In the knit of time
Bairbre Power talks to the experts about the easy care of this season's cashmere
Cashmere is the perfect choice for early autumn. Luxurious but light, soothing yet serviceable, it is no longer sidelined as a delicate exotic; it's now an everyday friend that feels delicious to the skin.
Hard to manage? Well, the practical ones among us have parked the dry-cleaning-only approach and instead opted for gentle hand-washing. My attitude switched after I read an article that compared dry-cleaning cashmere to giving it a perm.
To avoid ruining the clothes' shape, I've adopted my mother's technique of putting all damp knitwear in a towel and rolling it up like a sausage to dry. More recently, following expert advice, I've been known to dry it in a salad spinner – without the balsamic dressing, of course.
Lucy Nagle is emerging as something of a cashmere queen after her new autumn/ winter 2013 collection was a sellout at the Brown Thomas CREATE initiative, which runs for another week. Starting with Andrea Corr, who paid €249 for a black cardi with lurex neckline, the demand for traditional, chic, round-neck cashmere cardis would, perhaps, surprise our grannies, who wore them with pearls and silk scarves.
Toughen up the look today by wearing them with leather trousers, jeans or a bell-shaped skirt with ankle boots. It's all about attitude and not falling into the trap of filing cashmere under 'special treat'.
Lucy was an interior designer in London for nine years before she moved into fashion. Her eye for detail is evident in her latest fashion shoot, which captures the versatility of fine cashmere. Her colours are dramatic and she gets her yarn from Inner Mongolia. For more information, see lucynagle.com.
Sian Jacobs has a sterling reputation for her cashmeres, which I normally source at Maven in Aungier Street. There, Sharon Beatty always has a number of exclusives. This year is no different, and the 50pc cashmere/50pc wool dresses are a joy to have against your skin. Sian advises washing them either by hand, on a gentle wool cycle in cold water or at a maximum 30°C. She also recommends using Woolite.
"I often get asked about cashmere balling or pilling; this is perfectly normal and is not a defect, but it can be annoying. It is caused by loose fibres sitting on top of the knit and collecting into little balls. It can be caused by friction, especially down the arms and sides," she says.
Sian suggests that you avoid wearing cross-body handbags as they can rub against the knit, causing pilling. To solve the problem, you can pick them off by hand or use an electric clothes shaver. They are sold in Argos and most homeware stores – watch a video on You Tube on how to use them. The tip is to be gentle and not apply pressure, as they can chew up fine knits and make holes.
"If your garment is a particularly fine knit then avoid jewellery, especially rings with claw settings as these can rip your knit when taking it on and off. The same goes for seatbelts. A well cared-for cashmere knit can last for years," says Sian.
Dairine Kennedy, one half of the KDK brand that has made a name for itself selling cashmere, says "only pure cashmere sweaters can be labelled 100pc cashmere, so check the label before buying".