Sunday, 18 December 2011

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The History of the Luxury Material Cashmere

Cashmere wool comes from the fleece of the cashmere goat, which can be found in China, Iran, Iraq and Turkey. In the late 18th century, cashmere began to be exported from Kashmir and India to Western countries. The arrival of the cashmere shawl in France back in the early 19th century triggered an immediate stir in Europe. The imported goat down was spread out and beaten with sticks to open the fibres and the shawls were manufactured in France. Today, China is the largest manufacturer of cashmere across the world.

Cashmere is often known for its "high quality" and "luxury" and with this, it's rather expensive price. However, that said, the price does depend on which part of the goat the fur came from. In general, the highest quality material is said to come from the throat and underbelly of the goat while the cheaper material comes from the legs. It is characterised by its fine fibres, which can be easily worked into fine or thick yarns, as well as its natural colours of brown, grey and white. The insulation and comfort provided by the material makes it an ideal fabric for winter cardigans and jumpers. What's more, its high moisture content allows insulation properties to change with the humidity in the air.

As cashmere is a natural product, it's important that it is washed and cared for appropriately. Most cashmere items of clothing should be hand-washed and remember to ensure you use a detergent specifically made for fine fabrics. Some woven fabrics have to be dry cleaned. Check the garment's instructions for the water temperature, in general they should be washed in cool or lukewarm water. Never tumble dry cashmere, as this will considerably shorten the life of the garment and lead to bobbling. Leave your cashmere garment to dry naturally by laying it out flat.

Although it is still perceived as being rather expensive, it has now become considerably more affordable for the general public. Supermarket clothing brands such as George at Asda or Florence and Fred at Tesco now sell a variety of affordable cashmere items. This seemingly timeless material has grown to be very popular amongst all ages. It can be manufactured into dresses which are great for the winter when teamed with cosy leggings or tights and is also fashioned into both men's and women's cashmere jumpers. Besides clothing, today it is also manufactured into cashmere bedding and blankets.

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