Cashmere and Merino are two of the softest and most luxurious fabrics in the world. They have similar uses, being used to make sweaters, socks, and other cold-weather accessories. But if you’re considering purchasing clothing made from one of these fabrics or using these fabrics for a sewing project, you may be wondering what is the difference between cashmere vs Merino?
The biggest difference between the two fabrics is that cashmere comes from the hair of a Cashmere goat, whereas Merino comes from the wool of a Merino sheep. They are both moisture-wicking, breathable, and expensive fabrics. But Cashmere tends to be a bit softer and warmer, while Merino is more durable, less expensive, and a bit easier to care for.
In this article, I’ll share more information about the characteristics of these two fabrics. I’ll also compare the similarities, differences, and pros and cons of each one so that you can decide which one is better suited for your needs.
- What is Cashmere Fabric?
- What is Merino Wool?
- Cashmere vs Merino Wool: Key Points
- What’s the Difference Between Cashmere and Merino?
- Pros and Cons of Cashmere
- Pros and Cons of Merino
- What Is Cashmere Merino?
- Is Cashmere Itchy Like Wool?
- Cashmere Fabric by the Yard
- Merino Fabric by the Yard
- What Is Better Cashmere or Merino?
What is Cashmere Fabric?
Cashmere is a luxurious natural fabric that comes from the hair of only one type of goat, the Cashmere goat. Cashmere goats are native to the Kashmir region in Central Asia. Because the fabric only has one source and that source isn’t as abundant as other materials used for fabric, cashmere is one of the most expensive fabrics in the world.
Today, cashmere fabric is mostly produced in China and localized areas of Central Asia. To make the fabric, the cashmere goats have to be sheared to obtain the fur, which is necessary to keep them healthy and shouldn’t hurt the goats. But, it has also raised concerns about how ethical and sustainable the fabric is as some people may not shear them in a humane way. With that being said, there are plenty of ethical producers of cashmere fabric, with some even being certified as such.
After the fur is sheared, it is picked through and cleaned to remove any dirt or impurities. Then it is combed and carded into groups of fibers. The groups of fibers are fed into a machine that spins and twists them into yarn and then the yarn is cleaned again and dyed if necessary. Finally, the yarn is woven together to create cashmere fabric.
What is Merino Wool?
Merino wool is another luxurious natural fabric and is considered by many to be the finest type of sheep’s wool. As the name implies, Merino wool comes from the Merino sheep. The exact origin of the sheep is unclear, but it is known that they appeared in Spain sometime between the 12th and 13th centuries.
Today, most Merino sheep live in Australia, and Australia is the biggest producer and exporter of Merino wool. Since there are more Merino sheep in the world, Merino wool is not as expensive as other types of fabric, but it does tend to be more expensive than other types of wool due to how soft and fine the fibers are compared to other sheep’s wool.
To make Merino wool, the sheep first have to be sheared, which is a necessary practice that causes no harm to the sheep. The wool is then cleaned, sorted, and carded into long strings. The wool is spun together into yarn and either woven or knitted together to form the fabric. Finally, the fabric is dyed to give it a certain color.
Cashmere vs Merino Wool: Key Points
Now that you know where cashmere and Merino come from and how they are made, look at this table for a brief overview of their characteristics. You’ll see that there are a lot of areas in which they are similar, but there are some key areas in which they differ as well.
|Breathability||High breathability, more breathable than Merino||Medium breathability, less breathable than cashmere|
|Durability||Less durable due to finer fibers||More durable due to stronger fibers|
|Texture||Softer than Merino||Not as soft as cashmere but softer than other wool|
|Warmth||Warmer the Merino||Not as warm as cashmere but warmer than other wool|
|Stretchy||Medium stretch||Medium stretch, more stretch if knitted instead of woven.|
|Ease of Care||Hand-wash and air-dry flat||Machine-wash, gentle cycle, air-dry flat|
|Sustainability||Less sustainable, fewer regulations in place, less abundance of goats||More sustainable, more regulations plus a greater abundance of sheep|
|Cost||One of the most expensive fabrics||Less expensive than cashmere, more expensive than other wool|
|Uses||Sweaters, scarves, hats, gloves, socks||Sweaters, socks, suit jackets, thermal clothing, blankets|
What’s the Difference Between Cashmere and Merino?
Cashmere vs Merino Wool
Now that you’ve seen an overview of these two fabrics let’s take a closer and more in-depth look at their similarities and differences. In each category, I’ll try to choose a clear winner if there is one, but some categories will be too close to say for sure.
