Despite all the misery that a Tasmanian winter can cause (because holy hell, it’s winter already?!), one saving grace are all the lovely, oversized, and cosy jumpers I can wear.
It’s the little things in life, and I’ll take what I can frankly.
Since ensuring that the majority of my clothes are natural fibres now, most of my woollies are either made from cashmere or super fine merino wool. I know that makes me sound highly entitled and pretentious, but cashmere is not the wholly luxury material that can only be afforded by the likes of a Miranda Priestly or Anna Wintour. I would rather pay a bit extra for something that is going to age well and actually keep me warm, than something cheap that aesthetically looks good but contains inferior materials that don’t do their job. Which would you rather feel – comfortable and nonchalant, or self conscious and hassled?
Not all cashmere is created equal
Cashmere comes in grades, and while you may think you’re getting A grade cashmere (which justifies the exorbitant price that some cashmere goods are charged at), there is a good chance that you’re actually getting B or even C grade whilst still paying for an A grade item. Clothing companies can be very sneaky in this respect. Even a minuscule amount of cashmere in a garment (like 3%) means brands can justify jacking the price up for that token percentage.
How to tell the difference between the different grades then?
It’s a good question and I don’t have a definitive answer other than my own experiences.
My base line for cashmere is Grana. Thanks to their transparency and up front honestly about their clothing and manufacturing process, I know that the cashmere they use for their jumpers is A grade. Here’s why:
- the jumpers don’t shed (a sure sign that the fibres are nice and long rather than short, which means they can easily detach from the spun yarn)
- it takes a few more wears before pilling starts (again related to the long length of those woolly fibres)
- the jumper is very lightweight, not thin, but its insulating qualities are still maintained without the need for the jumper to be really thick and bulky (another sign that shorter, thicker hairs have been used, giving you a larger fabric profile)
Let’s do a comparison
Here are two 100% cashmere jumpers. One of them cost $142, the other $299 (and that was reduced down from $399) I have had both for about the same length of time (a year over or so). The cheaper one comes from Grana, the other from a well known retail brand in Australia.
Even after so long, the more expensive one sheds like Grima Wormtongue sheds potato dandruff flakes in his dirty, dirty hair, every single time. It gets on my clothes, sticks to my hands, layers my face towels, adheres to the insides of jackets. After a single wear, it develops long pills (underarm and the bottom back hem), and continues to pill relentlessly. It’s like the jumper is sweating its own jumper pills. I’m constantly picking them like it’s apple season in Tasmania.
Now, I realise it sounds like I hate the more expensive jumper and am blindly faithful to Grana. Not so. I still reach for the expensive jumper because it is a beautiful colour; that jumper is the epitome of cosy with its fluffy turtle neck and overall thick and fuzzy appearance. It’s something you can really disappear into when you want to feel super hygge. I get excited when the cold weather comes round knowing I get to wear this jumper again after not seeing it for nearly a year.
My point is that just because it’s expensive and comes from a wider known brand than say, Grana, doesn’t make it necessarily better quality. I can tell the cashmere is of a lower standard, mass produced to fill the niche demand for ‘a perfect cashmere jumper that everyone must have in their wardrobe’ that season. And while the colour and cut are perfectly acceptable and timeless, I can tell this jumper will age a little less gracefully than my Grana ones.
Most retail stores will tell you that cashmere is a delicate fibre that requires TLC and special attention.
If we want our clothes to last then yes, we have to treat them with respect, but really if the cashmere is of proper quality it should hold up to normal laundry routines.
Here’s my dirty little secret – I machine wash all my cashmere.
I know the care instructions on the garments themselves state dry clean or hand wash only, but I am lazy (also hell no to coating my clothing in dry cleaning chemicals). Plus darling, I don’t have time to wash 3-5 jumpers by hand in a go. Here are your laundry friends when it comes to machine washing cashmere:
- laundry bags
- full loads
- cool/cold washes
Laundry bags stop the garment from stretching out during the wash cycle. Really anything ‘delicate’ should be chucked into a laundry bag – sports bras, normal bras, woollies. Laundry bags are your friend.
Wash your cashmere on a full load. This means the friction between the clothes during the wash cycle is reduced, which helps in preserving the shape of clothes .
Unless you know the wool has been pre-shrunk during manufacturing, wash your cashmere on a cool/cold cycle to ensure you don’t encourage shrinkage. Wool in general is odour, grease, and dirt resistant, so unless you ended up in the Swamps of Sadness [insert wailing emoji] and then accidentally fell into Lightening Sand [insert cheering emoji], you’re not going to need a hard core hot cycle to clean your jumper.
Finally, always dry your cashmere flat. Don’t peg it on a clothes line. You’ll stretch out the garment in weird ways and imprint peg teeth in awkward places. Laying your jumper out on a clothes horse is the best way to dry as it means air can circulate underneath as well as over top. Avoid direct sunlight when drying, because this can make the jumper a bit crispy and fade any colour. Sometimes I even turn a fan on underneath the clothes horse, pointed up, to aid in the drying process.