When it comes to choosing the best fabrics for our sweaters, socks and other items of winter wear, cashmere is a touchstone of elegance, comfort and luxury, but does it really deserve its exalted reputation. Let’s take a look at cashmere and see how it measures up to some of its woolly competitors.
What is it?
Cashmere comes from the hair of the Cashmere goat. If you were to look at one of these shaggy looking creatures, you could be forgiven for wondering how such a scruffy animal could produce such a prized premium product. Don’t be fooled, though. It’s the hair that you can’t see, the short, downy undercoat which is used to make fine cashmere yarn which becomes the cashmere socks, sweaters, scarves and other high end “woollies” produced by top quality UK manufacturers such as www.corgihosiery.co.uk.
What are its nearest Competitors?
Although pure cashmere is considered by its many devotees as the top drawer textile, it’s worth considering the alternatives. After all, it’s not everyone who can afford to wear cashmere every day.
Pure lamb’s wool is probably our best benchmark. Lamb’s wool can come from any species of sheep. It’s taken from the first shearing, when the young animal is around 6-7 months old. It’s a very versatile fabric, and of course one of the earliest forms of processed raw material used for clothing. It’s warm, wear-resistant, comfortable and affordable – great for everyday use.
Merino wool is taken only from the breed of sheep whose name it bears. Compared with lamb’s wool, merino is closer to cashmere in terms of the fineness of the fibre, with individual strands of fine merino clocking in at a very similar diameter to fine cashmere – around 19 microns (for comparison, the diameter of the average human hair is around 40 microns).
Mohair, like Cashmere, is from a type of goat – the Angora goat, in fact, which is a tad confusing since, as we’ll see later, angora wool comes from a type of rabbit. Mohair is coarser than cashmere but is extremely durable, takes bleaches and dyes extremely well and is less expensive, so useful in larger garments like suits.
Angora comes from the hair of a particularly fluffy breed of rabbit. It’s super-fine nature – around 11 microns in diameter – make it unbeatably soft but the downside (no pun intended) is that it’s much more fragile than cashmere and certainly less durable than other woven fabrics.
Pros and Cons of Pure Cashmere:
While there’s little to compare with the sheer luxury of pure cashmere socks or scarves, there are a few issues to be aware of. The first is its price; there’s no disguising the fact that it’s a premium quality product and that comes with a slightly higher price tag. It’s also prone to snagging and pilling compared with ordinary wool unless you treat it gently, and it is a known magnet for moths if you’re not careful. A useful tip, highlighted in this newspaper article, is to put the garment in the deep freeze for a couple of days at the first sign that the moths (or their larvae, more correctly) have been at your prized woollens. Sounds like a bit of a wind-up, but it works by killing any larvae or eggs which may still be lurking.
However, with its unbeatably soft and luxurious feel and an uncanny ability to keep you warm when you need it in winter, but cooler in the spring when you don’t, it’s not surprising that the luxury of pure cashmere socks, scarves and sweaters remains synonymous with comfort that is worth that little bit extra in cost.