Cashmere is a favorite among knitters. It is ultra-soft and super luxurious. Yarn blended with cashmere is fun to knit and results in a high-end knitted garment. In recent years, the democratization and overproduction of cashmere has resulted in claims that cashmere is unethical and not sustainable. Many cashmere lovers have switched to alpaca as a sustainable alternative to cashmere. Many brands have found ethical ways to source cashmere and that is what we will dive into here.
Named after Kashmir, the small territory between Pakistan and India, cashmere is made from the combed fibers of the Kashmir goat. China, Mongolia, Iran, and Afghanistan are the largest producers of cashmere. The Kashmir goats are largely nomadic as they wander with their herders from place to place grazing. In cold weather, the goats grow a thicker coat and then they shed it once warmer weather comes. Goats are not sheared, like sheep, but rather combed.
The cashmere fiber has several benefits, which accounts for its popularity.
Many consider it to be the perfect fiber.
There are a few concerns with cashmere. Although supporting nomadic people seems great on the surface, middlemen have involved themselves, which has lowered pricing for the herders. The growing popularity of cashmere and the more affordable pricing has resulted in too many goats being raised in Mongolia. Grasslands are overgrazed and the environment is degrading. A final concern that, once harvested, cashmere fibers are mass blended and dyed in inhumane factories by underpaid workers.
Even given these challenges, it is possible to use cashmere yarn that is ethical and sustainable.
Here are a few ways to ensure that you are supporting ethical and sustainable cashmere.
When using cashmere yarn, knit a classic garment that can be used for decades to come. Consider cashmere yarn as an investment into a project that will be well-loved and used for many years to come. Knit heritage pieces that are meant to be passed down through generations. After all, cashmere only gets softer and more luxurious with age.
Made from post-consumer yarn that is sorted, shredded, and re-spun, recycled cashmere yarn comes at a much lower cost to the environment. Cashmere sweaters are disassembled, the fibers are washed and plied. The end result is a silky smooth cashmere yarn ready to be knitted up-again.
Purchasing fair trade yarn ensures that the cashmere yarn was produced under the 10 guiding ethical principles that govern the fair trade designation. Here are a two:
As long as knitters are thoughtful about how we use cashmere and mindful of where it comes from, we can be part of the ethical and sustainable cashmere supply chain.