of heat as an electric blanket running for eight hours.”4

Cashmere vs. sheep wool:
↑3 times more insulation
↑Grade A cashmere can be up to 8 times warmer

 Moisture absorption 

The interior of the fibre immediately wicks moisture, including perspiration in vapour form.

Cashmere can absorb water much faster, taking only seconds to complete full absorption. In contrast, the same quantity of wool needs minutes in a soaking bath for the same outcome.

Cashmere vs. sheep wool:
↑Better moisture absorbing property
↑More air pockets within the core of the fibre
= Same waterproofing effect

 Water retention  

Cashmere can retain 35% of its weight in water, while still keeping your body warm.

= Same water retention capabilities as sheep wool

 Anti-odour 

Unlikely other fibres, both cashmere and wool are distinguished for their anti-odour feature.

Cashmere is naturally antimicrobial.

Sheep wool is also antibacterial and water repellent due to the lanolin existing in it. This is the reason why merino can’t absorb odours as promptly as cashmere does.

↑ Faster odour absorption than sheep wool

 Anti-allergic 

Sheep wool feels prickly on your skin due to the coarse nature of its fibre.

In addition to that, it contains rests of lanolin which remained after the scouring process.

Lanolin itself may cause allergy or, since it facilitates dust and other impurities to stick on the yarn, it can trigger a skin reaction. When in direct contact with skin, it feels uncomfortable, resulting in itchiness and redness.

Cashmere is distinct from wool when it comes to comfort. One of its highlighted characteristics is the coziness that people feel when wearing high-quality cashmere jumpers against bare skin.

The absence of lanolin (cashmere goats don’t produce this oil) combined with the advanced yarn spinning techniques results in a knitted product which is soft and smooth.

Cashmere vs. sheep’s wool:
↓ Fewer scales on the fibre cuticles
↑ Smoother yarn’s surface
∄ Lanolin-free
↓ Fewer skin discomfort reactions
↓ Fewer allergy reactions

 Durability 

Long lasting, cashmere becomes softer with age, pilling less and less after being worn and washed. It’s mendable and can last for generations.

Depending on the fibre length and number of plies of the yarn, it can offer exceptional resistance to holes.

The durability of both cashmere and sheep’s wool products will depend heavily on the fibre quality and spinning methods

On the other hand, the superwash merino yarn is more felting and shrinking resistant due to the protective coat applied.

= Cashmere is as durable as sheep wool, both handle well dye and can be used on performance activewear. However, if superwash treated, merino is more durable.

 Resilience  

Resilience is the ability to stretch and return to the original position once the applied tension ceases.

Both cashmere and sheep wool are the most resilient among the natural protein fibres, being silk the least.

The higher the quality, the faster is the knitting construction’s elastic memory.

↓ Slightly less resilient than sheep wool

 Breathability 

Both fibres perform well when evaporating moisture while keeping our bodies dry.

Their ability to wick lots of moisture vapour and to dissipate all of it into the air describes the temperature-regulating process.

= Same temperature-regulating capability as sheep wool

 Wrinkle-resistance 

Thinner yarns produce knits that wrinkle more than the ones made of thicker yarns.

Cashmere is lighter than wool, hence more convenient to bring on a trip and for the lack of need for ironing.

Knitwear made of cashmere keep their original shape even after years of use.

↑ Less wrinkly than sheep wool

 Weight  

Cashmere fibres are significantly finer than wool, and the proportionally warmer.

Light cashmere knits offer compact storage, being able to be easily carried around in handbags and backpacks.

Travelling light and warm using little space makes cashmere the best companion for the travellers among us.

↑ Lighter and less bulky than sheep wool

Biodegradable  

Buried in the ground, pure cashmere, like other wools, decomposes within one year, while man-made petroleum-based fibres take up to forty years.

= Cashmere is as much biodegradable as sheep’s wool

Key Takeaways

MERINO WOOL

While the lanolin wax found in sheep wool can be the culprit for itchy skin, it does offer the advantage of improved resilience over cashmere.

Regarding the perceived superior durability of the superfine merino wool, the main player is the ‘Superwash wool’.

