THE ALAN PAINE BLOG
WHAT IS CASHMERE? EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW
Wool of the Gods or Fibre of the Kings, cashmere is one of the finest and softest animal fibres known to man. It is one of the world's most prized commodities and used to create luxury garments that are super-soft, warm and lightweight.
We use only the finest cashmere in the creation of our men's cashmere jumpers & men's cashmere scarves combining evolutionary style with luxurious comfort and touch. Here's everything you need to know about Alan Paine cashmere.
HOW ALAN PAINE CASHMERE IS MADE
WHERE DOES CASHMERE COME FROM?
Our cashmere is farmed by peasant farmers living in the remotest areas, a skill handed down from parent to child. Cashmere is the downy fibre of the cashmere goat and the finest comes from those animals living on the steppes of Mongolia and China. The ideal altitude being 7 to 10 thousand feet above sea level, where the night-time temperatures plummet to -40Cº. Their diet, which is crucial to maintain the purest hair, is limited to that of pure shrubs and bushes which enables the goat to retain its finest downy coat for warmth.
The cashmere herdsmen are split into local provinces or IMACS and each IMAC is then sub-divided into smaller local areas known as SUMS. The cashmere goats are crucial to their existence, so they are treated as part of the family, as the farming of the cashmere does not harm the animal in any way, and the herdsmen appreciate their value.
The skill of the herdsmen is crucial to the collection of the fine fibre as each animal is held and the hair teased from the goat by using a special comb. The fleece consists of the very fine crimpy down and the usually longer outside coarse straight guard hairs.
The longest finest down is used in knitted garments and the shorter down in woven fabrics. The separated guard hair will eventually be used in the production of rugs or hair canvas for tailored garments.
Each animal only produces 4 ounces of hair per year and when you consider that only 50% of this will eventually be selected for our production, the calculation can be made that it takes the hair from 4 cashmere goats to produce just one sweater.
The hair is then put into canvas sacks for transportation to the local sorting depots, some 5 days pony ride away. On arrival in the sorting depots the herdsmen sell the fibre to local merchants. The hair will then again be sorted and scoured, the remaining coarse hairs are separated and the fibre is washed to remove the dirt, grease and any vegetable matter gathered in the collection process.
The scoured material is then de-haired. This process removes the outer guard hair to leave only the fine downy fibre. At the end of this process the fibre is ready to be spun into yarn for knitting.
Cashmere comes in 3 natural colours; white being the purest and most rare, grey and tan. All of these are of top quality but come from different goats. The next stage is the dyeing and spinning to turn the raw material into yarn that can eventually be used for knitting.
HOW FINE IS CASHMERE?
There are different grades of cashmere which reflect its quality; namely grades A, B and C. Cashmere fibres should not exceed 19 microns (a measure of fibre diameter) with fibres from Grade A quality cashmere measuring 14 microns in diameter (as a guide, a human hair has a diameter of around 50 microns).
Cashmere has a similar resilience to sheep’s wool but its fine fibres generally make it more delicate than wool.
IS CASHMERE ITCHY?
Cashmere is known for its beautifully soft handle. If the cashmere fibre is processed correctly, it should not feel itchy against the skin.
The tiny scales that make up the surface of the fibre are smoother and fewer than those on sheep’s wool resulting in a soft, almost silky texture. However, cashmere is a natural yarn and it may cause irritation for people with severe skin allergies.
IS CASHMERE WARM?
Cashmere provides feather-light warmth without the bulk. It’s eight times warmer than sheep wool and lighter in weight. Cashmere is the ultimate lightweight insulator.
WHY IS CASHMERE EXPENSIVE?
A single cashmere goat produces only a few ounces of hair per year. Coupled with the skilled labour required to collect the cashmere fibre and the time-consuming processes involved, it’s no wonder that cashmere is more expensive than other yarns.
However, looked after, it will provide you with years of wear. It’s relatively low maintenance as it only needs washing occasionally. Explore our full collection, including jumpers, cardigans & slipovers, today.