• Changra kashmir (pashmina) goat

Know Your Fibers: A Quick Cashmere Guide

The variety of cashmere choices can be overwhelming and, frankly, not all garments are equal. Use our cashmere guide to help you tell the good from the not-so-good.

Do a quick Google of “cashmere” and you’ll find a huge number of search results. There’s a lot of lesser quality, mass-produced products out there, so it’s good to do your homework before investing your hard-earned money.

To help you make sense of all of the choices out there, we’ve put together a quick, easy-to-follow cashmere guide.

Cashmere Guide: Just what is “Cashmere”?

Wild Fibers Cashmere Cloud

Wild Fibers Magazine is doing great work in Ladakh reconnecting the nomadic herdswomen with the spinning tradition. A great source for buying cashmere roving for hand spinning.

Contrary to some popular belief, cashmere does not come from wool but rather from the fine underhair of goats found around the world (we included a gallery of a few of them below). So it’s actually a hair.

According to the U.S. Wool Products Labeling Act of 1939, to qualify as cashmere grade, the average diameter of the underhairs must be no more than 19 microns in diameter. Softer cashmere typically averages about 15 microns in diameter, per hair. For reference, the average human hair is about 17-18 microns in diameter.

As well, the underhair fibers must be at least 1.25” in length to be considered cashmere grade. Shorter hairs are what result in the pilling effect you may have seen in lesser quality garments.

The goats who provide the cashmere for Pashm & Co garments are found only in the high elevations of the Himalayas — ethically gathered superfine hairs, for some of the softest, most lasting cashmere available. You can read more about our cashmere quality testing here.

Cashmere Goats: A Visual Guide

Cashmere goats are found throughout the world. Here’s a few of our favorites.

Cashmere Guide-Himalayan Cashmere Goat

Himalayan Cashmere Goat

The source of our cashmere, found in the high Himalayan elevations.

Cashmere Guide-Alashanzuoqi Cashmere Goat

Alashanzuoqi Cashmere Goat

Found on the Alashan Terrace, to the west of the Inner Mongolia plateau.

Cashmere Guide-Australian Cashmere Goat

Australian Cashmere Goat

A bush goat local to Northern and Western Australia.

Cashmere Guide-Hexi Cashmere Goat

Hexi Cashmere Goat

Located in the desert and semidesert areas of the Gansu Province of China.

Cashmere Guide-Tibetan Plateau Goat

Tibetan Plateau Goat

Herds primarily in Tibet, but herds are found in China, Nepal, and India, as well.

Cashmere Guide-Liaoning Cashmere Goat

Liaoning Cashmere Goat

Found in the Buyun mountains in the Liaodong Peninsula of China.

How to tell good Cashmere from the not-so-good

So how do you tell the difference between good cashmere from the less-than-good? Price is a major indicator of quality. Cashmere, like many textiles can be broken down into grades:

Cashmere Grade A Icon

A Grade: Longest, thinnest fibers, generally 14-16 microns in diameter. Pashm & Co sources only A grade fibers.

Cashmere Grade B Icon

B Grade: Fibers in the 16-19 micron diameter range. Still good, but not necessarily as soft as grade A.

Cashmere Grade C Icon

C Grade: Technically not considered cashmere, with shorter fibers greater than 19 microns in diameter. Your mass-produced garments often fall into this grade.

In general, thicker, shorter fibers make for garments that are less soft and more prone breaking down quickly. You’ll see this often in mass-produced, machine-woven cashmere items, using fibers from unethically raised goats.

Shorter fibers typically “bloom” — meaning the fibers release from the weave, creating a fuzzy “cloud” above the fabric, which will turn to pilling rapidly when worn. You might be able to buy these items at a bargain price, but you’ll end up replacing them within in a year — a hallmark of disposable fashion. We recommend the Gleener Ultimate Fuzz Remover to care for all cashmere garments.

There’s a lot of cashmere on the market. Hopefully this cashmere guide helps you choose the best quality heirloom garments. Personally, we’re fans of the slow fashion variety that you can love for a lifetime. Grade A fibers, handwoven by artisans; each garment preserving generations-old traditions and supporting the social good and financial prosperity of the artisan weavers and dyers. Cashmere that will help you feel beautiful inside and out.

Have questions about cashmere and pashmina? Leave them in the comments below or contact us anytime at [email protected]

By | 2017-06-06T10:58:19+00:00 January 31st, 2016|Advice, slow fashion|0 Comments

About the Author:

A former Petaluma Vice Mayor and outspoken advocate of Slow Fashion, Tiffany relaunched Pashm & Co in the fall of 2014 with a very simple but important belief — that fashion can be both beautiful and ethical, and can bring prosperity to where it’s needed most in the world. Tiffany holds a Permaculture Design Certificate through Daily Acts and a MA from California Institute of Integral Studies with a focus in Integral Ecology. She is a 2007 Fellow of the Leadership Institute for Ecology and Economy. She frequently speaks on Local Economy and Regenerative Businesses.