Although cashmere and merino can perform similarly if displaying same physical specifications and spinning method, the superwash treatment gives merino a competitive edge.

Superwash is the chemical treatment designed to allow the convenience of machine washing without the felting and shrinking undesirable effects.

Currently in high demand due to the activewear and outdoor purposes, it has become a standard step of the mainstream yarn process. Merino wool used in superwash goes from New Zealand and Australia to China for processing prior to spinning.

The superwash process consists in applying chlorine gas onto the wool fibres to partially destroy the edges of the scales, in order to achieve a smooth fibre. The next step is to coat them in the Hercosett 125 polymer (see Fig. 4) to give a soft feel. Finally, a silicone softener is then applied5.

Fig. 4 – Longitudinal section of a wool fibre before and after being exposed to gas chlorine followed by Hercosett 125 (source: Dr Rex Brady, Deakin University, Functional Finishes, Contemporary wool dyeing and finishing, pg.19)

The compounds used in Superwash processes are harmful and persistent in the environment. They are toxic to animals and humans. As a result, it is not accepted by water treatment facilities in developed countries. All chlorinated wool is processed in other countries, then imported. Besides, it tends to decrease the resilience characteristic inherent to wool.

CASHMERE

Cashmere-goat-silhouette

  • It’s not superwash treated.
  • Lighter, it offers 3 times more insulation and up to 8 times warmer sensation to the user.
  • Breathes better than merino wool.
  • Has stronger thinner and longer fibres which pill less.
  • Feels significantly softer than sheep wool without the scratchy texture.  
  • Drapes beautifully, delivering a sophisticated look on dressier occasions.
  • Contributes to keeping alive the exotic manual skills and traditional rural lifestyle connected to the harvesting activities of the fibre.

You are probably wondering:

What exactly makes this wool such a coveted fibre? What does cashmere even mean and are there any official guidelines on this matter?

Fortunately, you find here answers to these burning questions. Keep reading to learn:

Cashmere Definition

Textile-fibres-classification-diagram
Fig. 1 – Textile Fibres Classification Diagram (Source: Fashionpedia by Fashionary)

Fibres are classified as Natural and Man-made.

While the man-made fibres comprehend the regenerated cellulose from natural polymers (e.g. viscose and bamboo), synthetics (e.g.polyester and acrylic) and inorganics (e.g.ceramics and glass fibres), the natural fibres are organised as Mineral, Cellulose and Protein.

Cashmere belongs to the natural protein fibre group for it grows in Cashmere goats (see fig. 1).

However, the term ‘Cashmere’ can only be commercially used if it fulfils the 3 following criteria, established by the US government1:

1. The fibre consists of the fine (dehaired) undercoat fibres produced by a Cashmere goat (Capra hircus laniger);

Each Cashmere goat grows a double fleece which is made up of thick, coarse guard hairs that overlay a fine down insulating layer of hair.

Cashmere is the general term for fibres and fabrics that are constructed from this thin underlayer of hair2.

While the name was originated from the Kashmir region of North West India, the Capra Hircus goats found in the high plateau regions other than Kashmir, such as Nepal, China and the central plains of Inner Mongolia, are also called cashmere goats.

This area includes part of China’s mythic grasslands, where Genghis Khan rode with his horde over the endless horizon. Temperatures reach 40°C in summer, falling to -40°C in winter.

2. The average diameter of the cashmere fibre does not exceed 19 microns

A micron or micrometre (μm) is equal to one-thousandth of a millimetre (mm):

1 μm = 1/1000 mm

Just like with cotton, the finer and longer the cashmere fibre, the higher is the quality. Top quality cashmere is 14 – 16.5 μm thick which is classed as grade A. They result in softer, more insulating, longer-lasting and less pilling material.

When comparing under a microscope, a single cashmere strand makes a human hair looks like a rope:

Natural-fibres-diameters-in-microns
Fig. 2 – Diameters of Natural fibres in microns

3. The cashmere fibres in the wool product contain no more than 3% (by weight) of cashmere fibres with average diameters that exceed 30 microns

The average fibre diameter may be subject to a coefficient of variation around the mean that shall not exceed 24%. Fibres from a Cashmere goat that do not meet this definition should have a label that identifies them as wool.

