Time for the second of the well known goat fibers. Cashmere!
Cashmere wool fiber for clothing and other textile articles is obtained from the neck region of Cashmere and other goats. Historically, fine-haired Cashmere goats have been called Capra hircus laniger, as if they were a subspecies of the domestic goat Capra hircus. However, they are now more commonly considered part of the domestic goat subspecies Capra aegagrus hircus. Cashmere goats produce a double fleece that consists of a fine, soft undercoat or underdown of hair mingled with a straighter and much coarser outer coating of hair called guard hair. For the fine underdown to be sold and processed further, it must be de-haired. De-hairing is a mechanical process that separates the coarse hairs from the fine hair. After de-hairing, the resulting “cashmere” is ready to be dyed and converted into textile yarn, fabrics and garments.
Cashmere is collected during the spring moulting season when the goats naturally shed their winter coat. In the Northern Hemisphere, the goats moult as early as March and as late as May.
In some regions, the mixed mass of down and coarse hair is removed by hand with a coarse comb that pulls tufts of fiber from the animal as the comb is raked through the fleece. The collected fiber then has a higher yield of pure cashmere after the fiber has been washed and dehaired. The long, coarse guard hair is then typically clipped from the animal and is often used for brushes, interfacings and other non-apparel uses. Animals in Iran, Afghanistan, New Zealand, and Australia are typically shorn of their fleece, resulting in a higher coarse hair content and lower pure cashmere yield. In America, the most popular method is combing. The process takes up to two weeks, but with a trained eye for when the fiber is releasing, it is possible to comb the fibers out in about a week.
Cashmere fiber is crimped (rather than wavy), soft, and lacking luster. By industry standards it must be at least 1-1/4′ long with an average diameter less than 19 microns. The crimpiness of the fiber gives it “loft” and enables garments made of cashmere to provide warmth without weight.
Cashmere is always going to be an expensive fiber. It’s the curse of a dual coated critter. It takes a lot more processing to deal with a dual coat. But it does have an incredibly pretty sheen to it. It’s very warm and lightweight, similar to merino in how it functions.