We were very pleased to be included as a reference in this very informative article on cashmere sweater care by Jan Strimple in the Dallas Morning News!
Question: Where can you send older cashmere sweaters to be washed, cleaned and basically restored? I thought there was some place in either New York or London, but all my research has not yielded an answer to this one. I would dearly love it if you could help!
C. Mitchell in Dallas
Answer: This is a great question, as I think it's of interest to many women. Plus, I unearthed some sources for altering and repairing sweaters, as well as information on shopping for cashmere, during my research.For the authority on cashmere care, I spoke with Richard Forte of the Dawson Forte Cashmere Co., a respected trader in luxury yarns since
Let's start with your reference to "older cashmere sweaters." Good-quality, well-cared-for cashmere sweaters last several decades, which is why your classically styled cashmere sweaters should be of the highest quality you can afford. Caring for an older sweater should include extra-gentle handling, but then, that applies to all cashmere care.
According to the
Cashmere and Camel Hair Manufacturers Institute, which tests garments to assure that labeling meets industry standards, the popularization of cashmere in the last three years has put a glut of substandard cashmere on the market.
In fact, the institute regularly documents items in the low-end cashmere market that are labeled as 100 percent cashmere but contain wool fibers used as fillers ? and sweaters labeled as 100 percent cashmere that contain no cashmere at all.
The institute partners with retailers similarly
concerned with bad trade practices to clean up that unfortunate part of the industry. Log on to www.cashmere.org to read more about these efforts.
If you're facing a white cashmere sweater that has yellowed, you're probably dealing with a lower-quality sweater. Yellowing should never happen to high-quality cashmere, as it is not bleached and no brighteners are added. Better grades of white cashmere are the yarn's natural color, a softer shade of white that's somewhere between white and ecru. You are advised not to try to chemically alter the color of cashmere because it is too fragile.
If the "restoration" you're looking for means a desire for a fluffier sweater, follow these cleaning guidelines:
Cashmere sweaters may be dry cleaned or hand washed with a gentle cleanser such as baby shampoo or Ivory flakes. Hand washing keeps them softer longer but can change the shape of your sweaters if not done carefully. It is recommended that you soak sweaters in sudsy, lukewarm water for five minutes, then gently "squish" your sweater to let the suds soak through the fibers. Rinse in lukewarm water until the suds are completely removed and the water is clear, using the same "squishing" action, never wringing. Roll the sweater in a towel to remove the extra moisture and to speed the drying process. Lay it flat to dry and block into the desired shape, using special care, as wet cashmere fibers can weaken and stretch out of shape. Your sweater will take the shape that it's put into when it's dried, so this is an important part of its care.
Once it's thoroughly dried, it can be delicately tumbled in a home dryer at a cool temperature (air dry, no heat) to make the fibers "bloom." Put the sweater inside-out in
a lingerie bag with plenty of space or in a pillow case with the end tied off ? this gives it room to tumble.
If your sweater is stained, dry cleaning is your best solution. Many sweaters are labeled "dry clean only," but manufacturers tell me that they put dry-clean-only labels on most of their cashmere garments to protect themselves. If they were to suggest hand washing and it was done carelessly, a consumer might try to blame the manufacturer.
If a sweater is torn or has holes, reweaving is called for. That's the perfect reason to save those packets of extra yarn that come with a good cashmere purchase! Reweaving and cleaning sources are listed at the end.
Since this is the time of year our sweaters ought to be in second closets and storage containers, here are a few storage tips to better preserve your sweaters:
First, be sure they're dry-cleaned or hand-washed before putting them away. Moths don't hunger for the fiber itself, but rather for the food, dirt, perspiration or body oils left on the sweater.
Second, do not store natural fibers such as cashmere (and wool) in airtight containers. Most authorities suggest letting them breathe by storing in muslin or canvas bags or in acid-free tissue paper. Mr. Forte of Forte Cashmere says the simple method of storing in a plastic bag is effective if the bag is not entirely airtight. His company suggests that its swearters be stored in the plastic bags they are shipped in, which allow a little air to escape.
Third, if you don't want to go the mothball route, use cloves, lavender, rosemary, thyme, dried orange peel or cedar chips to discourage moths. Be sure to tie the spices or chips in a cloth sachet or handkerchief and avoid placing them directly on the garment to avoid staining. Note that wood chips absorb excess moisture, thus discouraging mold from growing in storage areas.
Mr. Forte also has tips for wearing cashmere that will help lengthen its life span:
1. Allow your deodorant to dry completely before slipping into your sweater.
2. Don't spritz yourself with perfume while wearing cashmere because it stains the fiber.
3. After wearing, air-fluff your cashmere sweater in the dryer to freshen and remove impurities. NO HEAT!
Dallas-area sources for cashmere care:
Dee & Hattie Specialty Cleaners (6072 Sherry Lane, 214-361-0557) offers dry cleaning, hand washing and reweaving services.
Royal Reweaving Shoppe (5934 Royal Lane, 214-265-0200) does reweaving and some alterations. When sleeveless turtleneck sweaters hit as a strong fashion trend this spring, the shop removed many a sleeve and slimmed many a bodice of "older" sweaters women had not been wearing.
Bibbentuckers, all locations, offers reweaving and dry cleaning.
National sources for cashmere care:
Knit Alteration & Design in Shelton, Wash. ( or 1-800-662-5648, toll-free) repairs sweaters; alters sleeves, turtlenecks and hems; reweaves burn holes and stops unraveling.
French American Reweaving in New York City (119 W. 57th St. or 212-765-4670). The company does business the old-fashioned way: It doesn't take credit cards.
Ask Jan is a regular column in which well-known Dallas model Jan Strimple answers readers' questions about fashion, beauty and style. Address written queries to Ask Jan at F!D , The Dallas Morning News, P.O. Box 655237, Dallas, TX 75265. No phone calls, please. Questions of the broadest interest to F!D readers will be given priority. Sorry, but Jan can't give personal replies.
Examples of alterations and repairs done at Knit Alteration & Design: