Will it come with a CD, too?

As Susan pointed out in the comments to the last post:

Alice Starmore’s Book of Fair Isle Knitting. In paperback. August 2009. From Dover.

Dover doesn’t only publish public domain works or collections of clip-art; they publish new works, too (you know, like presidential paper dolls). This title isn’t listed on the Dover website. I thought these books weren’t going to be republished… is there news?

As luck would have it, this is one of the Starmore books I’m missing from my collection. This leaves… well, seven I’ll be missing, but at least a couple of them are available at reasonable prices.

ETA: PDF news on spring 2009 releases from Dover. It’s in there. If the deal was between Dover and Taunton Press, perhaps Taunton had a (sublicensable) right to reprint for its territory. Taunton was the US publisher; there was a different publisher in the UK.

Back when the great Starmore-Jamieson/Unicorn blowup occurred (in 2000), Herself had stated that she would not republish “the books that I produced during the distribution period of Broad Bay and Unicorn”. In her letter to retailers, she was silent on the earliest works and those that didn’t use Unicorn-distributed yarn. Alice Starmore’s Book of Fair Isle Knitting was only book published by Taunton. (She had written articles for Threads magazine, but Taunton has already republished those in another book.)

Posted in chronicles, themes | 6 Comments

Moving forward…

A bit.

When we last left the cashmere conundrum, we were waiting for developments on the motions brought by certain defendants (the US-based ones) in both the Bliss and Noro actions. And now, we have them.

If you recall (what, you don’t?), certain defendants had moved to have the parts of the complaints that were based on federal law dismissed, so that all that remained were the counts based on state law. If the counts based on federal law were dismissed, the defendants argued, then the rest of the action ought to be dismissed from U.S. District Court as well because the proper venue would have been state court.

The defendants had mixed success. Last week, the court issued orders for both lawsuits (Bliss PDF, Noro PDF). In the Bliss action, the count based on the Lanham Act (false advertising under federal law) was dismissed, but the count based on RICO was not (although the grounds for the RICO claim were cut down).

In the Noro action, the Lanham Act count was dismissed, which left only allegations based on state law. However, the court retained jurisdiction over the action because of the diversity of citizenship (there are companies based in Japan, Pennsylvania, and New York, and individuals from New York and New Jersey).

If you need a scorecard, this is what remains in each lawsuit…

In the Bliss action–

I. (state law) Breach of Express Warranty of the Merchantability of Goods for Resale to Consumers
(against Knitting Fever, Sion Elalouf and Jay Opperman)

II. (state law) Breach of Implied Warranty of the Merchantability of Goods for Resale to Consumers
(against Knitting Fever, Filatura Pettinata, Sion Elalouf and Jay Opperman)

III. (federal law) Explicitly False Advertising Claim Pursuant to the Lanham Act
(against Knitting Fever)

IV. (federal law) Injury to Business and Property Pursuant to Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act
(against Sion Elalouf)
allegations of mail fraud and wire fraud remain; allegations regarding witness tampering, obstruction of justice, and exerting influence to obtain documents from a Coats employee struck out

V. (federal law) Conspiracy to Cause Injury to Business and Property
(against all defendants except Knitting Fever)

VI. (state law) Perfidious Trade Practices (Deceit) under the Common Law of Unfair Competition
(against Knitting Fever and Sion and Diane Elalouf)

VII. (state law) Motion to Pierce the Corporate Veil of the Elalouf-Controlled Entities
(against Knitting Fever and the Elaloufs)

In the Noro action–

I. (state law) Breach of Express Warranty of the Merchantability of Goods for Resale to Consumers
(against Knitting Fever, Sion Elalouf and Jay Opperman)

II. (state law) Breach of Implied Warranty of the Merchantability of Goods for Resale to Consumers
(against Eisaku Noro & Co., Knitting Fever, Sion Elalouf and Jay Opperman)

III. (federal law) Explicitly False Advertising Claim Pursuant to the Lanham Act
(against Knitting Fever)

IV. (state law) Perfidious Trade Practices (Common Law Unfair Competition)
(against Knitting Fever and Sion and Diane Elalouf)

