Carole Bamford's 5 ways to make your cashmere last
1. Buy good-quality cashmere; value for money doesn’t mean cheap.
When I started working, you expected to save up to buy your first cashmere jumper – or you might receive one as a gift for a special birthday. It was an investment item and something to be treasured. With the rise of fast fashion, cashmere has been leapt upon by manufacturers seeking to replicate its softness and beauty and offer the once rare fabric at lower prices but it’s not the same thing as good-quality cashmere, which simply won’t last. With the right care, a good-quality cashmere jumper can last you a lifetime.
2. Understand that your cashmere knit – whatever the quality – will pill (form the bobbles).
It’s very likely your cashmere will bobble. It’s a natural fibre and the surface will react to consistent rubbing. Even the action of wearing a seatbelt will, over a period of time, cause pilling in that area. Bobbles should be removed each time they appear – but do take care when using the metal combs offered for the purpose – you can do more harm than good if you’re too vigorous! Either remove gently by hand or buy one of the special battery-operated ‘shavers’ which collect the bobbles in a chamber and have a more careful action.
3. Always refresh your cashmere after wear.
A quick steam will ease your jumper back into shape and relax the fibres. Don’t touch the surface of the garment with the hot plate; simply hold the iron a couple of inches above the surface and blow steam over it – you will see the knit structure change as you do this and then pat the jumper back into shape around the neckline and along the shoulder seam if you need to. Avoid hanging your knits – particularly on wire hangers which distort the shoulders; fold them and place on a shelf.
4. Enjoy handwashing your cashmere jumpers!
We can often be too quick to run to the cleaners with garments that really don’t need to be dry-cleaned. The chemicals used in the dry-cleaning process are not kind to natural fibres. If you can set aside an hour or so, it’s far better to hand-wash. Use a gentle wool shampoo and a basin of lukewarm water. Gently immerse your knit and squeeze – don’t rub – to refresh the fabric. Sweaters don’t get heavily soiled – and if you wear yours over a cotton tee or vest, they’re protected from natural body oils and perspiration (which moths love!) so they don’t need vigorous scrubbing. Rinse gently in cool clear water, then gently reshape and lay flat on a towel to air-dry in a warm spot.
5. Store away carefully at the end of a season.
If you intend to put your cashmere away for the summer then it’s important to ensure it’s clean. Moths really love feasting on the natural debris left on the inside of a knit so pack your refreshed garment into a bag – I use a cotton or linen one with a sprig of lavender or put a sandalwood block inside and place in a drawer of the cupboard. You can re-purpose an old clean pillowcase and put multiple sweaters into one. If you suspect moths at any time, put your knitting in the freezer overnight and this will kill the invisible larvae which feed off the fibre – by the time you see an adult moth it’s too late.