Saturday, September 28, 2013

Cashmere Conundrum

Some years ago a woman who travels back and forth between Europe and New Zealand told me my cashmere yarns are of OK quality; I think she wanted to say mine are crap. I was heartbroken because I pay two arms and two legs for mine, but I think she let me see/feel hers then, and I thought hers were "nicer".

My cashmeres: the animals are kept in Inner Mongolia, and the yarns are spun and dyed to the specs of a Japanese garment maker, Fukaki, either in Japan or China; I can't remember even though I asked Fukaki and got a lot of good information in 2010.

Recently my usual source introduced a new yarn, 15% cashmere/35% silk/50% lamb's wool, 10/2, at roughly half the price of 100% 20/2 and 26/2. Mom got three balls in early Sept, but none in colors I like, so I didn't bring any home. They were nice, sufficiently fluffy, but felt "wooly" and I thought it would suit larger pieces if I wanted to make something with cashmere in it, but they are no substitute for cashmere.

Opportunely, Doni helped me get a hold of some lovely Italian 15% cashmere/25% silk/60% superfine merino mix, 2/28 I think, from this company at approximately half the price of the Japanese yarn. And this feels silky and gorgeous and more grown-up. It's more like my 70% cashmere/30% silk, but with more body. 
Now this is going to be a little tricky because I don't have the Japanese yarn on hand so I'm comparing apples with, well, invisible apples.

Mom and I didn't have a chance to sample the new Japanese yarn; I didn't even wash a short length to see how it transforms, but my memory of it is fluffy and wooly in comparison to Doni's yarns, which are silky and, I keep coming back to this idea of "more grown up", less rustic, more cosmopolitan in appearance and hand. And again, I haven't washed a short length of Doni's either, but she says it becomes more luxurious.

In Japan, the most desired quality of cashmere textiles is lightness and my 100% yarns do a pretty good job of it. They are airy, soft, and weigh nothing relative to the appearance of their volume/mass. But as I said, they cost a lot, which is why I've only woven small scarves in cashmere so far, and even the new yarn costs a bit compared to Doni's lovely yarns.

I wonder if the issue is not a linear "quality" issue, but "quality" needing to meet the expectations of the people who buy and make things out of those yarns, in which case in Japan anything with "c" word on the label would have to be light, and no amount of silk would make up for it the absence of fluffy airiness. Though personally I think really good merino can carry the burden a bit.

Like I said, I don't have the Japanese yarn so I can't sample and compare, and none of these yarns are entirely comparable in their constitution/size. What I need to consider is what kind of products I'd like to make in conjunction with, and my perception of, the word, "cashmere"; something that suits the Japanese or European taste, to simplify, or somewhere in between, or something different.

Doni's yarns will no doubt be great on its own, but I'm going to sample it with my cashmeres and cashmere/silks, maybe with silk yarns, and perhaps even with 100% New Zealand merinos.

Lots to explore.

5 comments:

  1. What utterly delicious colours.

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  2. The brighter reds make me want to collect their reds, greens and whites. Funny that.

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  3. The reds make me think of apples. The natural makes me think of invisible apples. :-)

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  4. That, too! Really beautiful yarns.

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