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Buying and caring for cashmere

Your first step should be to read the label.

December 20, 2009|By Sabrina Azadi
  • Loro Piana cashmere Sloane coat, $4,650, and baby cashmere sweater, $1,995 at Loro Piana, Beverly Hills; J Brand leggings, $139 at Madison, Los Angeles; Banana Republic boots, $198 at www.bananarepublic.com; Melinda Maria ring, $120, and cuff, $250, at www.melindamaria.com.
Loro Piana cashmere Sloane coat, $4,650, and baby cashmere sweater, $1,995… (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles…)

Cashmere 101

With so much cashmere out there, how can you tell the good from the destined-to-disappoint? And how can you keep your cashmere fresh and lovely for years? Try our tips for buying and caring for this luxury fiber.

Labels

Read labels carefully, and opt for 100% cashmere if you can afford it. When cashmere is part of a blend, there is a compromise in quality. By law, all cashmere labels should show country of origin, percentage of cashmere and the name of the manufacturer.

Touch test

Good-quality cashmere should be really soft. Rub it against your chin to see how it feels. It should drape well when you wear it. Cashmere doesn't shine and shouldn't feel slippery; if it does it's probably an indication that the garment is made from a blend. Cashmere is not like mohair or angora, so it shouldn't look fuzzy.

Quality

Cashmere should rebound back into shape when stretched. Look for tight or dense knit cashmere that is lightweight. It's best to pay more for classic pieces in solid neutral colors and experiment with trendy styles and patterns when buying less-expensive cashmere.

Ply

Ply is a single strand of yarn twisted together to make one piece of yarn. Two-ply cashmere is usually better than one-ply since it is sturdier. Anything above two-ply is going to give you a lot of warmth -- it might even be too warm to wear to the office.

Care

Many care labels recommend dry cleaning cashmere, but you can gently hand-wash most cashmere knits in cool water with a mild shampoo (after all, it's goat hair). Squeeze the suds gently through the fabric and do not rub or stretch it. Carefully rinse it in clean water until all the shampoo has been removed and the water runs clear. Keep the water temperature consistent between rinses. Don't wring your cashmere. Instead, roll it up in a dry towel to get rid of the excess water, then rearrange it back into shape and let it dry flat on a fresh towel.

Pilling

Pilling (the abrasion of short fibers into small balls) on the surface of garments is normal, but better-quality cashmere will pill considerably less and should not pill after the first few wears. You can remove the balls yourself by carefully removing them by hand or by using a sweater shaver. Cashmere should not pill after the first wash.

Store

It's best to fold and store cashmere in breathable cotton clothing bags. Never keep your sweaters on hangers because cashmere is delicate and hanging can cause snags or distort the shape of the shoulders. Make sure cashmere is clean before you put it away. Moths are attracted to natural fibers with body oils and stains. Folding sweaters around tissue paper can help reduce wrinkles. If looked after properly, cashmere can be enjoyed for many years.

-- Sabrina Azadi

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