Cashmere is won from goats and not from sheep as many believe. Cashmere is the soft, downy winter undercoat found on the goats. As the days are getting shorter and temperatures are dropping the goats undercoat starts to grow out. Over the undercoat is much longer, and much more coarse hair that has little value in the textile industry
Although most goats grow such a two-layered coat, only few produce a high quality winter-coat suited for cashmere. The goats that do are often times also called 'Cashmere Goats'.
Ancient writing date the use of this fabric back to the 3rd century BC. Cashmere wasn't commercialized until the 15th century BC by the ruler of Kashmir. In the 18th century the cashmere industry flourished and the fiber became heavily sought after throughout Europe.
Today China is the largest supplier of cashmere. It is estimated that the goat population in China exceeds over 100 million. In 2007 China reported raw cashmere exports in excess of 10,000 metric tons, or over 50% of the world's cashmere production. Quite an astonishing number considering that the average goat produces only 150 grams of cashmere per year.
Cashmere is one of the most costly wools. It is light, extremely soft and very warm to wear without adding any extra bulk. In clothing cashmere is used in sweaters, scarves, hats, and even inner linings. Due to the high cost of cashmere many manufacturers weave blended fabrics that, besides cashmere, contain cotton as well as man made synthetic fibers.