About the Materials: Cashmere
Posted by Tha Lanam Shop on Mar 10th 2020
About the Materials: Cashmere
The Lanam Shop is truly fortunate to have a dedicated and informed customer base. Over time, customers have asked questions, shared knowledge and experiences, and helped shape our seasonal collections with their feedback. We have found that the more we can share with our customers about the exceptional materials, diligent crafting process, and pertinent characteristics of all our garments, a natural distinction between our products and others emerges. Moreover, we wish to share this knowledge with those merely interested in the materials and time-honored techniques used to bring to life our garments. We want to dedicate some time to our men’s and women’s cashmere collections.
What is Cashmere?
Cashmere is one of the most sought-after materials in the world, with good reason. Remarkably warm, with a divine hand-feel, cashmere is one of the finest natural wool fibers. Cashmere is collected from goats living in the Gobi Desert, which stretches across northern China and Mongolia. While there is no such thing as a “Cashmere goat”, Kashmir goats do exist. There is a bit of confusion regarding what a Kashmir goat actually is though. Within the Mongolian region of the Gobi Desert, natives refer to goats living there as being “Kashmir goats”, borrowing the name “Kashmir” from the Kashmir region of the Himalayan Mountains. In fact, Kashmir Goats can be one of a few common varieties believed to be originally from Kashmir: they include the Changthangi goat, Pashmina goat, Pygora goat, Nigora goat, and Angora goat (the last produces Kid Mohair. “Angora” comes from rabbits). The term Kashmir goat (within the context of the wool industry) refers to a Changthangi or Pashmina goat.
Kashmir goats (Changthangi or Pashmina) have, over time, been bred to produce white hairs, as they are more desirable to wool merchants. Like most wool-producing animals, their coat consists of two main layers, the outer guard coat and the inner fleece coat. The outer layer is very coarse and acts as a barrier preventing wind, precipitation, and freezing temperatures from penetrating the inner, insulating layer. As always, shearing the goats will result in both the layers being indiscriminately removed, jumbling them and requiring extra work to separate them. Given how delicate the raw fibers are, this sorting process would ruin the fibers completely.
Luckily, generations ago, the people of this region realized that by gently brushing the Kashmir goats, they were able to remove the delicate undercoat, while leaving the coarse overcoat intact. The hair follicles of the outer coat are so strong, the fiber is firmly root and neither gentile nor hard brushing will remove it. For the sake of the animal and the quality of the removed fiber, this is delicate and time-consuming work.
Where is Cashmere from?
All good quality cashmere fibers come from white/almost-white Changthangi or Pashmina goats. Most of the goats in this region have been selectively bred to have near pure white coats. The white color is highly desired as dyes can not only bind better to less pigmented fibers, but also because a truer color is produced; much like an artist painting on a white canvas.
Living conditions in the Gobi desert can be rough. Temperatures can swing 80 degrees Fahrenheit during the course of the day. Most goats live free among the rocky, hilly, and desolate terrain of the region. Open plains abound at the lower elevations but Kashmir goats have the propensity to climb; perhaps one of the remaining vestiges from their time living in the Kashmir region of the Himalayas.
How does Cashmere differ from “similar” materials?
The cashmere fibers collected from Kashmir goats (Changthangi or Pashmina) differs from the other goats it is confused with (Pygora goat, Nigora goat, and Angora goat) mainly by its softness, as a function of nanometer diameter of the fibers collected from the inner hair. With the Pygora goat, Nigora goat, and Angora goat can go fibers as fine as the Kashmir goat, their coat layers are not always as distinct and even the most diligent efforts to remove their fibers can be met with lackadaisical results.
Kashmir Goats do better when they are allowed to live freely. While they can respond well to life on a farm (great inroads have been made in Kashmir goat ranching in Australia recently) it just is not the same. The fibers are not as white, not as fine, and slightly dull. Tradition and time-honed practices always win. We only work with fibers collected by gently brushing wild Kashmir goats, living in the mid-altitude regions of the Mongolian stretch of the Gobi Desert.
What is the refining process for Cashmere?
In order to maintain the delicate balance of fine cashmere, the raw fibers are transformed into dyed yarns carefully, with each step intentionally and expertly carried out. The raw fiber is almost perfectly sorted, as a result of brushing but a few guard hairs might make it through the brushing process; they are removed by hand sorting and grading the raw fibers. Once the fibers are prepared, they are shipped to England for refinement.
