"Goats By Breed - Cashmere"

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Photo courtesy of CashMirror Magazine, © 2000

Photo courtesy of CashMirror Magazine, © 2000

Photo courtesy of CashMirror Magazine, © 2000

Photo courtesy of CashMirror Magazine, © 2000

The name "cashmere" comes from Kashmir, the wild and mountainous area of India and Pakistan. Actually, the fiber came from Tibet and was woven in Kashmir. We know that in 15th Century India, more than 50,000 people were employed in the processing of cashmere.

Cashmere's use as a luxury fiber can be dated as far back as Roman times. More recently, it was popularized by the Empress Eugenie, wife of Napoleon III, who had the fiber woven in France into her famous "ring shawl" - so called because it could be drawn through her wedding ring.

Late in the 19th Century, a Scottish manufacturer, Joseph Dawson, developed the first mechanical method of separating the fine down fibers in the goat's fleece from the coarser outer hairs. This breakthrough shifted the cashmere manufacturing to Scotland and the modern era of fine cashmere knitwear began. Recently this business has shifted back to China, the origin of the fiber. Importing the latest technology and quality control from Japan, China has become the major source of high quality cashmere knitwear.

The best cashmere garments are, to a great extent, made by hand. This starts with the combing of the goats. Each goat is combed by hand in the spring when they are shedding the fine underdown that protected them during the winter. These fleeces are then washed and dehaired, dyed and spun mechanically. The hand work returns in the knitting.

Each knitting frame is operated by hand. The knitter pays careful attention to the specifications of the garment being knitted. Critical factors like yarn tension and garment shape are monitored continuously.

The finished garments are then individually inspected to insure perfection. All this hand work is what separates a Chinese made garment from garments from other sources where the labor is too expensive to allow for this kind of individual attention.

The finest cashmere comes from the high desert plateaus surrounding the Gobi desert. The yarn is so fine that it takes 4 miles of it to make 1 sweater.

See also American Cashmere

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