One of the most sought-after commodities among woolen garments today is cashmere. Owning a cashmere garment is practically a status symbol. Those who have worn it swear by the comfort and warmth it provides, not to mention how elegant and sophisticated it looks. Did you know that obtaining cashmere wool is not easy? To knit just one sweater, it takes the wool of numerous goats, anywhere between two to eight. The fiber is obtained from the neck region of the goat.
The wool is double-layered, the outer layer consisting of coarse fiber and the inner layer which is much softer, which is actually used in the manufacture of cashmere garments. By a process also termed as de-hairing, the rough outer layer is removed to reveal the fine, soft inner layer, which is processed further and converted into yarn and fabric.
A Guide to Choosing Good Quality Cashmere Sweater
Considering that the wool is a rarity, it is little wonder that a sweater made of cashmere does not come cheap. Be prepared to shell out anywhere from $200 to $500 for a good quality pure cashmere garment. Here are a few hints so you know you are buying 100% cashmere.
Touch and Feel
Whenever you're in the store to buy cashmere, the first thing you need to check is whether the garment is made from pure cashmere. A lot of manufacturers use cashmere along with camel-hair to make garments, even though the label reads 100% cashmere. So to be sure about what you are buying, rub the sweater in your hands. It should feel very soft. If it feels even the slightest bit rough and itchy to the touch, you can be sure it is not pure cashmere.
Drape the garment over your arm. If it conforms to your body shape, you can safely say its pure cashmere. If it hangs stiffly, it might be a blend. Hold the sweater and give it a tight squeeze. If it springs back to its original shape with no wrinkles, that's another sign you have pure cashmere in your hands. Turn the garment inside out and look for its seams. Check the cuffs, collars, armholes. In a fine quality cashmere garment or sweater, the seams are knitted into the fabric, not just sewn together.
Another trick to see if what you are buying is nothing but pure cashmere, is to pull the sweater from both the sides in opposite directions and let it go. If it's pure cashmere, it will return to its original shape. If it does not return, think twice before you make the purchase!
Also look out for the ply. You should preferably buy a sweater that's two-ply. A single-ply yarn is not as durable as a two-ply yarn, and the fabric may pill forming tiny balls on the surface in the long run. How do you know if it's single-ply or double-ply? Apart from what's printed on the label, if you put your hand inside the sweater and can still see it, its single-ply. A two-ply fabric will feel bulkier and also yield more warmth. Although you may even find four-ply, six-ply, and eight-ply fabrics, a two-ply fabric is also considered good quality. But if you want more warmth, select from four-ply or higher.
The fiber length, or staple, is also what determines the quality of cashmere. The longer the staple, the better the quality. Smaller staples may pill with constant use. Longer staples usually yield garments that are softer, smoother, and stronger.
Place of Manufacture
When you read the tag, look for the country where the garment was manufactured. If it says Scotland or Italy, it's probably of the highest quality, since that is where the best quality cashmere garments are produced. Blended cashmere garments are mass-manufactured in China, so if you buy one that's produced in China, it may not be pure cashmere. The Federal Trade Commission states that all cashmere garments must carry a tag that explains details like care of the garment, origin and manufacturer, and fiber content.
Where to Shop
I would suggest you'd rather shop for a sweater in a store than buy it online, unless the online retailer is highly reputable. That is because you need to actually touch and test the fabric in your hands to be sure of its purity before you buy it, something that is not possible if you shop online. If you still want to make an online purchase, wait for the end-of-winter sale. That is when most online retailers offer cashmere garments for discounted prices.
Lightweight and super soft to touch, a cashmere garment or sweater lasts forever and will definitely be one of the most stylish additions to your wardrobe. It's equally important that you follow the care instructions for your cashmere sweater so that it remains in top shape for years to come. Cashmere sweaters are also an excellent holiday present, especially for your loved ones. So buy one and flaunt it with panache.