Friday, March 05, 2010

Goats, Part 2

It feels strange to have let three days go by without posting--after 30 straight days of it, that is! I wanted to give the goats plenty of time to be admired. Aren't they pretty! Well, I'm far from done talking about them. I'll admit it. The main reason is this.

Yes, it's their beautiful fiber. Did you know that cashmere is harvested from the goats most of the time by combing? It's supposedly very labor intensive and time consuming, but it results in more of the cashmere down than sheering. You see, the good stuff is down against the goat's skin and what covers it all is long, coarse guard hairs. Those guard hairs have to be culled out before spinning. As Delia (and I) just found out, though, those guard hairs are used to make fly fishing lures. Wow! Makes sense, though. In my last post I forgot to add Scotland as one of the cashmere producers 'round the world. Scots love their fly fishing, so I can see the connection. But I'm rambling--back to the goats!

Doesn't he look regal? He is one of a herd of 40 that Delia and Reed of Ravenwood have built up over the past couple of years, carefully selecting and breeding the goats according to histogram analyis and pedigree to produce quality fiber. Delia tells me that the "cashmere goat" is not a breed, and that many goats can produce cashmere. She also let me in on a little of the history of the American cashmere goat. Long story short, they are descendants of Australian goats, actually.

As for how the fiber gets from goat to our needles and hooks, there's so much work behind the scenes! As I mentioned earlier, combing is the best way to get the most cashmere from the goat, but it can take weeks to gather it. Combing can give you up to 50% cashmere, and the faster method of sheering might yield only about half as much. I'd love to comb a goat--what about you? Yeah, it sounds like fun, but I can imagine it being about like trying to give a cat a bath. And goats have hooves, remember!

After the fiber is taken from the goat, then it must be processed in a special way. There are only 3-4 mills in this entire country that can dehair cashmere and get it ready to spin into yarn. None of them spin cashmere exclusively (yet) so the wait for the yarn to be ready can be up to six months! At the the very best, it's a four-month wait. Once the cashmere fiber reaches the mill, it can take up to six hours to dehair and spin one pound. Golly! Now you're beginning to see why cashmere is so expensive, huh? Add to all of that the expense of the farmers and ranchers in taking very good care of their goats and it all adds up big time. And this is 100% undoctored cashmere fiber with no additives (i.e. other fibers being sneaked in as filler.)

One of the mills that dehairs and spins cashmere in our country is Going to the Sun Fiber Mill in Kalispell, MT. Diana of Going to the Sun has been in contact with me and tells me that they also spin American bison, yak, alpaca, llama, Icelandic wool, and so much more! You must visit her site and have a look at the cutie-cute alpacas and mini llamas. She has sent me some samples and of course I'll show you when I get them.

The rest of my part of this whole story is that I am working on four accessory designs with cashmere from Delia of Ravenwood--a beret, a scarf, a cowl, and some fingerless mitts. She is going to sell the patterns in kits starting this summer, both from her Web site and at fiber festivals. I'll give you more information on that as it all comes about. We'll be done with the development of these patterns by the end of May. Soon after that you will be able to buy the patterns, kits, and cashmere yarn from Delia at Ravenwood. And don't forget about her goat milk soaps! I highly recommend them and they are for sale right now. She has even worked up some great gift sets with them. I have now tried three of the scents--sage, rosemary, and coconut-lime. I have them all over the house and enjoy them every day.

Fred and I have been invited to go over to Spokane to Ravenwood to meet the goats. I can't wait! It's almost kid season, and Delia says that a lot of them will be twins! That means, after I get to meet the new twins in our family, I'll get to meet some new ones in theirs. Yep--my oldest daughter is expected to deliver twins in late April and I'll be there to see it all. See, I have plenty to tell you about in the next few months. It's all almost overwhelming. I'm having a blast!

Tomorrow is our Mirth Day party at The Yarn Stash and I can't wait! I'll be back in a couple of days to show you what fun we had. See you soon!


La Rue said...

Wishing you a great party today, wish I could be there. Can't wait for the pictures to see who all showed up. LYVM

Lou said...

It was a fun party! I got my mitts done and will e-mail you a picture. That yarn is wonderful!!!!

fig said...

Pictures are up, Mom (et al). Go have a look!

I knew you'd like the Claudia worsted, Lou!