In boutiques and shops, high-grade cashmere sweaters cost several hundred dollars. The high price tempts shoppers into buying cheaper and Low-Quality sweaters at discount stores, but cashmere is transparent in its quality: the material will show if it’s over-processed or cheaply made.
How Cashmere Sweaters are Made
Cashmere yarn fiber is a very fine, very particular type of goat wool and is unique from other materials. These goats live in the mountains of Mongolia and northern China, thriving in temperatures between 0 and -30 Celsius. When the weather warms up, goats naturally molt; herders and farmers then comb out the hair from the goats’ underbellies only, since that’s where the finest, longest, whitest threads are. Any high-quality cashmere sweater will be created only from underhairs, where the hair length should exceed 36mm. The outer coats are ideally left intact-of course, modern manufacturers harvest this part, too, despite the fact that the material is coarser, the threads are shorter (around 28mm), and they can get easily mixed up with other hairs floating in the wind.
How to Spot Low-Quality Cashmere Sweaters
There are several ways to test the quality of a cashmere sweater.
Read Tags and Labels
The price tag isn’t always a good indicator, but it’s a good start. If a sweater costs $20 and claims to be “Made From 100% Pure Cashmere,” check the label and see what percentage of the sweater is actually cashmere. It will often be just a blend, with cashmere making up less than half of the total garment. Anything less than 30 percent won’t feel like cashmere at all. Aim for a minimum of 85 percent.
Check the Ply
The most common cashmere yarn is two-ply, which means two threads are tightly intertwined to create one stronger one. Two-ply is longer-lasting than single-ply because it will pill less easily and the density will keep the wearer warmer. Single-ply cashmere is thinner and less expensive, but also less durable. Those who enjoy the softness of cashmere but live in hot areas may prefer single-ply. Meanwhile, plies of four, six, eight, and even 12 yarns exist and are primarily sold for much higher prices -and often in colder winter climates, because raw cashmere is sold by weight.
Feel the Cashmere’s Tension
Buyers can feel the strength of a cashmere sweater simply by stretching it. High-quality cashmere won’t misshape easily. In fact, it should feel slightly coarse: while lesser materials are manufactured to feel silky smooth or fluffy, proper cashmere sweaters have a roughness at first that soothes with time and gentle washing.
Alarm bells should ring if a label is vague or an eBay seller doesn’t have the answers a buyer wants. Vendors should know what ply the sweater is and if the material has been blended with any other wools. Many eBay sellers will note the ply and percentage of their cashmere blends in the listing.
How to Care for a Cashmere Sweater
Cashmere sweaters come with a few basic rules to ensure that they don’t shrink, pill, or otherwise become ruined.
How to Wash a Cashmere Sweater
Never dry clean or machine-wash cashmere. Strong chemicals and jarring movements are too much for the fabric. Instead, hand-wash it in cold water with a light soap or shampoo in a clean sink. Gently squeeze the material and spend extra time on stained areas. Let it soak for a few minutes, then remove it and leave it to dry on a flat surface on top of a towel. Never wring it-this will badly misshape the sweater.
Store Cashmere Sweaters in Cool, Dry Places
Fold the sweater in a closet, preferably in tissue paper or a dry box. Keep some moth balls scattered around so it doesn’t get eaten. Never hang it, or it will develop droopy shoulders.
If bought and handled properly, cashmere sweaters can last a lifetime. Buyers should do their research before buying and ask the right questions, including what blend and ply the material is, so they can find a good deal on a high-brand name.