In general, wool is one of the most breathable fabrics since the purpose of wool is to circulate air to keep the animals cool, warm, or dry, depending on the season. With that being said, cashmere and Merino are both considered types of wool and are both very breathable as a result.
But in terms of which one is more breathable, it would have to be cashmere due to individual fibers being a bit finer, which can sometimes result in a thinner fabric. Merino is not quite as breathable as cashmere, but it does tend to be more breathable than other types of sheep’s wool that can often feel stuffy. Cashmere and Merino are both more breathable than fleece, which is wool made from synthetic fibers such as polyester.
Many people assume that cashmere and Merino are delicate fabrics since they often require special care. This is not entirely true as they can both be very durable as long as they are taken care of properly.
One of the best characteristics in terms of durability is that both cashmere and Merino are flame-resistant and can self-extinguish if they were to catch on fire. But if you don’t wash and dry them correctly, both of them tend to shrink and can become misshapen as well.
But since the fibers that make up Merino wool aren’t as fine as those that makeup cashmere, Merino tends to be slightly more durable. The fibers are also a bit stronger, so Merino has a few more practical uses than cashmere does.
Cashmere and Merino are pretty similar in terms of texture. They are two of the softest wools there is, but cashmere is just a bit softer than Merino due to the fibers being thinner and finer than Merino wool. Merino wool is the softest type of sheep’s wool, but it can feel stiff and itchy to some people, especially those with a wool allergy.
Both cashmere and Merino are warm, so they are used mostly for winter clothing. They both offer great insulation to the wearer, but cashmere tends to be slightly warmer than Merino due to the softness and thinness of the fibers. Due to the fibers being so thin, it allows cashmere fabric to be made in different thicknesses, which can affect how warm it is, but sometimes cashmere can be too warm if it is too thick,
Merino usually offers a good amount of warmth without being uncomfortable. Plus, its durability allows it to be made into different types of clothing and textiles that you wouldn’t normally use cashmere for. And because of its softness, Merino is warmer than other types of sheep’s wool.
Another characteristic of wool fabrics, in general, is that they have natural odor resistance. This is because the wool remains on the animal for most of the year and would become smelly if it weren’t for the ability of wool to absorb odor.
Neither cashmere nor Merino is necessarily better at resisting odors. But, if you’re considering one of these fabrics for clothing that is outdoor-related, then Merino would be the better choice since it is both odor-resistant and more durable.
Considering that wool is designed to keep animals dry and both warm and cool, it is one of the best fabrics if you want something that has a high moisture-wicking ability. Because of this, both wool and cashmere are great at wicking away moisture and they both tend to dry very quickly.
It’s hard to say which fabric is better just based on moisture-wicking ability, and both of them can become saturated if they get wet enough. However, since cashmere is slightly more breathable, it may have a slight advantage at being more moisture-wicking.
Cashmere and Merino are both typically woven fabrics. Woven fabrics generally aren’t super stretchy. Both of them have a medium amount of stretch and they can both lose their shape if they aren’t cared for properly.
It is possible to find Merino wool that is knitted instead of woven. If you can find it, it will be more stretchy than woven Merino wool and cashmere since cashmere is mostly woven and very rarely knitted.
Ease of Care
Cashmere and Merino wool both require special care if you want to keep them in the best shape. Merino is easier to care for since it is more durable, but they are both prone to shrinking if you aren’t careful.
You shouldn’t wash cashmere after every wear because it can cause the fabric to lose some of its softness. The best way to wash cashmere is by hand-washing it following these steps:
- Fill a tub with cool water.
- Add cashmere detergent or baby shampoo. Do not use bleach or fabric softener.
- Soak the garment in the water for 15 minutes, swirling it occasionally.
- Drain the tub and refill it with cool water.
- Place the garment back in the water to rinse
- Remove the garment and gently squeeze out excess water; do not wring.
- Air dry, laying the garment flat so it doesn’t lose its shape.
- Fold the garment when storing. Do not hang it up, or it will stretch out of shape.
Merino wool can be washed in the washing machine provided that you use the right settings. The best way to wash Merino garments is to:
- Turn them inside out.
- Use a gentle cycle, cool water, and wool detergent.
- Do not use bleach as it can damage the fibers.
- Do not use fabric softener to make the fabric less moisture-wicking and breathable.
- Air dry, laying them flat so that they don’t lose their shape.
- Fold before storing, as hanging it can cause it to stretch out of shape.
One concern that some people have when choosing fabrics is sustainability, especially when there has been controversy over how sustainable and ethical cashmere fabric is. Although there are ways to make cashmere more sustainable and ethical, Merino is generally the more sustainable fabric.