V. (state law) Civil Conspiracy
(against all individual defendants, not companies)

VI. (state law) Motion to Pierce the Corporate Veil of the Elalouf-Controlled Entities
(against Knitting Fever and the Elaloufs)

The files linked above include the reasons for judgment. If you hadn’t read anything up to now, finding it tl;dr, the memoranda (reasons) provide a good summary of the allegations made in each lawsuit. I feel compelled to caution first (due to certain earlier observations) that just because these allegations are summarized in the reasons here does not mean that a court has determined that all the allegations are actually true; the test for whether allegations should be dismissed generally requires the court to assume the allegations in a pleading are true.

What’s next? The actions could go forward, or one or more of the parties could appeal one or more of these orders; the moving defendants, for example, did not get everything they asked for. In any event, this action will move about as quickly as… my knitting. Which is somewhat existent, but not quite.

ETA: also, the court ordered that these two actions be consolidated for the purposes of discovery and trial.

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Where's the cashmere? (Nov 21, 2008)

TKW v. KFI, Debbie Bliss, et al.

Complaint filed September 2, 2008: document in two parts, here and here (and exhibits in three, here, here and here), posts here, here, (an aside), here, here and here.

Motion to dismiss filed September 24, 2008: document, post.

Response to motion to dismiss filed October 8, 2008: document (sorry, no post on it; haven’t had time, but if all you are concerned about is where the cashmere is, you won’t mind).

Reply to response to motion to dismiss filed October 23, 2008: document.

Sur-reply in response to the above reply, filed November 10, 2008: document.


TKW v. Noro, KFI, et al.

Complaint filed October 6, 2008: document here, posthere. Certificates of service on all defendants filed on October 21, 2008.

Motion to dismiss on behalf of all defendants except Noro filed November 10, 2008: document.

Response to motion to dismiss filed November 17, 2008: document.


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Where's the cashmere? (Nov 15, 2008)

If I wind up reporting most of the steps in these actions, it’ll get pretty boring. So, this post will be reposted periodically with updates, with extra posts when there’s something pithy to say.

Observation: the more you type the word “here”, the funnier it looks.


TKW v. KFI, Debbie Bliss, et al.

Complaint filed September 2, 2008: document in two parts, here and here (and exhibits in three, here, here and here), posts here, here, (an aside), here, here and here.

Motion to dismiss filed September 24, 2008: document, post.

Response to motion to dismiss filed October 8, 2008: document (sorry, no post on it; haven’t had time, but if all you are concerned about is where the cashmere is, you won’t mind).

Reply to response to motion to dismiss filed October 23, 2008: document.

Sur-reply in response to the above reply, filed November 10, 2008: document.


TKW v. Noro, KFI, et al.

Complaint filed October 6, 2008: document here, posthere. Certificates of service on all defendants filed on October 21, 2008.

Motion to dismiss on behalf of all defendants except Noro filed November 10, 2008: document.


Posted in legal briefs, themes | 3 Comments

The other 5% is made of love

You have to feel sorry (or not) for a yarn distributor these days. Every claim you may put on a yarn label or website will be scrutinized.

… like this one!

irish_tweed

Maybe the missing 5% is a fudge factor.

(Don’t worry, it’s not cashmere. I’m sure KFI will fix it sometime. Everybody else, including Katia, says that the composition is 50/25/25 wool/silk/nylon.)

Speaking of yarn composition, something else has been bothering me for a long time:

knitpicks_donegal

This yarn contains “10% Donegal”. Just… Donegal.

Last I checked, Donegal was a type of tweed fabric. It doesn’t seem that they’re snipping little bits of fabric and sprinkling them on, or maybe spinning in bits of grass imported from Ireland. This leads to the inevitable conclusion that a yarn containing Donegal…

… is PEOPLE!

