Cashmere Vs Wool: Which Fabric Is Better?
The winter season is in full swing, and if you haven’t invested in warm clothing yet, now’s the perfect time to do it. Here’s a guide on cashmere vs wool to make your choice easier.
While wool and cashmere have a lot in common, they also have their differences. If you’re looking for an everyday item to wear or an outer layer that will protect you from the elements (especially harsh winters), consider these factors when choosing between wool and cashmere fabric.
What Is Wool?
Wool is a type of animal fiber that is obtained from the fleece of sheep, goats, and other mammals, which is then spun into yarn and used for anything from clothing, blankets and upholstery. It’s a blanket term, and the specific characteristics of wool depend on the animal in question.
The most common types of wool used in clothing are:
- Sheep wool: This type of wool is obtained from the fleece of mature sheep. It can come in a range of textures, from fine and soft to coarser and thicker, and is a popular choice in clothing as it’s relatively inexpensive and has excellent insulating properties.
- Merino wool: A fine and soft wool that comes from the Merino breed of sheep. It is highly prized for its thermoregulation properties, and thus often used for everything from activewear, to thermal layers, to other types of high-end clothing, like sweaters and socks.
- Lambswool: A soft, fine wool that comes from the first shearing of a lamb. It is often used for clothing, blankets, and baby items.
- Alpaca wool: A soft and silky wool that comes from the Alpaca, a domesticated South American mammal. It is warm, hypoallergenic, and has a unique texture.
- Cashmere wool: That’s right, cashmere falls under the broad category of wools, too – we’ll explore its characteristics below!
While these are some of the most common types of wool, usually, when people don’t specify what type of wool they are talking about, you can assume that they mean sheep wool.
What Is Cashmere?
Cashmere is a type of fine, soft wool that comes from the undercoat of the cashmere goat, native to the Himalayas in the Kashmir region in India. It is prized for its luxurious feel and warmth and is often used to make high-end clothing and accessories.
Cashmere wool is made by combing the soft undercoat hairs from the cashmere goat, separating them from the coarser outer hairs. This process is usually done by hand and can take several hours to complete for just one goat. Once the hairs have been separated, they are cleaned, sorted by length and color, and then spun into yarn.
The production of cashmere requires specialized skills and is often labor-intensive, which contributes to its relatively high cost compared to other types of wool. However, that isn’t the only reason cashmere is so expensive – cashmere goats don’t yield a lot of wool in one season – roughly just four ounces annually per goat, compared to roughly 10 lbs per sheep!
You would need 4-8 cashmere goats to manufacture a single sweater, which is a significant reason why the fabric is so expensive.
With this said, cashmere is one of the most sought-after materials in the world, thanks to its unique combination of softness, lightness, and warmth. In addition to this, cashmere has a natural luster that gives it a luxurious look and feel, making it ideal for knitwear.
Cashmere Vs Wool: The Main Differences
1. Animal Sources
As discussed above, cashmere comes exclusively from cashmere goats, whereas wool comes from sheep.
There’s a reason why cashmere is referred to as the world’s most expensive wool. As we mentioned above, this luxury fabric has earned its reputation due to the fact that a single cashmere goat produces just four ounces of cashmere annually, which means that you will need 4-8 goats to create a single sweater.
Compare this to the common sheep: one mature sheep produces enough fleece for 4-5 sweaters. While this is one of the biggest reasons why cashmere is so much more expensive than wool, it’s not the only one.
For instance, Merino sheep produce roughly the same amount of wool as ordinary sheep, but it’s a much more expensive material. The other reason why cashmere is so highly prized is its superior properties, which we’ll discuss below.
Cashmere is much warmer than wool, no doubt. According to some reports, it offers up to eight times the insulating properties of sheep’s wool – that’s huge!
Cashmere is much softer and finer than sheep wool thanks to the finer and shorter length of its fibers. This is also why cashmere is typically not itchy and instead feels incredibly luxurious.
In contrast to this, wool can be itchy and irritating to many because of the coarseness of its fibers. Some people are more sensitive to itching and can find even the softest wool to be irritating.
However, it’s worth noting that wool has been bred for softer fibers in recent years and many wool products are now treated to reduce itching and irritation.
If you’re struggling with irritation but want to keep wearing wool, it’s a good idea to layer clothing or wear an undershirt between your skin and the wool item.
5. Durability & Care
Sheep wool is more durable and easy-going than cashmere, which is more delicate and prone to pilling. This is due to the structure of the fibers of the materials; the same fibers that make cashmere so soft to the touch make it more challenging to take care of.
For this reason, you should always hand wash your cashmere pieces in cold or lukewarm water with laundry detergent made specifically for wool, and only wash them when you absolutely have to. If you only need to clean a specific part of your sweater due to a stain, use a bile soap directly on the stain and avoid wetting the entire sweater – this will go a long way to keep your items looking as fresh as possible.
When washing your entire piece, you should take the measurements of the garments before wetting the clothing, and carefully stretch it back to its original size as it dries flat on a towel, as demonstrated in the video below.
As you can see, it can be quite an undertaking to properly care for your cashmere items! However, rest assured that with proper care, your cashmere pieces will last a long, long time, some even claim a lifetime.
It’s also worth noting that the durability of cashmere can vary depending on factors such as the quality and length of the fiber and how it’s processed and treated. Look for highest grade cashmere if you want to make sure you get the most use and wear out of it.
In contrast to this, wool is much easier to care for; simply pop it into your washing machine and select the wool cycle. As with cashmere, it’s paramount that you use a laundry detergent specifically made for wool and lay the piece flat on a towel to dry it – easy!
Our Favorite Cashmere Vs Wool Products
Burberry is well known for its use of cashmere in its luxurious pieces, ranging from scarves to coats. The iconic Gian Check Cashmere Scarf, made from 100% cashmere, is the perfect statement piece for this winter.
For something a bit more affordable but still lovely and luxurious, Rag & Bone’s Addison Recycled Wool Scarf offers comfort and warmth. Plus, it’s a sustainable option at the same time – it’s made with 90% recycled wool along with 10% virgin wool.
This Cashmere Boyfriend Sweater from Reformation is the ultimate item to recreate a relaxed chic look. It’s made with 90% recycled and 10% virgin cashmere, making it a fantastic sustainable choice.
If you want to feel good about the conventional wool sweater you wear, try the Enda Regenerative Wool Sweater from Reformation.
It’s made with 100% NATIVA™️ wool, sourced from a regenerative farm that uses grazing and farming practices that restore organic matter in the soil, helping to restore its biodiversity.
The Belted Cashmere Coat from Sofia Cashmere comes with a tie belt to cinch the wait for that flawless silhouette. Soft and luxurious, this coat with made with 100% cashmere, which explains the whopping price tag of $1,695.
The Hunter Coat from Anine Bing is much more affordable, and it’s made with a mix of 90% wool and 10% cashmere, ensuring you get the best of both worlds.
In conclusion, cashmere and wool are quite different, from their properties to their affordability and ease of maintenance.
If you are looking for a fabric that will keep you warm during the winter, we definitely recommend buying at least one cashmere sweater and trying it out – we’re sure you’ll love its warmth and softness, but see if you are as enthusiastic about the clothing after washing it.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for an affordable and carefree option, wool clothing should be first on your list. If you are prone to itching, we recommend that you skip sheep wool and opt for Merino wool instead – this material is a lot softer, resembling cashmere a lot. For more, make sure to check out our article, Cashmere Vs Merino: Which Wool Is Better?
And there you have it! Our guide on cashmere vs wool. If you’re still looking for more fashion tips and inspiration, check the posts down below.
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