The word “cashmere” comes from Kashmir, a mountainous region in northwestern India that was known for its beautiful cashmere shawls made from the hair of Himalayan goats. Today cashmere goats are raised throughout Asia and also Australia. During the winter they grow a thick, coarse outer fleece to keep them warm. The undercoat, especially along the underside of the goat’s neck, consists of soft downy fibers. In the spring, during the shedding season, these fine hairs are combed out, separated from the coarse outer hairs, and spun into cashmere yarn. The yarn is light, strong, soft, and an excellent insulator because of its high loft. The yarn is then knitted into clothing and accessories or woven into fabrics for coats, pants, blankets, and so on.
The French fell in love with cashmere in the 1800s, especially the fine cashmere shawls imported from India to be worn by upper-class French women, and they began producing yarn locally. Soon Scottish mills began spinning cashmere yarn and producing high-quality fabrics and cashmere clothing. Today, cashmere remains to be a beloved symbol of comfort and style.