Is Cashmere Itchy?
Luscious, luxurious, and exceptionally soft, Cashmere is one of those fabrics which one wants to feel more than wear. But many of us did not yet get a chance to do so. So we take you on the journey of how Cashmere feels, how it is made, and where it comes from.
A lot more expensive, unique, and super comfy - Cashmere is one of the fabrics which has possessed royal admiration for centuries. But why is the fibre such a prized one, and why does Cashmere wrap stay with one for a lifetime? And if it is animal wool, why doesn't it feel itchy on the skin? All of these questions have risen from the customer end as the takers of Cashmere have always shown keen interest in the acquisition and processing of this fine wool. Everyone wonders about the finesse of this luxury fibre and hence remains curious about its source. At the same time, one feels that shawls and scarves made from any animal fibre would definitely feel itchy. Then why should one spend thousands of dollars to purchase a wrap that causes itch to their most delicate skin parts like the neck, back, shoulders etc?
History in Europe
Historically, Cashmere has been one of the most popular fibre types when it came to fashion. Women who were remembered as fashion divas in their times preferred Cashmere scarves to all other accessories. This was 18th century Europe and Cashmere came to be known as the finest and the most luxurious fabric of all times.
Is Cashmere Itchy? If yes, Why is Cashmere itchy? These are some vital questions that one should get answers to, before going out shopping for Cashmere. Let’s know it all!
Where does Cashmere come from?
Cashmere comes from the Himalayas, where the rare Cashmere goats are found scattered in different regions. These Cashmere goats are believed to grow the best quality Cashmere. Owing to the Himalayas being the centre point of Cashmere production, Cashmere producing regions are Mongolia, China, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. The finest Cashmere is produced by the Ladakhi goat, found in North India. It is the area of Changthang, which has a freezing temperature of -40 degrees C, where the goat resides. Since the temperatures are freezing in winter, nature blesses the goat with Cashmere, which is warm enough to keep it safe and comfortable all the cold season long.
The soft, fine, and luxurious fibre of Cashmere come from the prized Changthangi goats. These goats are rare and exotic. It grows luxury fine fleece over its body, which is later processed to become Cashmere sweaters, shawls, wraps, scarves, mufflers, socks and other accessories.
It is the Spring season, and the warmth of Cashmere makes the goat uncomfortable. As a result, it rubs its body against coarse surfaces and gets rid of some portion of the same. Wool from the goat is hence found around its occupying places. Shrubs, stones, walls and the ground, all are filled with goat hair. All of this spread-out wool is collected, yet there is still some amount left on the body. The left-out wool is professionally combed off gently, using specialized combs and tools. All of this is packed in small packets and processed manually later.
Cashmere, from Ladakh, is processed in Kashmir, and this is the place where Europeans saw it first. From Kashmir, large exports of Cashmere products took place in the 18th to 19th centuries. Even now, Kashmir has the finest quality Cashmere. Shawls made from Ladakhi Cashmere are world-famous, and Europeans still swoon over this specific quality. This has been so since the early 18th century when Europeans first heard of this magnificent fabric.
Processing of this fine wool
If there is something that makes Cashmere the excellent fibre that it is, it is the processing it goes through to become a final wearable. The art of transforming raw Cashmere wool to complete products is called Pashmina. Pashmina is an art that was started in Kashmir by a Persian Saint, and because of him, the art was given a Persian name. (Pashm translates to ‘soft gold’ in Persian).
Before processing, the procurement of Cashmere is itself a challenge. Earlier one had to manually travel to Ladakh and procure the fine threads. But with travel ease, Cashmere reaches the valley in bulk, where specialist hands await.
Cashmere is combed by specialised tools in the springtime, which is the moulting season for the goats. It is the time when the goat is naturally losing its undercoat. This is raw Cashmere, and it comes from the goat’s belly, the underside of the throat, and behind the ears. Wool is collected in small pouches and it is later cleaned thoroughly to separate guard hair and other dirt attached to it.
Steps to process Cashmere - the Finest Animal Hair
It takes a number of steps to process Cashmere in order to make it wearable for its takers. It all starts with the acquisition of fibre from Ladakh. The herders of the Cashmere-producing goat have to wait all year for early spring-summer. This is the time, from March to April, when Cashmere goats are ready to lose all their hair. Temperatures are already high at the altitudes, especially where Cashmere goats graze, and the hair becomes intolerable. This is the time when herders realise that it's time to collect the hair from their bodies.
After collecting the hair from the goats’ bodies, herders keep them in small pouches. This is the material that goes in bulk to its processors. From Ladakh, fine Cashmere goes in bulk to Kashmir, where different artisans await its arrival.
To start with, Cashmere is cleaned. For this, women join hands and begin with washing the lumps of wool. This process is immensely hard and takes a lot of patience to do. Lumps of wool are cleaned, getting rid of any foreign materials like dirt, dust, vegetable waste or any waste that attaches itself to the goat’s body. Raw Cashmere is now clean, ready to meet another set of artisans.
