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Where did we ever get a phrase like, "Never let them get your goat"?  Actually, from horseracing.  It seems that it used to be customary to bring along a goat when taking a horse to the track, and stabling it with the horse the night before the big race. The sight of the familiar goat calmly chewing its cud relaxed the horse and helped it rest for the next day.  Of course, if you were from the opposing team, the easiest way to throw the race was to get the goat and upset the horse, hence the advice.

There's a lot more to goats than you probably realize.  Aside from being nature's best herbicide (goats actually prefer to eat weeds), some of them are the source of the cashmere that has been a sign of affluence for centuries. Learn more about where your favorite sweater came from, and remember, we'll be here when it needs special care.  We hope to see you soon!

Chris & Amy Baggott,
Sanders Cleaners

Cashmere -- The World's
Most Prized Fiber

Demand for Cashmere has always outstripped its availability, even with a price tag ten times that of excellent wool.  It was the Empress Eugenie, wife of Napoleon III, who made it the rage of the nobility, but she was way behind the times.  It's been speculated that Ghengis and Kublai Khan came across the steppes in leather armor with cashmere garments underneath.  Who says barbarians don't travel in style?  Read on to find out more about this luxurious fiber.

This Week's Coupon

Whether it's cashmere or wool, angora or argyle, we're having a sale on sweater cleaning.  We'll clean a sweater for half price with $15 in regular cleaning! (Include a copy of this coupon or the first page of this newsletter with your order.  Offer expires 11/16/02.  Cannot be combined with other offers.)

The Goats Have It

Maybe you never thought about where that cashmere really came from, or why it's so expensive.  For centuries, most cashmere has come from goats in China, Afghanistan, Iran and other high, mountainous areas in Asia.  Interestingly, it is the harsh conditions of these regions that make goats produce more cashmere than their better-fed and better-cared-for cousins in the US, Australia, and other places where breeders have tried to start up the industry.

Goats that live in high, arid conditions grow exceedingly soft undercoats to keep warm in the winter.  The common wisdom says that this undercoat begins growing on the longest day of the year and stops growing on the shortest day of the year.  Soon after that, it begins falling out, having served its purpose.

Over the top of the "duvet", or undercoat, is coarser hair that stays in place year-round.  Cashmere is so expensive because it is a tedious hand process to comb out the soft under hair, separate it from any dirt or vegetation, then separate it from any other types of hair on the fleece.  This is only the beginning of the process, since the undercoat then must be cleaned, dyed, and finally spun into yarn. 

It can take four goats a year to grow enough cashmere for just one sweater.  The hair is so valuable that children follow the herds of goats in China and elsewhere to collect the bits that catch on bushes and branches.  High quality cashmere fiber can bring $40 a pound.  Quality is determined by how crimped, or kinky, the individual hairs are, since high crimping means it can be spun into finer yarns that still trap air.  This is the real virtue of cashmere, and what makes it the warmest fiber per ounce.

Separating the Goats from... the Goats

All cashmere is not created equal.  There is an elusive quality called the "style" of the individual hairs of the fleece that determines true quality.  Style comes down to how crimped the hairs are and the quality of the yarn they can be spun into.  The better the yarn, the better the potential garment can be.

The best cashmere garments have always come from Scotland.  Craftsmen pass down their skills from generation to generation, and a garment made of cashmere with the Made in Scotland label is worth more (and will cost more) than any other kind.  Some garments will say, "Imported" -- but unless it says Scotland, it is made in other places in the world.

There is a rising industry of goat husbandry in the United States, with science giving a helping hand to farmers trying to balance the productivity of their goats with the humane treatment and care that are part and parcel of the "Grown in the USA" concept.  (As contrasted with China, a land of many people and not enough food, where goats may go from December to May without additional food, loosing 40% of their body weight by shearing time.)  In the US and other western countries, farmers walk the fine line of keeping the goats nourished while still encouraging them to produce a heavy undercoat of cashmere fibers.

When shopping for cashmere, look for a good, tight weave or knit.  The tighter the texture of the garment, the better the original yarn was, and the longer the garment is likely to last.  Look for labels that tell where the garment was actually made for assurance of quality.

Caring for Cashmere

Cashmere is an investment.  Most cashmere garments are made in classic styles, since they will last for many years.  When you put that much into your clothes, always plan on giving them professional care.  In the world of clothing, cashmere is still king, and can be the crowning glory of your wardrobe.

Read More About It

Looking for a new career?  Or something to do on that farm you want to own after you retire?  Or do you just like goats?  Read more about the industry and about cashmere on the internet.

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