The Ethics and Issues of Cashmere Wool

by Kathryn on September 6, 2011 · 1 comment

in Crochet News

Aw, cashmere goats at play.

 

Do you use cashmere wool in your crochet work? Finding affordable cashmere that is ethically sourced is increasingly difficult so it might be time to start thinking about some alternatives that you can live with.

Problems with Cashmere Wool

I recently learned about this issue by reading AwareKnits, the book by Vickie Howell and Adrienne Armstrong that discusses all aspects of being an eco-friendly needleworker. Cashmere, when not farmed properly and ethically, can be really bad for the environment. As I wrote in the 11 Things I Learned from AwareKnits:

Cheap cashmere has caused significant air pollution in China. A huge demand for affordable cashmere yarn means that herds of starving goats eat the grasslands there to non-existence, creating polluted dust storms in the area. It’s worth it for the earth to invest in higher-quality cashmere from organic companies.

Ethical Cashmere Wool is Getting Expensive

Because of the problems of cashmere wool farming along with various other economic factors, it is getting increasingly expensive to purchase cashmere wool. It seems to be primarily used for high-end luxury items, like the very beautiful but very expensive cashmere crochet bike jacket by designer Christopher Kane that is priced at £2200.

Sanguine Gryphon Suggests A Cashmere Alternative

One of the places where I’ve learned a lot about this issue recently is on the blog for yarn seller Sanguine Gryphon. In a post last month they discussed some possible alternatives that they are exploring to cashmere yarn as they make new yarns to sell. They noted that their Gaia Fingering yarn was too expensive to keep going because of the high price of a 40% cashmere content and that they were concerned about also having to let go of their Gaia Lace yarn line for the same reason. However, they have come up with the idea of replacing the cashmere content with camel down to keep costs low while maintaining most of the softness of the yarn. While they haven’t actually tried this yet, they think it might work. They note:

“Now I grant you camel down isn’t cashmere, but it’s not too far off. Like cashmere on goats, camel down is the soft undercoat of the camel, short-stapled like cashmere and just about as soft. In fact, baby camel down is generally in the 15-19 micron count range, where the finest cashmere usually comes in around 14-16 microns, only marginally softer. The best quality camel down comes, like cashmere, from Mongolia, and the fiber can be harvested by combing, shearing, or simply collecting what the camels shed. The best part is that camel is much more readily available and hence a good deal less expensive.”

Other Alternatives to Cashmere Yarn

I am curious about the possibility of using camel yarn as an alternative to cashmere yarn. Any thoughts on this? How about any other possible alternatives to cashmere yarn? I have also seen baby alpaca and yak wool offered as an alternatives but I haven’t done extensive research into the similarities and differences yet.

pinit fg en rect gray 28 The Ethics and Issues of Cashmere Wool
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  1. [...] a soft, wonderful fiber to work with although it’s important to make sure that it’s ethically sourced. Young Scottish designers are taking heed of this and bringing a new vibrant and hip quality to the [...]

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