(If you don’t believe me, look at the pictures on Wikipedia of Donegal and County Donegal. There is a suspicious lack of people in those photographs, except for a few hapless tourists.)

doomed_tourists

Posted in Uncategorized | 10 Comments

No(ro) cashmere

Here we go… TKW has sued Noro in U.S. District Court as well (along with KFI, the Elaloufs, and Opperman): false advertising, breach of express and implied warranties, perfidious dealing, civil conspiracy. Complaint here.

(ETA: this is fresh — Noro would not have been served with this complaint yet.)

(ETA2: page 7 of the complaint is out of order, but it’s there.)

Posted in legal briefs, themes | 5 Comments

We have progress

A first response in the cashmere conflict: a motion to dismiss (PDF) three of the seven counts in the complaint, filed on behalf of the U.S. defendants only. (In other words, VVG, Designer Yarns, and Debbie Bliss are not part of this motion, but if the moving defendants are successful this may benefit them as well.)

These defendants are asking the court to dismiss the counts of explicitly false advertising contrary to the Lanham Act, injury to business and property under RICO, and conspiracy to cause injury to business and property under RICO. If these counts are dismissed, the defendants argue that this court should no longer exercise jurisdiction over the remaining claims, because they do not have an independent basis in federal jurisdiction (the remaining causes of action would therefore belong in state court).

The arguments against the Lanham Act claim are based on TKW’s standing to obtain relief under that act. (I’m not summarizing this at this point; go ahead, read it if you wish.) But with regard to the RICO counts, the defendants argue that the claims are time-barred because TKW should have discovered its alleged injury in 2001, which makes it too late to bring an action in 2008. (TKW alleged RICO-related activities by the defendants through 2006, but the defendants here argue that they are not separate and distinct acts.)

The heart of the argument is this:

The Wool Products Labeling Act of 1939, 15 U.S.C. ‘ 68 et seq., makes unlawful the manufacture, importation, sale, distribution, or advertisement of any wool product which is misbranded. 15 U.S.C. ‘ 68a. Misbranding is specifically defined and includes failing to properly identify the fiber content of wool products. 15 U.S.C. ‘ 68a. Importantly for the present case, the Act imposes liability for misbranding on any person who shall manufacture or deliver for shipment or ship or sell or offer for sale in commerce, any … wool product which is misbranded. 15 U.S.C. ‘ 68a. In other words, every person in the chain of commerce, from importer, to wholesaler, to retailer, has an independent responsibility under the Act to ensure that the yarn products they sell are properly labeled, including as to fiber content. Id.

In the present case, The Knit With was under a duty of inquiry as to the fiber content of the yarn products they purchased from KFI, not because of storm warnings of culpable activity, but because of its obligations under the Wool Products Labeling Act. As a retailer of wool products, The Knit With had an obligation under the Act to take reasonable steps to avoid selling misbranded goods. Wherever inquiry is a duty, the party bound to make it is affected with knowledge of all which he would have discovered had he performed the duty. In re Hackett, Hoff & Thiermann, 70 F.2d 815, 818 (7th Cir. 1934) (quoting Cordova v. Hood, 17 Wall. 1, 8 (21 L.Ed. 587). In the face of this duty, however, it appears from the complaint that The Knit With failed to take any discernible actions whatsoever from 2001, when it began purchasing the allegedly mislabeled yarn products, until 2006, when it alleges to have submitted yarn samples for testing (Id.66 38-41). Having failed utterly to discharge its duty under the Act, the exercise of which, presumably, would have detected the alleged injury many years ago, The Knit With cannot now maintain that was not on inquiry notice of its injuries prior to 2004. As a result, The Knit Withs RICO claims accrued prior to 2004 and, therefore, are timebarred.

There is often a time limit within which lawsuits must be commenced, which varies according to the type of injury and the governing law; the clock usually starts running from the time the plaintiff knew or ought to have known of the harm done. Here, the defendants say the time limit is four years, and that TKW should have known about the harm it had suffered prior to 2004.

And why should TKW have known about all this prior to 2004? The argument is that because TKW (like other people in the distribution chain) is liable for misbranding wool products, it follows that TKW had a duty to inquire into the fiber content of the yarn products it had purchased from KFI since 2001, and should have taken reasonable steps to avoid selling mislabelled yarn back then.

