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Crash Course In Cashmere

Cashmere: It's one of the most luxurious fabrics in the world, and also the most expensive.

However, in recent years cashmere products have become available at very affordable prices.

Cashmere is the downy fleece shed annually by Kashmir goats living in the high plateaus of China and Mongolia. This fine fiber lies beneath a coarse external coat, and insulates the animals from the bitter cold. It takes one of these a goats four years to produce enough cashmere for one sweater.

Marie Claire magazine's editor-in-chief Leslie Jane Seymour, who appears Tuesday on The Early Show, offers these tips on shopping for cashmere:

  • There are a number of factors that determine the price point for cashmere. First and foremost, whether the product is 100 percent cashmere or a cashmere blend. Second, the type of fiber: soft or coarse, short or long. Fine cashmere is made of soft and long fibers (the long fibers make stronger yarn and therefore produce fewer pills).
  • When buying, look for density. A sweater that is loosely knit is a hallmark of a cheaply made garment. Along with density, check for the ply, which is the amount of strands used in a twist. Most often, designers use two-ply or more, which add weight and make the yarn stronger. The higher the ply, the more expensive the sweater.
  • Pilling occurs when short fibers work their way up to the surface into small balls due to friction. Some pilling is to be expected in most sweaters, but the problem should not persist in quality cashmere products after the first few cleanings. Therefore, the less expensive items that may use shorter fibers will be more apt to pill than the more expensive ones that use longer fibers. To avoid this, be careful not to cause friction (from a bag strap for example). To remove pills, send the item to the dry cleaners or use a short-bristled hand brush or defuzzer comb.
  • Although you can dry clean cashmere, industry experts suggest hand washing in warm water with mild soap. To avoid losing the garment's shape, never wring or twist the fabric, but instead gently press water from the garment, while rolling it up in a dry towel. Lay the garment on a towel over a flat surface to dry. Never store a cashmere sweater on a hanger.

These are the products that appeared on Tuesday's The Early Show.

Pink Floral Bouquet $1,195
V-neck Voile $825
Lilac T-neck $625
Orange V-neck $525

Cable Knit Crew Neck $398

Crew Cable Knit $695
Peach Deep V-neck $475
Cardigan $394
Kelly Green V-neck & Crew $375

Crème Cable Knit T-neck $350
Crème Shawl Collar Jacket $275
Orange T-neck $200

T-neck $129
Cardigan $129

Tie Neck Sweater $99
V-Neck $99
Tee Shirt $79

T-neck $78
Cardigan Jeweled Buttons $68

Cardigan $39.99

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