This is the case because there are more Merino sheep than there are Cashmere goats, and the wool from one Merino sheep can produce more garments than the fur of Cashmere goats. There are also more regulations and standards over wool production than there are over cashmere to help ensure that the sheep are treated humanely and that the harvesting and production of wool remain ethical.
Both cashmere and Merino can be expensive due to being luxury fabrics and not being as widely available. But, cashmere is one of the most expensive fabrics you can buy since there is only one region in which Cashmere goats live and there aren’t as many. Plus, it takes a lot of cashmere fur to make one sweater or clothing item.
Merino is the most expensive type of sheep’s wool since it is a bit softer and warmer. But, Merino is cheaper than cashmere since there are more Merino sheep and you can make more clothing out of the wool from one Merino sheep. In other words, Merino wool is more abundant than cashmere which is why it tends to be more affordable.
Due to their warmth and softness, both cashmere and Merino are typically used for cold-weather clothing. Cashmere is more delicate than Merino, so it doesn’t have quite as many uses. But some of the main uses for cashmere include making sweaters, hats, gloves, scarves, and socks, all of which don’t necessarily undergo a lot of wear and tear.
Merino is a bit more durable while still being soft and warm. But because of its durability, it can be used to make more types of clothing, especially outdoor clothing that undergoes more wear and tear. Merino’s common uses include making sweaters, socks, suit jackets, thermal clothing, and even blankets.
Pros and Cons of Cashmere
Now that you’ve seen the characteristics of cashmere in more detail let’s sum them up by looking at the pros and cons. The pros of cashmere are that it is breathable, warm, moisture-wicking, and soft.
Cashmere is also considered a luxury fabric, but because of this, one of the cons is that it is expensive. Compared to Merino, cashmere is also less durable and requires more special care, such as hand-washed.
Pros and Cons of Merino
Merino has its fair share of pros and cons as well. Some of the pros of Merino wool are that it is warm, soft, and moisture-wicking. It is also more durable than cashmere and easier to take care of because you can wash it in the washing machine.
Merino is also considered the best type of sheep’s wool, but because of this, it is the most expensive type of sheep’s wool. It’s also not as breathable nor as warm or soft as cashmere. And even though you can wash Merino in the washing machine, it still requires a bit of special care to keep it in its best shape.
What Is Cashmere Merino?
Cashmere Merino is a type of fabric that is a blend of cashmere and Merino fibers. Usually, the fabric is made up of about 75% Merino and 25% cashmere fibers. Blending the fibers in this way gives the fabric the best qualities of both fabrics, including being soft and warm while also being more durable and cheaper than cashmere fabric alone would be.
Is Cashmere Itchy Like Wool?
Some people don’t like to wear wool because it is itchy. Part of this has to do with the fact that wool contains lanolin, which some people may be allergic to or have skin sensitivity to. But another reason that wool can be itchy is due to the stiffer fibers that can feel scratchy when worn.
Since the cashmere fibers are softer and don’t contain lanolin, cashmere is far less itchy than wool. It’s also hypoallergenic compared to Merino and other types of wool. However, it is still a natural fiber made from an animal’s fur, so some people may still find it to be a little itchy.
Cashmere Fabric by the Yard
Because cashmere is considered a luxury fabric, it isn’t going to be quite as available as fabrics such as cotton, polyester, and even regular wool. You may have to go to a specialty fabric retailer to find it.
When you find it, remember that it isn’t going to be the cheapest fabric you can buy. A yard of cashmere fabric can cost anywhere between $30 and $100 or more depending on if the fabric is made of 100% cashmere fibers or has other wool fibers mixed in, as well as the quality of the fabric itself. Plus, cashmere fabric mostly comes in solid neutral or muted colors.
Merino Fabric by the Yard
Merino fabric is much more affordable due to its readily available, but it can still cost more than other fabrics. You’re likely to find a wider selection of Merino fabric than you would cashmere.
Merino fabric can cost anywhere from $10 to $50 depending on the percentage of Merino wool and the quality of the fabric. It also comes in mostly solid neutral or muted colors but can be found in some brighter colors.
What Is Better Cashmere or Merino?
So which one is better, cashmere or Merino? They have their advantages, including being warm, soft, breathable, and moisture-wicking. But they have their advantages too, including being pricey and requiring special care.
It ultimately just comes down to your personal preference. But, in general, choose cashmere if you want something more luxurious and warmer and you don’t intend to wear it as much. Choose Merino if you want something a bit cheaper plus more durable, especially if you plan to wear it a lot.
Whichever you choose, I hope this article helped make your decision easier. If you did find it helpful, be sure to share it with others who could use it and leave a comment. Thanks for reading!