This is interesting — just what is the nature of the duty of the craft yarn retailer? Section 68b(a)(2) of The Wool Products Labeling Act says (emphasis added):

(2) If a stamp, tag, label, or other means of identification, or substitute therefor under section 68c of this title, is not on or affixed to the wool product and does not show -
   (A) the percentage of the total fiber weight of the wool product, exclusive of ornamentation not exceeding 5 per centum of said total fiber weight, of (1) wool; (2) recycled wool; (3) each fiber other than wool if said percentage by weight of such fiber is 5 per centum or more; and (4) the aggregate of all other fibers: Provided, That deviation of the fiber contents of the wool product from percentages stated on the stamp, tag, label, or other means of identification, shall not be misbranding under this section if the person charged with misbranding proves such deviation resulted from unavoidable variations in manufacture and despite the exercise of due care to make accurate the statements on such stamp, tag, label, or other means of identification.

What constitutes a “reasonable step” or “due care”? Does this mean that all other yarn shops are not taking reasonable steps or due care when they purchase yarn from their suppliers, because they are not paying $400-500 for tests on every wool-containing yarn or obtaining guaranties from every distributor? Should they be suspicious and pay for tests whenever a distributor offers a luxury yarn at a good price?

If the defendants are successful here (and on appeal, if there is one), then this might mean an end to this particular lawsuit, but not necessarily an end to all possible claims against the defendants — at least, not in other courts.

Finally, for the idly curious: some non-binding staff opinions from the FTC to various manufactures about their cashmere products. The recipients have nothing to do with this lawsuit, but there are some familiar names…

Letter to Deanna Dee Inc. (PDF) about correct labelling of a cashmere/wool blend; the correspondence attaches a test report from K.D. Langley.

Letter to Amicale Industries’s counsel (PDF) observing that Amicale’s quality control practices seem exemplary, but declining to advise whether those practices constitute “due care” under The Wool Products Labeling Act. The correspondence sets out Amicale’s procedures in sourcing and testing cashmere; as part of the process, Amicale has its subsidiary W. Fein & Sons test the fibers. The manager of the Quality Control Laboratory at W. Fein & Sons is Julie Smith. Her CV (circa 2002) is at page 12 of the PDF.

Letter to May Department Stores (PDF) about an investigation into cashmere blend coats. The FTC’s letter says that their experts “tell us that although some wool fibers have been bred to be ultra fine – with the same diameter as some cashmere fibers – the difference between wool and cashmere can be discerned by a qualified expert using a microscope, based on differences in structure, appearance, and height of the scales on the fiber. I want to emphasize that we place great importance on regular testing by qualified and independent labs, to ensure accurage fiber content labeling. Garment manufacturers, importers, and distributors are responsible for ensuring the accuracy of fiber content labels on their garments.”

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"It don't take a genius to spot a goat in a flock of sheep"

Imagine that… a page of goat quotes!

Now, let’s move on to what we do know about the yarns in question here — at least, what the published test results tell us. (Edit: oh, and some complaint exhibits (large files): one, two, three.)

1. May 26, 2006: light microscopy test report by K.D. Langley Fiber Services, as requested by CCMI (PDF: excerpted from Exhibit 10 of complaint).

Sample (as identified in the test results and attachment): Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Chunky, labelled as containing 55/33/12 merino wool/microfiber/cashmere.

Result: “The sample contains Wool and Acrylic fibers. No Cashmere fibers were observed” (this was not a quantitative test).

After this test was conducted, there was a TNNA show where the cashmere content issue was a hot topic of conversation (Complaint, paragraph 45). When the story broke, I don’t think that the second page of that PDF linked above was included; the inference I draw from the complaint is that it was circulated by Cascade Yarns later (Complaint, paragraphs 49 and 57).

After TNNA, KFI’s counsel sent a letter to Cascade Yarns alleging that Cascade Yarns had made “false and defamatory statements” at TNNA (PDF: excerpted from Exhibit 11 of complaint). This letter references KFI’s “independent lab reports analysing larger and more reliable samples” (not attached).

