Mash up; how to comb a goat…

By Jo Phillips

Cashmere, one of the most luxurious fabrics in the world, it’s one of the most sort after  if you like (imagine yourself lounging..its not going to be in polyester is it!)  and one of the most desired yet one of the most usual to harvest.  Real cashmere is not a farmed asset like say salmon, it’s a rare commodity that in order to get the best product means actually combing a goat..yup you read that right.  See below as Adam Holdsworth the MD at N Peal explains all.

Adam and Goat

10 Steps to the best Cashmere

 

N. Peal sets itself apart in the cashmere industry due to the standards set and the total control they exercise over every part of the process. Why does N. Peal travel all the way to Mongolia to source cashmere? It is incredibly cold.  Temperatures can drop to -20 degrees Celsius in the winter. Just to survive these conditions, the goats grow a fleecy down fibre to keep them warm.  In the spring, when the goat no longer need this layer, the team can harvest the fibre.

 

Combing

When it is Springtime, the cashmere is harvested by combing the fibre away from the goat. The goat naturally sheds its cashmere in the Spring, but combing collects the fibres in a way that does not harm the animal at all. N. Peal cashmere is both organic and sustainable.

After harvesting the next step is to move the material into the warehouses and sort.  Workers remove anything foreign that might cause a problem later in production. Very small contaminants like vegetable matter must be removed during dying and spinning to ensure the cashmere can be washed, spun and knitted without obstruction.

 

Raw material

Washing is the next step.  We clean the fibre to remove any natural oils. The raw material is passed through a series of washing bowls, each temperature controlled, which gently removes the dirt as the fibre passes from bowl to bowl.  At the end of the process, the fibre is dried.

After washing, the coarse goat hair is still remaining and needs to be removed. The short hairs is not what is wanted, it is still cashmere, but not what is best quality. A long machine processes the material and leaves behind the beautiful long hairs of cashmere. The result is soft, long and pure white, ready for the next process.

At this stage the cashmere needs to be analysed to ensure quality and strength of the fibre. The two most important aspects are micron, the thickness of the fibre, and length. The micron is important because the finer the fibre, the softer the touch. Length is important because the longer the fibre, the less likely the garment is to pill. (those annoying balls of fluff that appear on bad knitwear).

The colours and dyes are all made specially for their garments.  To create the unique blend of Fumo Grey or Shutter Blue for example, the fibre is dyed in separate solid shades and blend in the correct proportions with white to create one solid colour which is the finished product.

Dyes

The next step is spinning the cashmere into yarn. One of the great arts of the textile process. There are two stages, the first is carding the fibre and straightening it into a very fine filament. The filament then goes to spinning. The filament is twisted in a particular way to create a very precise yarn count. N. Peal uses mule spinning, a process which has been around for hundreds of years. It takes a long time and is quite costly, but it allows us to create the precise and even yarn that is the bedrock of our knitwear.

We use the very latest computerised knitting machinery. It gives them the flexibility to create a wide range of textures and patterns to bring the designs to life. We programs the machines with technical specifications, and then that creates the different panels needed to create one garment. The panels that have been created by the computerised knitting need to be brought together with linking. Finishing is what breathes life into the traditional garment. Using exact temperatures and exact timings, the garment is washed and steamed. This lifts the fibres and smooths them in a controlled way so that they are ready for wear.

 

Linking

Finally, all items are checked for quality to ensure it meets our exacting  specifications. It’s then ready for the customer to appreciate every time it’s worn. We have an entire team dedicated to checking the standard of the linking, the finishing, and most importantly, every single technical measurement to verify the size and the shape is exactly as it should be. It is this constant attention to detail that maintains the N. Peal reputation for the highest quality.

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 Find N.Peal here for highest quality cashmere for men and women alongside accessories and homeware.