The cashgora fiber comes from a cashmere-type goat that originates in the Pamir mountains that lie at the western junction of the Himalayas. The Tajik Pamir is one of the highest and most beautiful mountain ranges in the world, with peaks reaching 24,590 feet.
Pamiri villagers produce small flocks of goats for meat, milk and fiber. By early November when the first snow covers the rugged mountainsides and the temperature falls below freezing, the goats have grown a soft, down undercoat that will protect them from the harsh winter weather. The fiber is very similar to cashmere, just slightly longer and coarser. This makes the yarn more durable and less prone to pilling.
In early spring when the temperature rises the goats no longer need their down and begin to shed. Pamiri women comb their goats and sell the fiber to buyers. One female goat gives close to one pound of down and a purebred cashgora buck as much as two pounds.
Cashgora buyers buy the down, sort it by color, load it in a truck and send it down from the mountains to the Panj river that provides a natural border between eastern Tajikistan and northern Afghanistan. The fiber has to be shipped to Afghanistan for dehairing.
Fiber collection is completed by early June and the truck with the cashgora crosses the Tajik Afghan border at the Panj river. It travels across the Afghan side of the Pamirs all the way to Kabul and from there to a dehairing factory in Herat.
Afghanistan is the third largerst cashmere producer in the world and has a large dehairing facility. The cashgora fiber is scoured and dehaired in Herat and shipped back to Tajikistan.
The dehaired fiber is distributed to seven spinning groups, four in the Pamirs and three in northern Tajikistan. The spinners are rural women with few means to earn a living. Many of their husbands work in Russia as laborers. By spinning for export they can help support their families and become more independent. This spinning group is located in the Sezd village, high in the Pamirs.
The women enjoy working together in their workshops. It gives them a break from home and a safe space to earn money, socialize, and bond with their friends. The spinners can come to the workshop to spin anytime they want. They are paid by meter of yarn and share small profits from yarn sales. This group is from the Oshoba village, northern Tajikistan.
Only the most talented spinners are allowed to join the groups to ensure that the yarn quality is superb. The group leaders maintain strict quality control to ensure that knitters who purchase the yarn are fully satisfied.
These talented spinners are from the Shoidana village, northern Tajikistan. Shahlo Norboeva, seated in the center, is the general manager of the spinning business.
Spinning yarn for export is not only a source of income, but also a source of pride and accomplishment. Each spinner has a tag for her yarn with her name, photo, and a bio on our website. We want to give you a sense of the woman who spun your yarn and give her a chance to share her story.
The yarn is distributed by PortFiber in Portland, Maine. The owner of PortFiber, Casey Ryder, visited the spinning groups in Tajikistan in March 2017. Casey and the spinners had a wonderful time getting to know each other. They plan to collaborate on producing and selling the best handspun, handdyed yarn on the market that will be a joy to knit with.
Finally, there are makers like you who purchase the yarn and turn it into beautiful pieces - knit, woven, or crocheted.
Thank you for being a part of our story and for helping these women to earn money and enjoy a more satisfying, empowered life.