In response to this letter, Cascade Yarns’s counsel responded, requesting these test results (PDF: excerpted from Exhibit 11 of complaint). KFI’s counsel responded with a letter enclosing the lab reports (PDF: excerpted from Exhibit 11 of complaint (covering letter only)). And so we have:

2. January 2006: lab report from Laboratorio di Analisi Prove e Richerche Tessili (PDF: excerpted from Exhibit 11 of complaint).

Sample (as identified in the test results, from what I can make out in this grainy fax using the magic of online translators): a sample of 100% protein fibers.

Results: 55% cashmere, 45% wool or some similar fiber.

This appears to have been a microscopic examination in accordance with an ASTM standard. The requester looks like a Marcopolo srl.

Why is this sample a wool/cashmere blend only? Well, it might be a test of an input into a wool/acrylic/cashmere blend yarn, or it might be a test of the animal fiber component of an acrylic blend. However, we can’t tell from the document itself what was done with this fiber; if it were to be combined with acrylic microfiber to produce a yarn that was 33% acrylic, then 67% would have come from this wool/cashmere blend, meaning that the blended fibers would contain 36.85% cashmere — too much, unless cashmere fibers were lost in the manufacturing process. To arrive at the target cashmerino blend, you’d need 33% acrylic, 45.2% wool, and 21.8% of this blend (assuming I got that right), which seems like an odd way of going about things, but then again I know nothing about how the fibers are sourced by the mills.

(I don’t know, not being a spinner, of the likelihood of shorter-length fibers falling out of a properly blended top prior to spinning. As a knitter, I know that the shorter fibers are more likely to fall out with even casual use or pill on the surface of the garment with abrasion, but I’m relying on conventional wisdom and observation and not on an analysis of the contents of my vacuum cleaner bag; the latter would require that someone actually did the vacuuming around here.)

3. Rapporto di Prova (unknown date): page 2 of a lab report from “Laboratorio Accreditato No 0331 ITS” (PDF: excerpted from Exhibit 11 of complaint).

Sample (again, with difficulties in legibility and translation): tops containing wool, cashmere, and acrylic? The report looks like it has the word “Tops” (which makes me wonder if there is no Italian word for tops).

Results:: (1) 83.98% wool, 16.02% cashmere, as determined by microscopy at 500X and using some measurement software of the animal fiber part of the sample, apparently; (2) 61.7% animal fibers and 38.3% acrylic, as determined by a bleach test; with a conclusion of 51.8% wool, 38.3% acrylic, and 9.9% cashmere.

If this was meant to be a 55/33/12 wool/acrylic/cashmere yarn, the results are close; the cashmere is within the 3% tolerance, but the wool and acrylic are a bit off. However, we seem to be missing the first page of the report, which might have included identifying data such as the customer, the date, and the name of the lab.

4. July 7, 2006: report from TFT (Ilkley), Ltd., addressed to Designer Yarns (PDF: excerpted from Exhibit 11 of complaint).

Sample: “samples of ‘Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran’ yarn in a range of six shades”

Results: cashmere was found in all samples.

This was a qualitative analysis, not quantitative.

5. June 20, 2006: report from Quality Control Laboratory, for customer Designer Yarns (PDF: excerpted from Exhibit 11 of complaint).

Sample: three yarn samples, identified as “Brown 300008″, “Blue 300005″, and “Pink 300603″.

Results: From an examination of 1000 fibers, it was determined that the wool content was between 50.4 and 52.4% in all samples; the microfiber content was between 34.8% and 36.3%; and the cashmere between 11.9% and 13.3%.

However, TKW followed up with this tester; this report, apparently, was informal and done for a “friend of a friend”, and when the tester conducted the test she only looked at “three small wraps of yarn” (PDF: Exhibit 13 of complaint). And, in fact, she recommended Langley for testing in the United States. (Paragraphs 63 and 64 of the complaint contain the factual allegations detailing the “friend of a friend” chain.)

