In 2008 I traveled to China with my daughter's college choir. While we were touring a cashmere factory I got our translator to ask the manager of the factory if I could buy just a little unspun fiber. I (and the translator) had to ask three times. "No," said the manager when he finally understood. We don't sell such a thing." He pointed to the showroom where they sold everything from rugs to sweaters to little stuffed kittens. He couldn't understand why any sane person would want the fluff. I think he felt a little insulted, too. He was real frowny.
SO since I couldn't get even a pinch of cashmere in China, I bought some here. And guess where it came from? Yep. China. Mongolia, to be exact. The following is an account of this spinning adventure.
I bought 8 ounces of cream colored cashmere top and when it arrived I just stuck my hand in the bag and touched it. It almost felt like touching NOTHING at all. I fluffed the top a bit and started to spin - using the fastest ratio on my Souped up Suzie. I wanted as many yards as possible - spinning pure gold. To make it go even farther, I planned to ply with a fine silk thread.
I found it was difficult to keep a very even draft - lots of little slubs. The fiber was fine but not slippery, and the top was fairly compacted. Had I been spinning on a drop spindle I would have had more consistency, but I was in a hurry this time.
I finally settled on a long draw spinning from a hunk of the top torn off and folded in half. I didn't fold it OVER my finger, I just folded and spun from the point of the fold. I was able to spin fast and fairly evenly.
By the time I had two full Majacraft lace bobbins I was sick of looking at cashmere. I still had to ply. I figured I'd had enough. I let it sit for a week to set the twist then plied it with silk thread.
Final counts: 4.6 ounces of silk-plied cashmere is 1693 yds. In other words, 368 yds/oz. You can see in the close up that the strands are not perfect - some are fluffier than others! The overall feel of the yarn is soft, soft, soft and very cushy.
Knitted into lace it will have a lustrous drape and will weigh next to nothing. I haven't decided if I will knit or weave it.