Charl Knitwear cashmere goat

Cashmere/ Capra Hircus Laniger.

All of the cashmere in this collection comes from Inner Mongolia where breeding and grazing is carefully monitored. Here the higher quality fleeces found on the white and paler haired goats are selected as they can be easily over-dyed using natural plant based dyes – one of which, Weld has been used in this collection (called “Russet Green” in the colour options).

I wanted to use this naturally dyed yarn as the plant dyes produce beautiful, delicate hues which naturally fade with time, creating an aged “patina” similar to a well loved pair of jeans, rather than using chemical dyes which are potentially harmful to the local ecosystems and water supplies (let alone the potentially harmful effects on the wearer).

The other cashmere “colour” used in the collection is Cream which is actually the most pure, un-dyed fleece of the highly prized white cashmere goats. This fibre has been collected from animals which have been exclusively reared on a certified organic farm situated in Inner Mongolia and is run by a family of shepherds who take care of their flock.

These animals are allowed to graze freely in the vast surrounding area of the farmstead. In order to maintain the “organic” certification for this yarn, the whole life cycle of the animals and landscape are constantly monitored so that they can demonstrate the safe guarding of the place of origin of the raw materials (i.e. the cashmere). This means that not only are the animals carefully farmed and monitored but also the landscape is safeguarded and the welfare of the shepherds is ensured.

The reason the organic farm was started was due to the extreme over farming of the region in Outer Mongolia where nomadic herders who own the cashmere goats have been over-breeding their herds for years in order to produce more quantity of lower grade (not white) cashmere (making it more accessible to an end consumer). The down side of this trend has led to chronic overgrazing, effectively turning the landscape into a desert. The organic farm aims to “educate” the traditional nomadic herders by showing them that it would be better to limit the amount of animals that graze on the grasslands and not to invest in more animals but rather that they should choose to start a higher quality breeding process, upgrading the goats in their herds (aiming for better quality fibre – white) where they would get more money per kilo when it is sold to the mills.

Cashmere historically has always been a highly prized material, cherished, darned and passed down through generations. In more recent years it has become much more accessible commodity with many people owning more than one piece. Unfortunately this has resulted in the over-farming of these animals and endangering their natural habitat – in a similar way to cattle in other parts of the world. Far better then, to save up for, buy and treasure the best cashmere that you can afford, knowing that it has come from the highest quality, most sustainable source on the planet.