After these lab reports were exchanged, further tests were commissioned from Langley by TKW:

6. July 18, 2006: report from K.D. Langley Fiber Services for customer TKW (PDF: excerpted from Exhibit 9 of complaint).

Sample: three samples: Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino, KFI Cashmereno, and Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran

Results: From an examination of at least 500 fibers using light microscopy, no cashmere found in the samples.

7. July 25, 2006: report from K.D. Langley Fiber Services for customer TKW (PDF: excerpted from Exhibit 9 of complaint).

Sample: Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran.

Results: At least 500 fibers were examined using light microscopy, and a further test was conducted using a chemical method (essentially, the animal fibers are removed using bleach). No cashmere was found; moreover, the reported composition was 57.2% wool and 42.6% acrylic.

Another lab also carried out tests for TKW (with the same identifying lot numbers):

8. August 31, 2006: report from STR for customer TKW (PDF: Exhibit 15 of complaint).

Sample: three samples: Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino, KFI Cashmereno, and Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran

Results: No cashmere found in the samples.

This was a qualitative test only, using a microscopal method. The test report indicates that it had been “revised”: some kind of modification for fiber analysis and for overall rating was made to the original report of August 24.

Finally, KFI reported the results of a DNA test:

9. September 7, 2006: DNA test sent from KFI with a covering letter (I don’t have the actual test results, nor do I have a copy of the signed letter of compliance that was also attached). (PDF: Exhibit 21 of complaint)

The covering letter states:

These tests show categorically and unarguably that there is cashmere (goat) in Debbie Bliss Cashmerino yarns. It is not possible for the spinning mill to forget to put the cashmere in the blend. Making this yarn requires a very sophisticated process and unlike forgetting to put sugar in a cup of tea, it is impossible to forget to include a specific fiber. One thing for sure is that DNA testing does not lie. There is cashmere in Debbie Bliss Cashmerino.

No quantitative results are given. But sure, you can forget to put your sugar in! You taste the tea, make a face, then add your sugar. Unlike tea, however, when you discover that you forgot a fiber in your yarn, you can’t just spin that extra fiber in — you’d need to spin some more.

After test #1 was provided to KFI, KFI had this to say in a letter to its customers (which was also copied in a post on Knitter’s Review) (PDF: excerpted from Exhibit 11 of complaint):

… We have been informed that KD Langley always scores lower than TFT on “blind tests” that CMMI [sic] members receive from time to time to check their accuracy.

Third, as we have repeatedly pointed out to Cascade, it is difficult to test accurately for cashmere content, which can result in “false negative” results — i.e., findings of no cashmere content where cashmere in fact is present. Specifically, fiber experts we have contacted all state that, when one uses a projection microscope to examine Iranian or Mongolian Cashmere that is blended with extra fine merino wool — both of which have the same micron of approximately 18/19 — there will be some fibers that can be identified as wool, some as cashmere and others that are “indeterminate”.

CCMI does indeed hold round trials in which they send samples to their accredited labs for testing. The results of a 2005 trial are reported on CCMI’s website in this article, which also notes:

Wool may have been chemically altered to make it more difficult to distinguish from cashmere. Fine micron wool produced by a Chinese native sheep, which some in China have the unmitigated gall and effrontery to call sheep cashmere, is unfortunately painful and hard to distinguish by light microscopy. All of these products present challenges to the qualified laboratories able to identify these fibers.

(Look back at the stretched merino (in the second picture of that post) and compare them to the cashmere in the first picture.)

In the round trial reported here, some labs used light microscopy exclusively; others used scanning electron microscopy (think of those pretty Vogue Knitting pictures), BIO (I don’t know what that is), or DNA. CCMI states that in this trial of 28 labs, 24 used light microscopy (LM) exclusively:

Three labs using LM correctly identified all six samples. Four labs using LM correctly identified five of the six samples.

The four worst performing labs were one using LM that failed to correctly identify any of the samples and three using LM that each correctly identified only one of the six samples.

