Cashmere is a type of soft, luxurious goat wool that comes from central Asia, primarily Mongolia, China, and Tibet; today little comes from its namesake, Kashmir. The goats that give us cashmere live in high cold wind-swept plateaus like the Gobi desert, and develop thick coats of coarse outer hairs and fine soft inner down to keep them warm in the winter. In the spring, they molt, shedding their coats in clumps. The hair is either gathered by hand or obtained by combing; no goats are harmed in the making of cashmere. The wool is laboriously cleaned by hand, and most cashmere is woven on hand looms.
Cashmere has been made for centuries, but it used to be much more expensive and rare than it is today, and so was used primarily by royalty. Apparently a European fad for cashmere was started by Napoleon Bonaparte, who gave his wife seventeen cashmere shawls; Queen Victoria had several, and Beau Brummell was the talk of the town with his white cashmere waistcoat. Cashmere's still pretty fancy, but no longer solely for the rich. Mongolia produces top quality cashmere, and recently there's been a surge of interest in Nepali pashmina, a type of cashmere used primarily for shawls and scarves. Gritchka, I've heard, is a cashmere scarf.
Your cashmere sweater will last a lot longer if you wash it gently by hand, taking care not to stretch or wring the garment. Don't let it dangle from your hand, as this will stretch and tear the fibers. Wrap the washed and rinsed item in a towel and roll up, allowing the towel to absorb much of the moisture. Then lay the garment on a clean dry towel and form it into its natural shape, after which you should allow it to thoroughly air dry (you will probably have to turn it over once). Fold it carefully to store; never hang a cashmere item, or it will stretch out of shape.
Cashmere is also a town in Washington state, nestled in the picturesque Cascade Mountains. The town is a producer of apples, pears, peaches, and cherries, and mysteriously claims to be home to aplets and cotlets; I have no idea what those are, beyond fruits. (Update: now I know, for Kit advises that they are a type of jelly candy with nuts.) It has a pioneer village and historic museum.
For more info on the town, see members.aol.com/cashmerewa/cashmere.html. And for detailed instructions on washing your expensive cashmere sweater, refer to www.cashmere.com/html/101/101_caring.html.