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How can you determine "quality" cashmere?

masqueofhastur

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Up to one pound of fiber per goat, with the average 4 to 6 ounces of underdown.
I got this from cashmere.org - is the 4 to 6 ounces of underdown the longer fibers that horton was talking about?
 

Drinkwaters

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As mentioned, better quality cashmere does indeed come from a particular section of the goat. Because the underside of the neck and front section of the chest never experience the harsh elements, this is the zone from which the best fibers are combed. Also, another aspect to consider is the petigree. All animals are not created equal. Like Merinos, quality is dependent on certain environmental factors such as weather, grazing conditions, food etc.
Also, something to consider is the dye that is used to create color. There are no lavender goats or sheep. If you were to feel the hand of the same sweater lets say but in different colors you would experience a difference in texture from one color to the next. The dyes do this! Hope this helps out those who are getting the cashmere frenzie.

Best Regards,

Gary
 

Tck13

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Much of what has been said about cashmere is true. Just wanted to add a bit.

Cashmere does come from the cashmere goat - named from Kashmir in India. The goats also live in the Himalayas, Tibet, Afghanistan, Iran, Mongolia, and China. The best quality cashmere comes from China and Mongolia.

The higher altitude at which the goat lives, the finer and softer the fleece will be. Each goat produces about 4 ozs of fleece per year. The best cashmere is finer than the highest quality merino wool, but it will crease and get abrasions more easily. Cashmere is not as durable as wool but it is warmer. In addition, it doesn't itch as much as wool when worn.

Cashmere is sometimes mixed with wool to make it more durable.

In my opinion, cheap cashmere is probably just that, cheap.


(some info from "All About Wool" by Julie Parker - it was a fabric reference for me in college)
 

FrankDC

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Originally Posted by drink8648
As mentioned, better quality cashmere does indeed come from a particular section of the goat. Because the underside of the neck and front section of the chest never experience the harsh elements, this is the zone from which the best fibers are combed.
Actually Gary, that's a myth, popularized by marketeers at companies like Lands End who can't think of any other way to sell average grade cashmere sweaters.

The finest cashmere comes from goats exposed to the coldest elements, and the micron measurement for fibers on a given goat are the same all over its body. I'm a commercial buyer and seller of raw cashmere and finished cashmere garments for 20+ years now and know this is the case.

Originally Posted by drink8648
Also, another aspect to consider is the petigree. All animals are not created equal. Like Merinos, quality is dependent on certain environmental factors such as weather, grazing conditions, food etc.
What separates great cashmere from good or average can be ordered into just three categories:

1. The goats who produced it. The absolute finest cashmere, with a fiber width of <11 microns is known as "super white" and comes from Alashan goats in Inner West Mongolia. This stuff represents well under 1% of the annual production from Mongolia, and most of it each spring goes to only a few companies (Loro Piana alone gets roughly half of it every year). In addition, the best of this Alashan is still gathered by hand from wild goats (results in longer fiber lengths), while the rest is shorn by razor or automated shearing machines, which results in much shorter fiber lengths and greatly reduced durability (much more prone to shedding and pilling).

2. How it's processed. Some companies spend more time dehairing, carding etc than others. Simply put, if you leave a lot of guard hairs in the raw cashmere, it's going to wind up as scratchy clothing, regardless of how fine the cashmere is. Also, as you mentioned, the dye used for a particular color does (or at least can) effect quality.

3. How it's knitted or woven. Ply doesn't matter nearly as much as many people might think, e.g. for feel and hand I actually prefer single-ply sweaters, and have dozens of them that look just as good now as they did 10+ years ago. It's all about fiber quality, not thickness.
 

Spudbunny

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Originally Posted by FrankDC
A
What separates great cashmere from good or average can be ordered into just three categories:


Nice post, FrankDC. Very helpful.

Is it fair to say that there is a direct correlation between retail price and quality of the cashmere in a garment? Everything that separates great cashmere from everything else seems to involve scarce factors of production, hence, a higher end price. Or are there bargains to be had, perhaps not in the great category but getting toward that?
 

horton

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Great post Frank.

One other thought on cashmere to consider. I've known people who have bought or received really nice cashmere garments (e.g., Loro) and then never wear them because they fear wearing it into the ground etc. Please don't do this. The best way to get value out of a garment is to wear it (and maintain it) and not by keeping it in a closest.


Frank

any words of wisdom to offer for maintaining cashmere sweaters? Just a good shake after wearing, a light brushing with a cashmere brush, or something else? WHat about cleaning and storge (over Summer)?

Thanks
 

FrankDC

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Originally Posted by Spudbunny
Nice post, FrankDC. Very helpful.

Is it fair to say that there is a direct correlation between retail price and quality of the cashmere in a garment? Everything that separates great cashmere from everything else seems to involve scarce factors of production, hence, a higher end price. Or are there bargains to be had, perhaps not in the great category but getting toward that?

In the case of cashmere, the correlation between price and quality does exist but is general. The list of exceptions, qualifiers etc is very long.

