I am the queen of carry on. I never check luggage. I easily go 6 weeks with just a rollaboard and a bag. I’m pretty demanding of my travel companions too… NO CHECKED LUGGAGE! So sometimes they need my advice… a few weeks ago I wrote about scarves, my tip number one. Tip number two…cashmere.
It’s light, it’s soft, it’s warm… as much as 8 times more insulating than sheep’s wool. Well taken care of it lasts a very long time. It’s also expensive. Because it is rare. And labor intensive.
Cashmere wool comes from the soft under fur of special goats found in the Himalayas. It can only be collected during the spring when the goat’s shed their winter coat. The colder the habitat the finer the cashmere. They don’t produce much of this special down… each goat provides about 200 grams. It takes two goats to make one 2-ply sweater. A sheep, on the other hand, produces about 3 kilos of wool per year.
The goats are combed over a week to two week period. Shearing doesn’t work as well. The cashmere down is carefully cleaned and carded. It is then spun into yarn and graded. The longer the longer and finer the hairs the higher the grade. A is best.
Cashmere gets its name from the Kashmir region where the trade originated, possibly as early as the 13thcentury. By the 16th century shawls were being used as diplomatic gifts and in religious & political services. Production began in Europe in the late 1700’s, Scotland becoming amongst the most renowned in part because of it very soft water.
There are a few things to look for when buying cashmere….It should feel soft, but not too soft. It will actually gets softer with time. It should spring back to its original shape after a gentle stretch. If it starts to pill when rubbed it has been made with shorter, cheaper fibers. Most sweaters will pill eventually in high wear areas but not right away.
Cashmere can lasts a lifetime. It should always be handwashed or dry cleaned, never put in the machine. Its best to let it air between wearings (not always possible when traveling but certainly when you get home). It should never be hung on hangers as it will stretch out of shape. The fewer folds the better. When storing for longer periods cotton bags are better than plastic. Make sure it is clean. Moths love cashmere even more when it is dirty.
Whenever I am in London I pop into N.Peal in Burlington Arcade. Their selection is wonderful and their sales are fabulous. In North America I pick up cashmere accessories from Aritzia. Their gloves have little pads on the fingers so you can use your phone with out taking them off.
My very favorite cashmere travel piece is a shawl with arms I bought from the Ferragamo shop at Rome’s Fiumicino airport almost 20 years ago. It is light, warm and elegant and has been to almost as many countries as I have. Do you have a cashmere favourite?