Spinning is another activity which comes immediately after cleaning. Raw wool is in lumps and is partially sorted during the cleaning process. Now, womenfolk take it for spinning, which is again done manually over a spinning wheel. The wheel assists the artisans to transform lumps of wool into delicate fibres. These fibres are super gentle and flimsy, such that one can even break them with fingers. To meet the high-quality standards that Cashmere is world-famous for, the diameter of the spun yarn has to be 12-16 microns only (a human hair has an average diameter of 50 microns). This wondrous fibre even has an insulating capability, which makes the finished product three times more insulating than sheep wool.
Weaving the spun fibre
Post spinning, when rolls of Cashmere fibre are ready, weavers await its further processing. To start with, the fibre is stretched which expands it to its maximum capability. Post stretching, it is taken to a processing unit, where it is mounted over a wooden handloom. Artisans sit one or two individuals at a time, over the handloom, and in 3 to 4 days process the fibre. A shawl is complete in a few days, a scarf takes 2 or 3 days, whereas a men's shawl takes about a week.
Expensive? Why not!
China, Mongolia, and Nepal are the producers of 90% of the total Cashmere in the world. Only 10% come from India and other Asian countries. The finest Cashmere is obtained from the Capra haircuts species of goats found in the Ladakh region of Kashmir, India. The annual yield from one Changthangi goat is roughly 150 grams. This makes the wool quite rare. For a large-sized women’s shawl, (200*100 cms), fleece from at least 3 to 4 goats is required. The same is required for a thin full-sized Cashmere cardigan. A goat that has the capacity to yield higher amounts might be chosen to prepare large sweaters, and if the quality has to be the best, then the goat’s underbelly fibre is chosen.
Perhaps now we know that the high prices of Cashmere are very well deserved. Be it the labour-intensive process of acquiring and processing the raw fibre, the low yield per goat, or the exceptional softness and warmth of the final product, Cashmere is indeed the king of fibres.
Why should we invest in it?
There are so many reasons why we should own at least one Cashmere product in our lifetime. While women might be indifferent to it because of its price, or dubious about its quality, there are plenty of them who are just curious. So we give them some good reasons to buy Cashmere today.
It is warmer than wool?
Why invest in a thick woollen scarf or sweater, when you can be more comfortable with a lightweight, fine Cashmere one? Yes, Cashmere is eight times warmer than sheep wool, and lighter in weight too. This makes it the first preference while shopping for winter.
It is breathable
Despite being one of the warmest products in the world, Cashmere is quite breathable. One would never feel too hot in a Cashmere product, as it has great insulating properties.
Is Cashmere Itchy?
This question surprised us too. When one of our customers asked us “Is Cashmere itchy?”, we were startled, because there is nothing as soft and smooth as Cashmere. As compared to sheep wool, Cashmere is far less itchy. We will discuss this topic in detail later.
What does it feel like?
Cashmere has a heavenly feel. It has exceptional softness and it is lightweight and downy. It gives a person that kind of experience which he/she probably hasn't felt before. Once you wear it, you will forget about all the luxuries the world has.
How to Care for Cashmere?
A Cashmere wrap has to be cared about like a baby. From the way you wear it to its washing, drying, and storing, everything is to be done with proper precaution and care.
As far as washing is concerned it is better to wash this luxury fabric with your hands. Simply fill a tub with lukewarm water and a Cashmere shampoo. If you're short of the same, a mild baby shampoo too will work. Soak the product in for 30 seconds and then rinse with cold water. Do not wring
Drying Cashmere has to be natural. Just put your sweater/ wrap over a dry towel and roll the towel to absorb the water from it. Replace this wet towel with a new dry one, and let the gentle fabric air dry naturally
Storing your valued wrap or scarf again has to be a responsible process. The place where you store your precious piece has to be clean, dry, and disinfected. Do not store it in plastic as plastic helps grow moisture. Instead wrap it in large tissue papers, to keep it dry and safe.
Some important precautions to keep in mind
Briefly, these are the steps to care for a Cashmere scarf post its season:
- Wash the Cashmere in lukewarm water. Cold water won't clean it properly and hot water will ruin its shape and texture
- Never dry Cashmere directly in sunlight. Never hang it whilst drying. These mistakes might cost you your super pricey piece of accessory. Hanging will tamper its shape permanently. Air drying your Cashmere accessories is the best way to go.
- Make sure your Cashmere scarf or shawl is completely dry before you store it. If any amount of moisture remains, the scarf will be lost forever. Moisture is the biggest enemy when it comes to natural fibres.
- Ironing a shawl/scarf is complicated. One cannot directly bring an iron in contact with Cashmere. Either one has to use a steam iron, or a dry iron can be used without direct contact with the fabric. Placing a cotton sheet in between Cashmere and the dry iron is the way to iron Cashmere when it is needed.
- Storing Cashmere is in itself a task. When properly stored, Cashmere looks as fresh as new the next season. But if any carelessness is shown with regard to storage, your precious scarf/shawl will be ruined forever. One has to look for a clean and dry place that is away from direct sunlight. Moisture, in any way, will damage the fibre.
