A couple of years ago while on my constant quest for luxurious yarns I stumbled upon a website for cashmere knitting yarn called www.calcashmere.com located in Calaveras County, California.
The website is very interesting covering a lot of information about cashmere goats and their fleece and fiber. It is probably more than the average knitter needs to know about the end product that they are going to knit with, but informative just the same.
You can purchase their yarn and fleece on line which all seemed straight forward enough. But then I noticed that they offered for a fee of $20.00 (2007) per person a guided tour and talk about the farm. What a wonderful idea to see the cashmere goats, learn about the whole fiber process, and to touch and really feel the yarn before buying it.
Alan and I decided to visit on August 18th and we would meet Ajamu and Talibah Al-Rafiq at one of their properties. A word of warning, follow the driving directions that they will send you. Alan and I also did a map quest search and mainly followed those directions wrong… They live on Jesus Maria Road and if you follow map quest you will understand why the Jesus in the name!!! It was a little hair raising to say the least. Fortunately as we had left home giving ourselves plenty of time we still managed to arrive at the property at the arranged time. Leaving the property we did follow their directions and had absolutely no problems at all getting out of Calaveras County.
The first property is where they care for the goats, shearing, clipping their hooves and generally keeping them in top shape. We were also shown the various quality of fleece and fiber removed from the goats and where it is cleaned and prepared ready for spinning. They decided when they began the business to keep the goats as “wild” as possible so while we could touch them the goats are very independent. This they said was necessary so that when the goats give birth for example they can do all of this without the need for human help. So often the animals have been so spoiled that they need human help for almost everything.
From that property we followed them by car to their other property where all the goats are kept in paddocks. It was a gorgeous area with a wonderful view and just for that it was worth the visit. Here they have a transportable building where they have a showroom, office, bathroom and an area for their own business of machine knitting.
From a knitters perspective this was the best part of the day feeling and touching the fiber, in the hank or on a cone, or roving to spin the yarn yourself. They have the most wonderful natural colours and it was hard to decide what to purchase. I finally settled on a cone of cashmere which has 3200 yards on it to make a shawl from the book called Folk Shawls.
We left their property having had the most marvellous day with two really wonderfully generous people. I would certainly recommend it as a day out for a family or an excursion for a knitting group or guild. Some people will probably think local cashmere is too expensive but now more than ever we must support American businesses. And the quality of the product makes it a joy to knit with and wear.
For far more information than I can remember you must look at their website www.calcashmere.com and if you go to this link you can read the wonderful article about the farm in an older issue Forbes Magazine http://www.calcashmere.com/images/ForbesWeb.pdf
I just checked out Stitches West market place and California Cashmere will be at the show from February 26th – March 1st 2009 and it will be worth your while to go and look at their booth 809.
Sally Ann Gray