Cashmere fibres are graded as A, B and C quality (see fig.3):

Cashmere-grading-table
Fig. 3 – Cashmere grades and related diameters / average fibre length

Technically not considered cashmere, grade C offers the lowest quality of fibres. Measuring between 19 – 30 microns, they are significantly coarser than grades A and B.

Fast fashion products often fall into this grade, being this the quality predominantly sold in the domestic Chinese market.

Fibres with more than 30 microns as the average diameter must not be present in quantities greater than 3% of the total weight of the yarn.

Cashmere Physical Properties

It’s prized worldwide as ‘the diamond of fibres’. The buttery + fluffy texture, combined with costly manufacturing process and scarcity are the main reasons for its exclusive and expensive titles.

But what else can cashmere offer us?

Let’s make a comparison between cashmere and sheep wool performance.

Why? Because they share some magical characteristics that are exclusive only to them. Merino is the most similar of the wools regarding quality attributes, feel and performance.

 Rarity 

Here are some numbers to illustrate how rare cashmere is compared to wool:

  • Global wool production is about 2 million tonnes per year, from which approximately 18,140 tonnes (≅0.91%) is raw cashmere3
  • Only 5 tonnes (≅0.03%) of raw cashmere yearly production is Australian. 
  • 475,000 tonnes correspond to greasy merino wool (24% of the total wool production).
  • On average, a goat produces 150 g of cashmere per year, whereas one merino sheep, depending on the breed can yield from 3 Kg up to 18 Kg of greasy wool.

 Softness 

One of the softest materials available.

 ↑ Generally way softer than sheep wool, but the finest of the merinos does not fall far behind.

 Warmth 

Both provide excellent insulation since their fibres create pockets of partially isolated air.

Cashmere and wool are capable of actively giving off heat while absorbing moisture – “In fact, a kilogram of dry wool placed in a damp environment releases about the same amount of heat as an electric blanket running for eight hours.”4

Cashmere vs. sheep wool:
↑3 times more insulation
↑Grade A cashmere can be up to 8 times warmer

 Moisture absorption 

The interior of the fibre immediately wicks moisture, including perspiration in vapour form.

Cashmere can absorb water much faster, taking only seconds to complete full absorption. In contrast, the same quantity of wool needs minutes in a soaking bath for the same outcome.

Cashmere vs. sheep wool:
↑Better moisture absorbing property
↑More air pockets within the core of the fibre
= Same waterproofing effect

 Water retention  

Cashmere can retain 35% of its weight in water, while still keeping your body warm.

= Same water retention capabilities as sheep wool

 Anti-odour 

Unlikely other fibres, both cashmere and wool are distinguished for their anti-odour feature.

Cashmere is naturally antimicrobial.

Sheep wool is also antibacterial and water repellent due to the lanolin existing in it. This is the reason why merino can’t absorb odours as promptly as cashmere does.

↑ Faster odour absorption than sheep wool

 Anti-allergic 

Sheep wool feels prickly on your skin due to the coarse nature of its fibre.

In addition to that, it contains rests of lanolin which remained after the scouring process.

Lanolin itself may cause allergy or, since it facilitates dust and other impurities to stick on the yarn, it can trigger a skin reaction. When in direct contact with skin, it feels uncomfortable, resulting in itchiness and redness.

Cashmere is distinct from wool when it comes to comfort. One of its highlighted characteristics is the coziness that people feel when wearing high-quality cashmere jumpers against bare skin.

The absence of lanolin (cashmere goats don’t produce this oil) combined with the advanced yarn spinning techniques results in a knitted product which is soft and smooth.

Cashmere vs. sheep’s wool:
↓ Fewer scales on the fibre cuticles
↑ Smoother yarn’s surface
∄ Lanolin-free
↓ Fewer skin discomfort reactions
↓ Fewer allergy reactions

 Durability 

Long lasting, cashmere becomes softer with age, pilling less and less after being worn and washed. It’s mendable and can last for generations.

Depending on the fibre length and number of plies of the yarn, it can offer exceptional resistance to holes.

