Softness of apparel textiles is a major attribute sought by consumers. There is surprisingly little objective information on the softness properties of rare animal fibres, particularly cashmere, alpaca and mohair. Samples of these and other rare animal fibres from different origins of production and processors were objectively measured for fibre diameter, fibre curvature (FC, crimp) and resistance to compression (softness). While there were curvilinear responses of resistance to compression to FC and to mean fibre diameter, FC accounted for much more of the variance in resistance to compression. Fibre type was an important determinant of resistance to compression. The softest fibres were alpaca, mohair and cashgora and all of the fibres measured were softer than most Merino wool. Quivet, llama, camel, guanaco, vicuña, yak wool, bison wool, dehaired cow down and Angora rabbit were also differentiated from alpaca, mohair and cashmere. There were important differences in the softness and FC of cashmere from different origins with cashmere from newer origins of production (Australia, New Zealand and USA) having lower resistance to compression than cashmere from traditional sources of China and Iran. Cashmere from different origins was differentiated on the basis of resistance to compression, FC and fibre diameter. Cashgora was differentiated from cashmere by having a lower FC and lower resistance to compression. There were minority effects of colour and fibre diameter variation on resistance to compression of cashmere. The implications of these findings for the identification and use of softer raw materials are discussed.
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