A little piece of history about Cashmere

Cashmere by John Singer Sargent, 1908

Cashmere wool, or simply called cashmere, is a fine product of the softest fleece on a goat. As early as the 300 BC, people living in the area of ​​Kashmir, which is now located at the junction of the western end of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and the northernmost end of South Asia, had already begun to stroke the inner fleece close to the goat’s skin into yarn for a shawl, purely for the warmth at the time. Later, during the 11th and 13th centuries, cashmere travelled with the Chinese herdsmen from the northern Himalayas to Inner Mongolia and northern China. At that time, cashmere was still very rare, and it had hardly appeared in Western historical documents.

In the 15th century, when the Mongolian emperor Dali promoted cultural crafts, Kashmir’s cashmere shawl eventually became the pride of the entire nation.

You know, making such a Kashmiri cashmere shawl is not a simple task. From importing raw cashmere, removing impurities, spinning and dyeing, to hand-weaving…the entire process is enough to keep an entire Kashmiri family busy throughout the winter. Ever since then, the cashmere duvet was crowned as the “soft gold”.

In the 1880s, French literary giant Alexandre Dumas fils mentioned in his masterpiece La Traviata: “Sold carriages, Kashmir shawls, and jewellery to pay off debt…” The Western world at that time had already Started a fanatical pursuit of luxury cashmere. All this trend is thanks to Napoleon. During the French Campaign in Egypt, Napoleon gave his second wife Queen Josephine a cashmere shawl. Since then, the pursue for cashmere product has been out of control. In folklore, Queen Josephine has hundreds of cashmere shawls. Other European nobles also kept up with royal trends: cashmere began to become popular in the Western world.

Portrait of the Empress Josephine,1805

So what is cashmere?

The term cashmere comes from the cashmere-producing Kashmir goat. This kind of goat has an undercoat that is soft. In the winter, its outer hair grows stiff and straight. The neck is especially dense. Every spring and summer when goats begin to shed their winter hair, it is time to harvest cashmere. In different areas, the cashmere would be removed by combing or pruning. There are many other time-consuming processes. These processes include removing dust, separating the fleece from the outer hair, dyeing, and spinning yarn.

What’s the difference between cashmere and wool?

In addition to the basic difference that cashmere is produced from Kashmir goats and that wool is produced from all various sheep, cashmere and wool still have other significant differences. Compared to wool, cashmere fibres are finer, smoother, lighter and more insulating. Such unique physical characteristics make cashmere lighter, softer and less static. Wool that is produced from many different types of sheep has higher strength and foldability.

Why is cashmere so warm?

Because cashmere fibres are thin, only a large amount of cashmere fibres can be spun into yarns of the same thickness as wool. This characteristic actually makes the final product much warmer. In the meantime, the cloud-like fibre texture ensures a lightweight wearing experience.

Also, the cashmere fibre has a small natural coil. When weaving into full-bodied yarns and fabrics, the fibres fit and curl together. When your body gets cold, the fibrous layer expands. This is to keep heat in. When your body gets hot, it shrinks and creates small spaces for air.

Why can cashmere be worn against skin?

The cashmere fibre feels really soft. It is made of small scales. They are close together and make the cashmere fibre feel smooth and soft. When worn against the skin, even if it rubs against the skin, the smooth fibre surface will not irritate the skin. At the same time, a higher degree of insulation also reduces the static generated by friction, which makes it less likely to irritate the skin or attract dust.