Bev Cooper of Belisa Cashmere

The January guest speaker was Bev Cooper of Belisa Cashmere. She was introduced as a passionate fibre person who has made a great contribution to the Australian Cashmere industry.

Thank you ladies and gentlemen. It is great to see some guys. I have been in business for 12 years. It all began when I purchased goats in 1984 to clear paddocks instead of slashing them. The goats steadily increased in number at Kellyville. At this time I was working for a large corporation and saw the fibre going overseas for processing. I got some cashmere from the USA and spun it. It was a disaster as I had spun it too loosely. I decided to learn how to process it properly.

Cashmere is a down. It begins its growth on the longest day of the year and comes off on the shortest day. Some goats have long guard hairs and some goats have short guard hairs. The down should not grow beyond the length of the guard hair or it will be damaged. The problem is to get the down separated from the guard hairs.
We have 45 suppliers. Our fibre is processed in New Zealand now. We had had it dehaired, scoured and spun in China. This was not successful. It is impossible to do all of these processes in Australia. Although there is a dehairing plant in Baccus Marsh the fibre would still have to go to Ne w Zealand for spinning. It is easier to have it all done in New Zealand so that is where it goes.
At one time Jeff Kennett set up this plant that was to go from sheep to jumper. It failed. The spinning machines have gone to an unknown home.
Cashmere has to be dyed as a fibre and then spun.
Within each bale the cashmere has to be carefully classified by micron and staple length to be successfully stripped of guard hairs by a series of mechanical rollers. There can only be a difference of 1 or 2 microns within each bale. The majority of cashmere we use is 16 micron. What comes out of the rollers at the end of the process is pure cashmere. It is 1/3 of the weight that went in. The other 2/3 is generally useless. Sometimes it has been bought by other firms in China and turned into industrial felt or paint brushes.
Cashmere is not elastic and is best blended with wool or silk in a 50/50 ratio by weight. This blended fibre is gorgeous for nuno felting. 16.7 micron cashmere is the most suitable for blending for felting as it has the highest crimp.
Customs only allows yarn on cones to be imported from overseas markets as long as it is not less than 50% cashmere.
Our cashmere is woven by Trudy Newmann. She uses a wool warp and a cashmere weft. You can see the results in the scarves on the table. As you can see it drapes beautifully. Cloth woven with a cashmere warp and weft will not drape. Also as the crimp structure is not as good as wool, it should be woven more tightly.
The yarn is also knitted on small industrial machines. At present I am developing a range of kits for knitters and crocheters. I recommend 3 ply as the most suitable yarn to be used for scarves. If the yarn is used for weaving, we add more twist to the fibre. Our fibre is not as soft as Chinese cashmere, but it lasts longer.
At Bundanoon, We have a black herd band a white herd. Dark brown fibre comes from brown black goats. I feel that grey is a nothing colour. In other herds the number of black goats is declining as they are less valuable. We pay our suppliers equally for black or white fibre of a particular micron.
Goats are great for cleaning up black berries, pussy willow as they browse. When the plant regenerates it becomes smaller each time until it eventually ceases to grow. The paddocks then become suitable for a horse property.
Are there any questions?
What is the difference between Cashmere and Angora goats?
Cashmere goats have a 2 layer coat. Angora goats have a single coat which grows in ringlets.
How do you sell your product?
I sell it through Craft and Agricultural Shows.
How do you sell your goats?
I always sell them in pairs as they tend to fret by themselves.
Does the fibre from a male goat smell badly?
It does smell strongly. We place the hair from a male goat into the bale that holds all the stained and cotted cashmere. After this cashmere is scoured, it is assessed and if it is not okay, it is discarded.
When are the goats shorn.
They are shorn when they are ready. They are not all shorn at the same time as sheep are.
How good a spinner do you have to be to spin cashmere?
Cashmere cannot be spun well by an inexperienced spinner.
What is the difference between yarn for knitting and crocheting?
Knitting yarn is spun clockwise DATES. and plied anti-clockwise. Crochet yarn is spun anti-clockwise and plied clockwise.
Who dyes your multi colours?
We get that yarn dyed at Fibreworks.
What can you tell us about the Cashmere market in the USA?
No-one could help.
What countries produce Cashmere?
China, Tibet, Australia, Scotland and Italy. It is essential to keep adding genes to domesticated stock by adding feral goats to the breeding stock.

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