There is nothing better than cozying up in a soft, warm sweater this time of year. Whether we’re wearing cardigans, crewnecks, turtlenecks, or vests, knitwear is is the biggest staple of the winter season and no one can survive without it. However, we may not be paying enough attention to the materials that our favorite sweaters are made of. What’s the difference between cotton, wool, cashmere, acrylic, linen and other fiber blends? More importantly, are cashmere and wool really that different from each other? Keep reading to gain a better understanding of these two natural fibers and when you should pick one over the other.
Wool primarily comes from sheep, but also grows on lambs, goats, and alpacas. The best wool can be found in Australia from Merino sheep. Cashmere, however, only comes from Kashmir goats. These goats are most commonly found in the Himalayas and live in harsh, freezing temperatures where their coat thrives. Cashmere goats are in Inner Mongolia, China, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and Afghanistan. 70% of the world’s cashmere comes from Inner Mongolia. While wool comes from the outer hair of sheep, cashmere is found by combing the fine underneath hair from cashmere goats.
Cashmere tends to be at least twice as expensive as wool because of the difficulty in production and different output. While sheep produce several kilograms of wool annually, a cashmere goat can only produce a few grams of cashmere every spring. Global wool production exceeds two million tons every year, but cashmere usually stands at around 15,000-20,000 tons. Thus, cashmere has a reputation for being luxurious and is highly sought after.
Wool and cashmere are both perfect for the winter season. However, cashmere tends to be eight times warmer than regular wool and is also significantly lighter than regular wool. For the same area of fabric, a cashmere garment will usually retain more air than wool, hence it feels warmer when worn. Although cashmere is better at insulating, it is also a more breathable fabric than wool. It helps regular your body temperature and doesn’t overheat you easily.
The fibers of cashmere are very fine and are typically 14-16 microns in diameter. Cashmere feels a lot softer than wool and regular wool may sometimes feel rougher and scratchier. Since cashmere is more delicate, the material is also more prone to pilling and snagging. Thus, it is important to invest in a cashmere comb and regularly depill your garmnet every few wears. Wool pieces more low maintenance and can be machine-washed long as you hang them to dry. They will not pill as much as cashmere because of their coarser fibers.
High-quality cashmere can last for over two decades when taken care of properly. However, merino wool, found in Merino sheep raised in Australia, can last even longer because its fibers are longer and not as delicate. This material is more effective in making activewear and outdoor clothing. Merino wool is not as luxurious as cashmere, but it is more affordable and easier to care for.