The durability of both cashmere and sheep’s wool products will depend heavily on the fibre quality and spinning methods

On the other hand, the superwash merino yarn is more felting and shrinking resistant due to the protective coat applied.

= Cashmere is as durable as sheep wool, both handle well dye and can be used on performance activewear. However, if superwash treated, merino is more durable.

 Resilience  

Resilience is the ability to stretch and return to the original position once the applied tension ceases.

Both cashmere and sheep wool are the most resilient among the natural protein fibres, being silk the least.

The higher the quality, the faster is the knitting construction’s elastic memory.

↓ Slightly less resilient than sheep wool

 Breathability 

Both fibres perform well when evaporating moisture while keeping our bodies dry.

Their ability to wick lots of moisture vapour and to dissipate all of it into the air describes the temperature-regulating process.

= Same temperature-regulating capability as sheep wool

 Wrinkle-resistance 

Thinner yarns produce knits that wrinkle more than the ones made of thicker yarns.

Cashmere is lighter than wool, hence more convenient to bring on a trip and for the lack of need for ironing.

Knitwear made of cashmere keep their original shape even after years of use.

↑ Less wrinkly than sheep wool

 Weight  

Cashmere fibres are significantly finer than wool, and the proportionally warmer.

Light cashmere knits offer compact storage, being able to be easily carried around in handbags and backpacks.

Travelling light and warm using little space makes cashmere the best companion for the travellers among us.

↑ Lighter and less bulky than sheep wool

Biodegradable  

Buried in the ground, pure cashmere, like other wools, decomposes within one year, while man-made petroleum-based fibres take up to forty years.

= Cashmere is as much biodegradable as sheep’s wool

Key Takeaways

MERINO WOOL

While the lanolin wax found in sheep wool can be the culprit for itchy skin, it does offer the advantage of improved resilience over cashmere.

Regarding the perceived superior durability of the superfine merino wool, the main player is the ‘Superwash wool’.

Although cashmere and merino can perform similarly if displaying same physical specifications and spinning method, the superwash treatment gives merino a competitive edge.

Superwash is the chemical treatment designed to allow the convenience of machine washing without the felting and shrinking undesirable effects.

Currently in high demand due to the activewear and outdoor purposes, it has become a standard step of the mainstream yarn process. Merino wool used in superwash goes from New Zealand and Australia to China for processing prior to spinning.

The superwash process consists in applying chlorine gas onto the wool fibres to partially destroy the edges of the scales, in order to achieve a smooth fibre. The next step is to coat them in the Hercosett 125 polymer (see Fig. 4) to give a soft feel. Finally, a silicone softener is then applied5.

Fig. 4 – Longitudinal section of a wool fibre before and after being exposed to gas chlorine followed by Hercosett 125 (source: Dr Rex Brady, Deakin University, Functional Finishes, Contemporary wool dyeing and finishing, pg.19)

The compounds used in Superwash processes are harmful and persistent in the environment. They are toxic to animals and humans. As a result, it is not accepted by water treatment facilities in developed countries. All chlorinated wool is processed in other countries, then imported. Besides, it tends to decrease the resilience characteristic inherent to wool.

CASHMERE

Cashmere-goat-silhouette

  • It’s not superwash treated.
  • Lighter, it offers 3 times more insulation and up to 8 times warmer sensation to the user.
  • Breathes better than merino wool.
  • Has stronger thinner and longer fibres which pill less.
  • Feels significantly softer than sheep wool without the scratchy texture.
  • Drapes beautifully, delivering a sophisticated look on dressier occasions.
  • Contributes to keeping alive the exotic manual skills and traditional rural lifestyle connected to the harvesting activities of the fibre.

References

  1. USA Federal Trade Commission, Wool Products Labelling Act
  2. FAOSTAT. 2009, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, ‘PART 1: Wool and cashmere’, pg. 29
  3. Cashmere wool, Wikipedia
  4. Dr Geoff Naylor CSIRO Textile and Fibre Technology, Wool: the technical fibre
  5. Dr Rex Brady, Deakin University, Functional Finishes, Contemporary wool dyeing and finishing, pg.19

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