5 Advantages of Knitting with Cashmere Yarn
Cashmere has for many, many years been the yarn of high fashion and chic.
We will go in depth with the crème de la crème of wool, from its amazing features to the drawbacks you should keep in mind and how to maintain your Cashmere projects in good condition.
This is the Hollywood Grace Kelly of yarns, learn why in this article.
Cashmere wool yarn originates from soft, fine undercoat around the neck and underbelly of the cashmere goat, that lives in the Himalayan mountains in Mongolia, China, India, and Pakistan. Around 6,500 tons of cashmere is produced worldwide, the vast majority from Mongolia.
Its origins as a textile can be traced back 5000 years in Asia where it was particularly popular with Indian royalty and the rich. Its first arrival in Europe in the 1300s may be traced to the trading expeditions of Marco Polo.
With the colonization of the Indian subcontinent by the French, Portuguese and British, more of this fiber was exported back to Europe and the development of the European Cashmere spinning industry.
Through the 20th century, this yarn gained its international diamante-like status through fashion designers like Coco Chanel and Jean Patou. It became the modern woman's go-to cardigan and the men's casual but stylish pullover.
Through this period of the early 1800s and up until the 1990s, one Scottish company was responsible for processing two-thirds of the world's raw cashmere (around 2,000 tons at its peak). Thus, making Scotland the world center for Cashmere finishing, knitting, and weaving.
Around this time China imposed substantial export tariffs on raw cashmere, extended their processing facilities and reduced the export regulations on finished cashmere yarn.
As a result, the flow of cashmere onto the market markedly increased – this has led to some lowering of prices, but has also resulted in an overflow of poorer quality Cashmere entering the market. Today the quality varies, but 100% cashmere is still perceived as the richest fiber of them all.
5 Advantages of Knitting with Cashmere Yarn
#1 - Excellent Insulator
Cashmere knitting yarn is up to eight times warmer than ordinary wool yarn. The fine fiber structure prevents air from going through the garment, and therefore holding on to your body heat.
Unlike other types of yarn, the cashmere wool can be used in warm summer conditions as a light cardigan or scarf along with the summers thin skirts, shirts, and dresses.
A high moisture content allows insulation properties to change with the relative humidity in the air. This makes cashmere wool ideal for wearing in all types of climates.
That is how the cashmere goat survives the conditions of the Himalayan mountains, where the winters are icy, and the summers are roasting hot.
This form of variation in temperatures forces the cashmere goat to produce a naturally delicate, soft and warm under fleece. Therefore, cashmere is not labeled to either a winter or summer type of yarn, but will be a comfortable garment throughout the year.
Cashmere goats (and sheep) in India
#2 - Soft
The hairs from the cashmere goat are seven times thinner than sheep wool, which makes it finer and softer.
#3 - Easily Dyed
You can buy cashmere yarn for knitting projects with the cashmere’s natural color, which are white, brown and gray.
Cashmere can be dyed any fashionable color with ease and without compromising the quality.
Yarns being hand dyed.
#4 - Lightweight & Elegant
100% cashmere is very lightweight and not bulky or chunky in any way. It is one of the reasons why it is such a favorite material for the fashion industry. It is very feminine and comfortable without being overly bulky.
#5 - Elastic
When knitting with cashmere yarn, it is flexible and stretchy making it a beautiful textile to knit.
Disadvantages of Cashmere Yarn
Due to the small volumes of Cashmere Yarn produced annually, it is a rather expensive yarn to knit. As such, you should carefully examine its benefits and drawbacks against other yarns and the qualities you expect your knitting project to have before purchasing.
The price has begun to come down with the increase in Chinese exports, but with the increased volume, also comes in some instances a decrease in quality.
You can find cheap cashmere with a cashmere yarn sale but do your research as the poorer quality yarn can pill, shed and sag within a couple of days.
#2 Environmental Disaster
Unfortunately, due to the demand in the West, the goat population in Mongolia has quadrupled over the last twenty years. This explosion in the population has led to the chronic destruction of the vegetation due to the goats appetite (and their tough hooves).
As a result, nearly 90% of the country is now at risk of turning into desert, putting the environment of the region and livelihoods of the Mongolians at risk.
This video from M.A.D. Investment Solutions looks into the story of Mongolian Cashmere production & the environment.
Cashmere does not have the same strength as wool or alpaca wool, which can cause it to shed a little – or a lot, depending on the quality of the cashmere. The softer it seems, often, the poorer and more fragile the cashmere is, a sad fact.
It's hard to care for and stretches quickly lowering the cashmere garment’s utility and duration. Cashmere, like wool, is sadly a delicatessen for moths, therefore, protect your cashmere garment or extra yarns of your cashmere well. Proper storage is of the essence. Places like attics and packaging in a card box are like sending out a Christmas dinner invite to clothes moths.
#4 Pills & Sheds
If you go out and buy an expensive bulk of cashmere yarn, do not get alarmed if this suddenly starts to pill too – due to the short nature of Cashmere fibers, it is quite common even for the expensive and genuine quality cashmere to pill in the beginning.
At the start, after cashmere knitting project has been completed, the cashmere will tend to shed a bit.
#5 Poor Stitch Detailing
Knitting stitches in a cashmere garment are not as detailed as with e.g. cotton yarn. This is because of the fibers from the cashmere has its thin, soft hairs almost covering the details of the stitches.
Cashmere Yarn Knitting Projects
This lightweight and so very soft yarn is an incredibly popular choice when it comes to knitting cardigan, sweaters, and soft, light scarves. For one regular adult size sweater wool from three to four cashmere goats are used.
It is certainly still today a popular choice in the fashion world, for it's lightweight, feminine elegance.
On the flip side, I would not recommend it for projects that could see some wear and tear, or requires regular washing. You can instantly grasp that a cashmere sweater for a small child may result in a lifespan that is shorter than that of an average mayfly.
A cashmere garment requires even more meticulous care than that of wool or alpaca. You should be prepared to go the extra distance if you want to maintain your item in good condition for as long as possible (especially considering the cost of Cashmere).
- Many labels in cashmere garment will tell you only to dry clean. However, if you wash it gently, by hand it can get softer with time. It, of course, depends on how stained your cashmere has gotten. Use some gentle detergent e.g. baby shampoo and lukewarm water. The procedure is much like with other wool.
- Be very gentle and do not rub, twist or wring the cashmere.
- You can use a towel to dry your item. Place it on a towel and roll it up softly to get the last water out. It is always a bit heavier than normal as it still contains some water.
- Do not hang your item to dry as it could distort the shape or form of your item due to the heavier weight of the water. Leave it lying on your bed or an even surface to dry and breathe.
- Cashmere can take a few days to dry fully, so always wash it in a timely manner and patience if you plan to have your cashmere sweater on anytime soon.
- When your cashmere is finally dry, try to avoid folding it in squares. Vertically fold left and right side by a third, place the arms down the side of side and then fold horizontally in half.
Still considered by many in the fashion world as the gold-standard of yarns, Cashmere is a soft, luxurious and light-weight fiber. However, due to increased production, and a lowering of quality, be careful when selecting your Cashmere Yarns to ensure you don't buy an inferior product.
We wish you all the best with your cashmere project, and if you have any questions do not hesitate to ask us, or if you wish to share your Cashmere project with us, please do so by using the "Contact Us" page or write in the comments below.
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Article by Katrine