Four Goats and a Hank of Cashmere

Note from Sandi: Liz Gipson, managing editor of Handwoven magazine and co-host of Knitting Daily TV, is back today to share more about her fiber “space”. But, this time it’s her backyard. Liz is the proud “mother” of cashmere goats. Truly a woman after my own heart!

The Cashmere Kid

When I was small my grandmother used to take me to the petting zoo. I would wrap my fingers around the fence that surrounded the llamas’ pen in order not to be hauled back to the car when our day was done. I loved anything wooly, and still do. Thirty-five years later—after working on an alpaca ranch, studying wool science in New Zealand, shepherding sheep and goats on a Navajo reservation, and landing a job at Interweave working on Handwoven and Knitting Daily TV—I can look out my studio window and see my own little herd of cashmere-bearing goats.

Diva is the herd queen. She is a little on the temperamental side but as long as she gets her way she is fine. Zeus thwarts her happiness constantly. He is the biggest, and only, male and he can pretty much throw his weight around to get what he wants. He only really chooses to do so when he wants to be first in line for chow. Faith at first tended to follow whichever of the two—Diva or Zeus—was "winning.” But then Diva got so annoying that Faith decided to abandon her groupie ways and let the two of them work it out. Then there is little Bella. Her full name is Bella Bella Goatarella—so named by a couple of young friends. Everyone picks on Bella—it’s a goat thing. You can't tell goats to hold hoofs and be nice. They have to work out the herd order among themselves, and if you try to impose your will upon them you are just wasting your time.

I love having the opportunity to tell Knitting Daily readers about my little herd because you get it. You smile the same gleeful smile as I do. You don't say, "Why would anyone want to have goats in her backyard?" When people ask that question, I have to patiently point out that they give me fiber and mow my lawn. Then they ask "How much fiber?", and I patiently tell them that I get about four ounces per goat. Then they want to know how much it costs to keep them and they do the math to figure out how much those four ounces cost. They don't get it, do they? Cost, output, usefulness—that's really not the point. The point is that I love my goats, and they give me fiber that I spend endless hours dehairing. Then I dye the fiber with plants from my yard and spin it into yarn to make cloth.

Working with cashmere is the ultimate in luxury. It just feels so darn good in your hands. When it is worked up, it produces a slight halo that you can use to your advantage to create lighter-than-air hats, gloves, and scarves. I'm working on a lace headband-and-gloves set using the St. John's Warp lace pattern in our book, Traditional Knitted Lace Shawls. The pleasure I get while using this fiber is worth the blank looks at parties and all the grass in my backyard.

Are you a yarn snob for cashmere?
Leave a comment and share your cashmere love.

Here are some resources for even more luxury yarn, whether you collect it from your own goats or buy it on the yarn shelves. 

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