The results indicate that the “worst” labs used LM, and that the most difficult samples to analyze were the cashmere/wool blends since less than half of the labs got that right. However, that also tells us that some of the labs using LM — at least 8 of the labs using exclusively LM — must have correctly identified those blends.

KFI’s statement about Langley scoring “lower” is ambiguous — does this mean that given the same cashmere blend samples, Langley routinely finds a lower percentage of cashmere in the sample than TFT (which does not tell us which lab is more accurate)? Or is KFI suggesting that Langley does not correctly identify as many samples as TFT in the round trials? From the use of the word “score”, I guess they mean the latter.

However, even if you were to discount all of the microscopy tests, that probably leaves only tests #7 and #9. Test #7, which measured only the proportion of animal fibers to acrylic, does not rely on visual cues or magnification of fibers or the ability to distinguish cashmere from wool; and this test showed that there was nearly 10% acrylic than expected (these percentages are being expressed in absolute terms, obviously). And the excess amount of acrylic happens to be in the range we would expect for the cashmere (12%, plus or minus 3%). Thus, assuming these results are accurate, either the cashmere or wool content (or both) is less than the labelled quantity. Test #9 claims there is cashmere, but even if we assume this is accurate we do not know if this meets any legislated (after 2006) or accepted industry standard definition of cashmere (for example, if the micron count was too high), nor do we know how much cashmere was in the sample.

So, there we have it. We don’t need to accept anybody’s printed report (such as the ones we’ve seen here) as absolute truth without further investigation, but we’re not in a position to inquire into the conditions of each of these tests, and the origin of the samples provided. The parties will get to do that eventually.

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Today's spam

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Gosht masaledar (with edits)

The Host, one of my favourite Indian restaurants, used to have gosht masaledar on the menu — a goat stew with a mellow yet deep blend of spices. I miss it.

Just for the sake of flogging the dead goat (since this was hashed out two years ago online, and again now), before we wait for further developments in the lawsuit let’s recap what we, the innocent and unsuspecting public, know about cashmere and wool:

(And in the meantime, here’s the second half of the complaint, which sets out the causes of action in necessarily exhaustive detail (no exhibits included).)

1. Cashmere and wool come from different animals.

2. The fibers may appear similar, but with close scrutiny they are distinguishable.

Here’s a scan from page 12 of Vogue Knitting (the 1989 edition), showing magnified longitudinal views of keratin fibers (this is an excerpt; the entire picture in the book shows other fibers).


vogueknittingfibers

You can readily see differences between the fine wool, cashmere, and alpaca in the arrangement and configuration of the scales. In this picture, we don’t know the magnification factors, nor do we know the size (fineness, in microns) of each of these fibers; the coarse wool ought to be thicker than either the fine wool or cashmere, and so it is in this picture. We also know (see below) that fineness-wise, fine wool and cashmere can be in the same ballpark, while alpaca is a bit thicker than cashmere on average. I do know, based on information published by the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists (AATCC) (you don’t, because I’m not reproducing the photographs here) that the scales on cashmere are discernible at 240X magnification, thanks to the relative distance between the scales; at 240X, it is difficult to discern the scales on alpaca (look how close they are in the Vogue Knitting picture above, compared to cashmere). At 500X, you can see the scales on wool (not certain what fineness), but not as clearly as in the Vogue Knitting picture. I’m guessing that what we can see in Vogue Knitting is at least 1000X magnification.

Now, some wool is just as fine as cashmere. But the technology is available to “stretch” wool fibers so that they wind up feeling as soft as cashmere, too. This is Optim wool, produced using a technique that alters the structure of the wool, at the same time reducing its micron count and increasing its staple length. The resultant wool can feel very much like cashmere. (Apparently there are different machines and processes for producing stretched wool; Optim wool is produced using the Optim process, presumably.)

I don’t know the market prices for Optim or cashmere fibers, but if we go by the retail prices of undyed tops for spinners, cashmere currently seems to run at about $160/lb and up (Paradise Fibers has cashmere down for $89/lb). Optim is about $128/lb and up. Optim is thus cheaper, but is that cheap enough and is there sufficient supply to make it a cost-effective substitute if one were to… well, allegedly defraud customers?