E.g. the demand/supply ratio for sub-12 micron cashmere fiber is ridiculously large every year, so manufacturers make limited runs with what they have, and fill most of their orders with more readily available fiber. It may be 12-14 micron, and/or razor shorn etc. This is where consumers usually get what they pay for. Higher-end manufacturers take the extra steps to make sure fiber is of adequate length to avoid durability problems, to properly process their fiber etc while lesser companies simply don't care (or care as much) about quality.

Another issue is that cashmere, like other agricultural products varies widely in both quantity and quality from year to year and region to region. During a good year you may find a $100 Gobi sweater of incredible fiber quality, and the next year you may pay $400 for a Zegna sweater of completely average fiber quality.

Corporate mobility is another variable. If you keep a chart of who owns what company, who's running what company etc, the chart will change nearly every week. And every new management team has their own ideas about what constitutes quality and value.
 

FrankDC

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Originally Posted by horton
any words of wisdom to offer for maintaining cashmere sweaters? Just a good shake after wearing, a light brushing with a cashmere brush, or something else? WHat about cleaning and storge (over Summer)?

Thanks

Just a few basic tips, which you probably know already:

Hand wash knits. In most cases, and except for woven garments it's preferable to dry cleaning.

When hand washing cashmere, unless it's stained or heavily soiled, less is always better. Less water, less soap and less agitation. When finished, instead of squeezing excess water out of your sweaters, you can save wear (and lots of drying time) by briefly spinning them in a washing machine's spin cycle before laying them out to dry. Use the machine's delicate spin cycle if it has one. Do not tumble dry and avoid all sources of direct heat.

As for storage, as long as you keep your sweaters clean and out of reach of moths, store them wherever you want. Personally I hate the smell of mothballs but it doesn't seem to bother other people.
 

Drinkwaters

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Originally Posted by FrankDC
Actually Gary, that's a myth, popularized by marketeers at companies like Lands End who can't think of any other way to sell average grade cashmere sweaters.

The finest cashmere comes from goats exposed to the coldest elements, and the micron measurement for fibers on a given goat are the same all over its body. I'm a commercial buyer and seller of raw cashmere and finished cashmere garments for 20+ years now and know this is the case.

What separates great cashmere from good or average can be ordered into just three categories:

1. The goats who produced it. The absolute finest cashmere, with a fiber width of <11 microns is known as "super white" and comes from Alashan goats in Inner West Mongolia. This stuff represents well under 1% of the annual production from Mongolia, and most of it each spring goes to only a few companies (Loro Piana alone gets roughly half of it every year). In addition, the best of this Alashan is still gathered by hand from wild goats (results in longer fiber lengths), while the rest is shorn by razor or automated shearing machines, which results in much shorter fiber lengths and greatly reduced durability (much more prone to shedding and pilling).

2. How it's processed. Some companies spend more time dehairing, carding etc than others. Simply put, if you leave a lot of guard hairs in the raw cashmere, it's going to wind up as scratchy clothing, regardless of how fine the cashmere is. Also, as you mentioned, the dye used for a particular color does (or at least can) effect quality.

3. How it's knitted or woven. Ply doesn't matter nearly as much as many people might think, e.g. for feel and hand I actually prefer single-ply sweaters, and have dozens of them that look just as good now as they did 10+ years ago. It's all about fiber quality, not thickness.



Frank,

You da man! Thanks, I stand to be corrected. As a retailer, this type of correct information is always helpful in explaining to our customers valid criteria in the production of fine apparel. Happy Holidays!

Best Regards,

Gary
 

Drinkwaters

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Originally Posted by FrankDC
Just a few basic tips, which you probably know already:

Hand wash knits. In most cases, and except for woven garments it's preferable to dry cleaning.

When hand washing cashmere, unless it's stained or heavily soiled, less is always better. Less water, less soap and less agitation. When finished, instead of squeezing excess water out of your sweaters, you can save wear (and lots of drying time) by briefly spinning them in a washing machine's spin cycle before laying them out to dry. Use the machine's delicate spin cycle if it has one. Do not tumble dry and avoid all sources of direct heat.

As for storage, as long as you keep your sweaters clean and out of reach of moths, store them wherever you want. Personally I hate the smell of mothballs but it doesn't seem to bother other people.


Frank,

We tend to do sweater cleaning in batches as needed. After turning them inside out, we use a large net bag that has a draw string closure but a pillow case will do, sealing the end with a twisty. We always use a cap full of Johnsons and Johnsons baby shampoo and wash on the delicate cycle of our washing machine. We never use Woolite. Once the spin cycle is complete, we lay the sweaters on towels, flipping them over after a day of drying on one side.

Gary
 

GQgeek

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That's an interesting method, drink. I'm assuming the net bag prevents them from getting all twisted in the machine?
 

Tomasso

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Originally Posted by Frank DC
3. How it's knitted or woven. Ply doesn't matter nearly as much as many people might think, e.g. for feel and hand I actually prefer single-ply sweaters, and have dozens of them that look just as good now as they did 10+ years ago. It's all about fiber quality, not thickness.
I've been told, by a Scottish textile manufacture, that single-ply is no longer a dirty word in cashmere. I met the man, who is also a distiller, over a whiskey drenched dinner so I don't recall the details but it had something to do with a new (earl 1990's) process. Any info?
 

FrankDC

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It never was a dirty word, until the glut of poor quality cashmere which started a decade or so ago gave it a bad reputation.
 

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