In England, they are lightly sorted and carded. Next, the fibers are dyed. The pure white hairs will take dye beautifully. Many of our white cashmere shades are undyed and the different colors are the result of natural fiber colors being hand-sorted and graded into different, distinct shades. Once dyed, different dye lots of the same color are mixed in a hopper. This machine mixes the slightly different hues of the same shade into a near cohesive mix. Our shades of lapis and green lovat capitalize on this process, creating a remarkable, not quite heathered effect.
The fibers are finally sent to the wool spinner, where they are transformed into yarn. We use tightly wound yarns to ensure our products will last for years to come. Our cashmere spinner has been working with wool longer than America has been a country and they are simply the very best. Once the yarn has been produced, it is shipped to Scotland to be knitted on antique knitting machines. Individual panels and pieces of the sweater are made. They are hand-blocked, hand-framed, hand-joined, and hand-finished… that is a lot of “hand-work”!
What styles are available in Cashmere?
The better question might be, what is not available in cashmere…? We offer over a dozen styles for men and women with nearly four dozen yarn colors to select from. We have the most comprehensive selection of styles and colors. All crafted to our extremely high stands in Scotland, from English-spun Mongolian Kashmir yarns.
Top Five Best-Sellers for Men:
- V-neck (two-ply cashmere)
- Cardigan (one-ply cashmere)
- Polo (one-ply cashmere)
- Shawl Cardigan (four-ply cashmere) and Cable Knit (four-ply cashmere) are tied
- Turtleneck (one-ply cashmere)
Top Five Best-Sellers for Women:
- Crew Neck Cardigan (one-ply cashmere)
- Crew Neck Shell (one-ply cashmere)
- Cable Double Zip High Neck Jacket also available in a plain version Double Zip High Neck Jacket
- V-Neck (one-ply cashmere)
- Turtleneck (one-ply cashmere)
Please Note: We now compiled a special section on our new website for our famous build-your-own & mix-and-match sweater set.
We also offer a selection of cashmere styles for men and women from Johnstons of Elgin.
What are the advantages of wearing Cashmere?
Warmth. Softness. Lifetime of style and use. We think that nicely sums up cashmere but should you need further convincing, we encourage you to buy one of our pieces and try it for yourself (or ask for it as a gift). Ours puts the others the shame. Enduring value and understated elegance are the two values that guide our cashmere buyer. Never compromising, nor succumbing to modern “innovations” some of our styles have remained exactly the same for over 100 years… that’s consistency worth preserving.
Want to drop a hint to a loved one? You can create your own wish list of items and share it with someone of your choosing - styles, colors, and sizes. Or, you can post it to social media, send an email to a friend, or print the page. The previously mentioned task can be done from any product page but clicking on the corresponding button, located under the “add to cart” button.
Our cashmere gifts come beautifully boxed in study packaging made in New England. Wonderful to give and exciting to get, cashmere from The Lanam Shop will never be beat. Shop men’s and women’s now!
How is The Lanam Shop's Cashmere collection unique?
Not only do we have the size and color you need, each and every piece is crafted to the highest possible stands, ensuring you will be enveloped in warmth for many seasons to come. Should you need a size larger than a 50” chest for men, please contact customer service and will gladly special order that for you (dependent on season and yarn availability).
Index of Terms:
Carding: a mechanical process that detangles wool, allowing it to be arranged in a single direction. This is helpful when the wool is spun.
Combing/Brushing: the delicate and time-consuming process by which cashmere fiber is removed from the coat. Long, specialized brushes and combs are used to remove the fiber.
Cashmere: fleece fiber collected from the soft, warm undercoat of the Kashmir goat.
Dye Lot: all the fiber from a specific dying. All of the fibers are exposed to a dye compound at a given time. Fibers exposed to the same compound but at different times are considered a different dye lot. Each lot, though close, produces slight color variations. These are normal, expected, and unavoidable.
Gobi Desert: a large desert spanning multiple countries including China and Mongolia. The desert is largely undeveloped and considered to be among the most pristine land on Earth. Temperatures can vacillate wildly throughout the course of a day. It is home to cashmere producing goats.
Guard Hair: the thick outer layer of wool fiber. It acts as a waterproofing layer and protects the soft inner layer. Guard hair or the “outer coat” is not suitable for the crafting of quality sweaters.
Kashmir: a region in the Himalayas where “Kashmir goats” are believed to have originated from.
Kashmir goat: in the context of the wool industry a Kashmir goat refers to the Changthangi or Pashmina goat but can also colloquially include the Pygora goat, Nigora goat, and Angora goat.
Spinner: someone who transformers finished fibers into yarn. This can be achieved mechanically.
The Lanam Shop
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