I had bought a ball of SWTC’s Optimum yarn to try it out (it seems to be discontinued). It is quite soft, and I’m sure a lot of people would think it felt like cashmere. But what does it look like under a microscope? If the fiber is stretched, what would the scales look like?

This is the only example I’ve found, and I’m so happy that Liu et al. decided to include this in their paper:


liu
From Liu et al., Characterization of Secondary Structure Transformation of Stretched and Slenderized Wool Fibers with FTIR Spectra, Journal of Engineered Fibers and Fabrics, Volume 3, Issue 2, 2008 (www.jeffjournal.org)

3. Even if you can’t tell the difference between the scales of wool and cashmere, you can distinguish wool or cashmere from acrylic.

Again, sorry, I’m not reproducing the pictures, but there are different methods of producing acrylic fibers, and while the results each look a little different, I’m pretty sure I, with my untrained eyes, can distinguish between an acrylic fiber and a wool or cashmere fiber (or a stretched wool fiber!) at 500X, maybe lower, like 300-400X. I might be less certain about acrylic vs. alpaca at a low magnification level, because it’s harder to see the alpaca scales. I don’t know, because the photographs I’m looking at have probably been a little compressed or otherwise digitally munged from what I’d actually see through a microscope.

4. Also, you can tell the difference between keratin and acrylic fibers chemically. For example, keratin fibers are soluble in sodium hypochlorite, whereas acrylic is not — meaning, that if you follow all of those proper procedures for weighing, cleaning, and drying samples you learned in undergrad chemistry, you can mix up a weighed sample of your yarn in NaOCl until everything that’s going to dissolve has dissolved; filter out, wash and dry the residue; then weigh the result to figure out how much acrylic was in there to begin with. (There are a number of reagents that can be used for a number of different suspected blends; you would select your reagent and methodology based on the fiber types you are trying to detect or measure. The AATCC test methodology (20A-2007) for this provides a table that identifies the best method/reagent for different fiber compositions.)

5. Ignoring any legal definitions, wool is generally available in a large range of thicknesses — a fineness of 10 to 70 microns. Cashmere may be anywhere from 5 to 30 microns, and alpaca (for comparison) from 10 to 50. The average cashmere diameter is 15 to 18.5 microns (AATCC, test methodology 20-2007). The point being, you can have “cashmere”, wherein “cashmere” is the stuff you get from the right sort of goat, that is thicker than wool from a sheep…

6. However, for the purposes of labelling in the U.S. there is a legal definition of what doesn’t constitute “cashmere”. Edit: I was just reminded that this was effective January 1, 2007; prior to that, there was no such definition codified in the law. The yarns at issue in this lawsuit, of course, were first released prior to 2007.)

15 U.S.C. 68(b): A wool product shall be misbranded…

(6) In the case of a wool product stamped, tagged, labeled, or otherwise identified as cashmere, if–

   (A) such wool product is not the fine (dehaired) undercoat fibers produced by a cashmere goat (capra hircus laniger);

   (B) the average diameter of the fiber of such wool product exceeds 19 microns; or

   (C) such wool product contains more than 3 percent (by weight) of cashmere fibers with average diameters that exceed 30 microns.

   The average fiber diameter may be subject to a coefficient of variation around the mean that shall not exceed 24 percent.

(“Wool” includes cashmere, and “wool product” is defined to mean “any product, or any portion of a product, which contains, purports to contain, or in any way is represented as containing wool or recycled wool”.)

This is the definition paraphrased on the Cashmere and Camel Hair Manufacturer’s Institute (CMMI) website.

Somebody, please tell me that in Canada there is more to the definition of “cashmere” under the Textile Labelling and Advertising Regulations than “a textile fibre that is obtained from… Kashmir goats”. The Canadian Cashmere Producers Association doesn’t mention any quantitative standard for Canada.

Next, a comparison of the test results we know about…

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