If you’ve ever been shopping and picked up a scarf only to immediately feel like you’re holding the softest puppy on the planet, then you know what cashmere feels like. Cashmere feels and looks amazing, but it also costs a TON. And it’s expensive because of the way cashmere is made.
Cashmere is not the same as wool. Whereas wool comes from sheep, cashmere comes from a specific type of goat. Yeah, we were surprised too! And these goats grow amazingly soft hair, but they don’t grow that much of it.
A single cashmere sweater requires the hair of about four cashmere goats.
The soft fibers come not from those long hairs that you see on the goat, but from a very soft undercoat. According to Pam Haendle, a cashmere goat farmer in New York, you don’t get much from each goat.
She explained to The Huffington Post, “A single cashmere goat does not produce a whole lot. You only harvest the fibers once a year, and most of us do so by combing the undercoat, which sheds yearly. You can get between six and eight ounces from a really good goat initially, but once it’s processed you’re not likely to get more than four ounces back.”
And to maintain that many animals costs a lot. But a lot of the price of cashmere is the rarity factor. Because there is a limited quantity, what cashmere they do produce is VERY expensive.
Cashmere’s softness comes from the fact that its fibers are very fine.
A cashmere fiber is less than 18.5 microns in diameter. To put that in perspective, the average human hair is about 80 microns, so cashmere is about 4 times finer than human hair. Plus, the cashmere fiber isn’t straight, so when it’s woven together, it doesn’t poke out and itch.
That makes total sense, but it doesn’t make cashmere any easier to afford.
But, we can clearly see that it’s all about quality. In fact, experts say that you should be suspicious of cashmere that seems too expensive. Also, it should have a great drape and feel soft. For the best, most authentic cashmere can be found at local fiber festivals. Or local farmers sell them online. Regardless, it’s clear that if we do get cashmere, it will be one piece that we treasure. Because the wonderful snuggle-worthy fabric costs too much to splurge on very often.