- Always avoid stacking Cashmere shawls/scarves or sweaters over each other. This causes friction which damages the surface. Instead, try placing an acid-free tissue paper in between the folds and between two consecutive shawls so that the surface remains tension free.
- Always check for any stains before you store the Cashmere for the next season. The stains will deepen their effects on the fine fabric. Hence, the shawl/scarf should be cleaned off any dirt or even a small spot before wearing it next year.
Can a Cashmere Wrap Stretch?
Yes, Cashmere can stretch and get disfigured. This is the reason why it should not be wrung after washing. Also, a Cashmere wrap should not be hung from a hanger, as it has more drape than bounce. As such, it does not return to its original form. Instead, it should be stored in a drawer in a folded position, or else hanging will pull it down due to gravity and it will get deformed forever.
If your Cashmere has stretched for some reason, wash it in lukewarm water, reshape it, and dry it flat. There is a possibility that it might regain its original shape.
Why does Cashmere feel itchy?
If Cashmere is still feeling itchy in your body, you might have an allergy when it comes to animal fibre. There are a lot of individuals in the world who are allergic to all-natural fibres. You might be one of them. Many such individuals believe that only fake Cashmere is itchy, but when they shop for pure pieces, they wonder why is 100% Cashmere itchy, if it is purest. Well, pure Cashmere will be especially itchy if you are allergic to natural animal hair. Fake or mixed Cashmere will feel better to them.
It is highly essential to test Cashmere against your skin if you are planning to buy one. Rub the inside of Cashmere against your neck or other sensitive parts of your body. If you feel a rash coming up or an immediate itch, then Cashmere will definitely not suit you. If, however, Cashmere has swooned you and you anyway want to wear it, you can cover it underneath with cotton or silk layering. Or else, wear an organic cotton layer underneath your Cashmere sweaters or shawls if you're prone to itchiness.
Is Cashmere really itchy?
No. It's not. Even newborn babies are wrapped in small-sized Cashmere wraps, and their delicate skin doesn't suffer from any negative reaction. So if your Cashmere is feeling scratchy or irritating, there might be a bigger problem to tackle.
Nevertheless, the texture of Cashmere is so soft and gentle and doesn't cause an itch on the skin. One might feel itchy in woollens, but the softness of Cashmere will definitely amaze them
Which fabric is itchy?
Cashmere vs Wool is a big topic that has to be clearly understood. The difference between Cashmere and wool is that between animal hair and wool. Wool is exclusively collected from sheep, but animal hair comes from goats, alpacas, llamas and others. Wool helps animals to protect their bodies from rain, snow and other external factors, but animal hair keeps the animal warm. Its primary use is keeping the animal warm when conditions aren't much suitable for them to bear.
Cashmere is animal hair and wool is sheep wool that comes from merino and other types of sheep. Animal hair is softer than sheep wool and is hence preferred when it comes to apparel.
Even Though wool is cheaper than Cashmere, it is the roughness of wool that makes it the second choice. Sheep wool can be itchy and pretty uncomfortable when it comes to touching the bare skin. When closely observed under a microscope, wool fibres have something strange in them. They are not smooth like perhaps they should have been. Under a microscope, rough edges can be seen, and these are the enemies that rub against the skin and cause itchiness. This causes mild to severe irritation depending upon the type of skin its wearer has.
That is about the feel and experience that a Cashmere gives you. It is a luxury fabric that comes from the mighty Himalayan ranges to your wardrobes, after treading a painstaking path. Exactly from its procurement to its finish, your lavish product passes through the hands of a hundred craftsmen, who put their heart and soul into detailing it. It is their love and care that makes it extra special, and worthy of every effort spent to have it.
For the most ardent patrons of Cashmere, having the same is nothing less than a dream come true. The way it looks, the way it feels, and the way it keeps one away from the gelid cold days of the winter season are simply awe-inspiring. A Large Cashmere shawl weighs just 400 plus grams and that is one of the most amazing features of this luxury accessory. A lightweight shawl so warm that one doesn't need to layer in heavy blankets and jackets.
Also read: IS MERINO WOOL BETTER THAN CASHMERE?
Not just shawls and scarves
Cashmere fibre has recently been used in making throws and baby blankets and this should itself tell people around the world about its finesse and smooth texture, besides its warmth. Cashmere blankets are super lightweight yet warm and this makes them a favourite. Baby blankets are cosy enough to keep even days-old babies comfy. Hence Cashmere is for everyone - Timeless and Ageless.
When Cashmere was introduced for the first time in Kashmir, it was Europeans, who became the most obsessed with it. High demands from Europe and people themselves visiting the valley made it clear to the world that Kashmir had given birth to the most luxurious accessory of all times. Even now, Cashmere holds the same stature around the globe, which makes it a must-have for admirers of traditional fashion and style.
Also read: IS CASHMERE THE SAME AS PASHMINA?
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