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Dear Kay,

Nothing like a former schoolteacher who escaped to the yarn world to lay it all out for us. I had the chance to ask Jane Saffir, owner of Jade Sapphire Exotic Fibres, about her yarns used in Bristol Ivy’s Nesting Wrap. She took on my essay test like a high school senior aiming high.

Jane Saffir and Ken Scheck, in Italy, “working.”

Why cashmere? It’s pretty fancy stuff.

I’d been a fiber fanatic for many years, and about 15 years ago had the opportunity to import some cashmere yarn. There wasn’t much, if any, cashmere yarn available to hand knitters then, and I wanted some! Why? Silly question! Who wouldn’t want cashmere? I had recently retired from my former profession (teaching) and rationalized my initial purchase thinking I might start a small business. I started visiting local yarn shops with my new yarn, then vending at knitting shows, and the rest is history!

Why is Jade Sapphire different from other cashmere yarns?

We are rigorous about having our cashmere tested because there is a lot of “fake” cashmere out there. We know the yarn is very expensive and want to be sure the quality is excellent.  We also try to provide excellent customer service.  Since I’m a knitter and crocheter, I truly “get it” and understand what fiber folks want.

What are your top three tips for working with cashmere yarn?

One of the many things I love about knitting with cashmere is that, because the yarn is soft, I can break it without a scissors. I also love the way it continues to bloom with use. And, speaking about Jade Sapphire cashmere, I love the way the nuances of the hand-dying become apparent as I knit. I always knit a swatch of each new color (you can see them on our website), and it is then that I truly fall in love with the color.

How many colors are in your Jade Sapphire palette? How do you cook up these colors?

My initial goal was to free cashmere from the twin set and bring it into the 20th century for handknitters. That included offering it in lots of gorgeous colorways. We started with only 12 and are now up to more than 200! I love our colorways and have only discontinued two: #6 and #12, two of the original colorways. I decided they were so ugly that I couldn’t in good faith sell them anymore.

What is the most surprising thing about cashmere yarn?

Cashmere yarn IS washable and is very difficult to felt, so you can wash it in a washing machine. (Editors’ note: Cashmere may be difficult to felt, but Kay has succeeded in felting it, so we cannot recommend machine washing this most exquisite fiber.)

Are there myths and rumors about cashmere yarn that you’d like to address?

The biggest myth concerns where cashmere comes from. Contrary to popular belief, there are NO cashmere goats in Italy. Almost all of the world’s cashmere comes from Mongolia and China.


Thanks to everyone for all the kind words about the Nesting Wrap. Can’t wait to see how all this brioche turns out. I’ll start a conversation over in The Lounge, “Brioche: Not Just for Breakfast Anymore.” I’m still new at it myself, so all tips are welcome. My big tip: knit brioche at least once in your life, like, right now!



PS Results of the Name That Yarn contest are in. Hubbo interrupted his cake-eating (OK, I interrupted his cake-eating) to draw a winner. Five of about 180 entries were correct.

The names were deposited in an MDK Swag Bag. The slips of paper were of the same size in order to assure a fair outcome. They were folded. Hubbo did not look down while drawing the winner.

The winner is patpin, who correctly sussed out Spincycle as the yarn being used.
Hubbo returned to his cake. patpin’s MDK Swag Bag is in the mail.


  • I feel lucky that only one of those color ways is really singing a siren song to me….hoping I receive a little $ in my stocking this year so I can splurge on it!

  • What about cashmere and pilling? Myth or fact?

    • I have cashmere sweaters from Neiman-Marcus that have little pills. They have been dry cleaned not washed.

  • Does Jade Sapphire source its cashmere to make sure there is no exploitation involved? As cashmere has become more mass-market there are a lot of questions about fairness and ecological issues.

  • I too have the question about sourcing cashmere – I’ve read about ecological problems in China and Mongolia caused by the popularity of cashmere leading to overgrazing, and so on. Your comments, please?

  • Just this morning (12/9) NPR ran a story about the environmental issues caused by the Cashmere goat herds in Mongolia. I had heard a little about this before but did not realize how devastating it is.

  • Cashmere is lovely, but the boom in cashmere is also decimating parts of Mongolia.

  • Help! Which variety of Spincycle yarn was this? There seem to be many and none look to me like the ones you pictured.

  • The idea of fake cashmere is fascinating to me (much like my passion for news of art forgeries or museum heists). Would be really interested in a piece about fiber fakery and how to tell if what you’re buying is what it says on the label.

  • I am always interested in the back story, so thank you for this. And, re: “Cashmere may be difficult to felt, but Kay has succeeded in felting it.” Kay, I’m sorry for your loss, but think that hidden in there is an answer to the question, “What do you get for the person who has everything?” Cashmere coasters, of course!

  • I just finished knitting two gifts using Jade Sapphire cashmere. It was exceptional yarn — absolutely a dream to work with. I’m looking forward to learning the brioche stitch!

  • IS it possible that the cashmere which Kay succeeded in felting wasn’t really cashmere? If real cashmere is mixed with wool (even Merino), it can be felted.

  • I love cashmere sweaters and I am very interested in trying to knit one I know it will be expensive but I cannot seem to find any pullover sweater patterns
    Since it will be quite an expense I would like to have a pattern and not substitute
    Do you have any thoughts

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