We said that cashmere goats (Capra Hircus) live for the most in the wild, in very inaccessible areas, characterized by huge temperature leaps and therefore they have a thick double fleece, ranging from pure white to dark brown.
The outer coating of hair (called guard hair) is straighter and much coarser than the undercoat; it consists of heavy fibres and it is not very precious, so that it is used to produce ropes, carpets and curtains.
The downy underfleece – defined in the past golden fleece – has a very thin thickness and it is technically called “duvet”. It grows on the belly, is short, fine and soft; this is the part that isolates the goat best from heat or cold.
Cashmere is collected during the spring moulting season, from May to the end of June. Gathering can be made in different ways, according to the region:
- Shearing – Iran and Afghanistan;
- Combing – China and Mongolia;
- An unsophisticated and ecological method – in the region of Himalaya, during the moulting season, shepherds hunt high and low looking for tufts stuck in the bushes where the goats rub against to lose the excessive fleece for the warm season.
Combing is the most common system to gather cashmere. It is made by hand; the animal is fastened, then using a raked comb, tufts of fibre are pulled from the animal through the fleece. This operation lasts 15/30 minutes and is done twice a month. The greatest production is obtained from male goats aged from 4 to 6. The product taken from the animal is roughly separated by hand according to the colour and the thickness of the fibres. This stage causes a reduction of a half of the gathering. It is the small quantity to determine the high price of this fine row material – a goat produces 200/250 grams of excellent cashmere per year.
After that, rough cashmere is washed to take out other impurities and to level the colour. The next step is to dry the fibres in the oven. Once dried, they are sent to textile factories located all over the world where they are spun and weaved.