Material 101: Cashmere v.s. Wool


It’s always good to know the difference between cashmere and wool before you are making the decision for a high-quality winter sweater. 

What is wool?

Just like human hair, wool is a fiber from animals including sheep, lamb, goat, and alpaca. As one of the most widespread materials for winter products, it has been widely used in various textile products like sweaters and blankets for a long time. The fibers are collected during the annual shearing of the animals, and then processed. While wool is solid and resistant to moisture, it could be heavy and rough sometimes. People with sensitive skin would need to refrain from wearing wool products. 

What is cashmere

Unlike wool, cashmere is the fine, soft fiber combed from the undercoats of a certain kind of goats, Kashmir goats. These goats are found across the Himalayas where temperatures can drop to -30°C and their freezing cold habitat means that they grow an incredibly thick, warm coat. Cashmere goats have two layers of hair — a super-soft cashmere undercoat protected by thick wiry guard hairs, aka wool, as the topcoat. Cashmere gets its name from an old spelling of Kashmir, a region in India where its production and trade originated.

Collecting these particular fibers is a laborious task that must be done by hand during spring molting season, resulting in relatively small yield. The difficulty involved with collecting cashmere explains why it is relatively rare and considered a luxury item compared to wool. While a sheep can produce at least 3 kilos of wool each year, a cashmere goat will only give you around 200 grams. It takes at least two goats to make one two-ply cashmere sweater, whereas the wool from one sheep can be used to make four or five conventional wool sweaters.

Interesting facts about cashmere and wool

  1. Durability
    It depends on the quality.
    - Wool from merino sheep is the sturdiest among all kinds of wools, though the least soft. It’s now the most popular wool, therefore, it is usually also the cheapest.
    - Cashmere with higher quality is more durable. With proper care, high-quality cashmere products can last for more than 20 years. 
  2. Warmness and softness
    For the same item, a cashmere product is usually 7 to 8 times warmer than a wool product. The fact that cashmere fiber is hollow and finer than wool also makes it lighter.
    The picture below shows the details of several different fibers. It’s easy for us to find that coarse wool is the largest and roughest. Cashmere fiber is obviously the thinnest and has the smallest scale, which makes it the softest fiber among wool, alpaca and cashmere. Also, the longer the fiber is, the softer the product will be.

  3. Care
    As cashmere is more delicate, cashmere products generally require more when it comes to cleaning. However, cashmere is self-cleaning, and smells disappear quickly from the material. Washing after every wear will actually damage the fiber. Try airing it outside or on a hanger in the bathroom while showering and let the steam clean it.
  4. Pilling
    Knits from all-natural fibers may pill, so pilling is inevitable for either cashmere or wool. The softer the fiber is, the easier it will pill. Therefore, cashmere will be more likely to pill than wool. Pilling occurs most frequently when the product is new. As long as you shave it regularly by a cashmere comb, you can keep them fuzz-free.

Which one should we choose? 

If you are looking for something warm but not chunky, cashmere will be your go-to. Cashmere products are usually lightweight and breathable. Cashmere offers better shape resilience in comparison to wool when taken care of properly. It doesn’t shrink when washed and will maintain its shape longer than wool. Here at State Cashmere, we're committed to only using 100% pure cashmere for our pieces, which results in a piece more comfortable for you.