Saturday, March 31, 2007

Acrylic or Cashmere? The test.



Have you ever been in a thrift store or discount shop of some kind, found a really soft sweater with no tag, and wondered what fabric is is? I've been there many times and have found a simple test that will tell you whether or not it is acrylic.

Acrylic is a really good impersonator of cashmere- it is soft, fuzzy, and tends to look like cashmere at first glance. If there is no tag on an acrylic sweater, to the beginner, it can be hard to tell if it is or not.

What you do:
  • Take your thumb on the outside of the sweater and your pointer finger on the inside of the sweater, press your fingers together with the sweater in between and wiggle your fingers back and forth.
  • If the sweater "squiggles" around or feels slippery, it is ACRYLIC!!
  • Cashmere does NOT squiggle or move around when you do this. It keeps its shape.

Other points:

  • This test will only tell you if the sweater is Acrylic or Not Acrylic. Cashmere blends pass this test, as do some other wools.
  • Once you get used to identifying cashmere, you will be able to tell just by touching something and looking at how it catches the light.
  • Point of this is that you look at a sweater that LOOKS like cashmere and want to know if it is an impostor.
  • You should be able to tell angora and mohair from a mile away- it is WAY too fuzzy and out of control.

Practice makes perfect! Test yourself the next time you are in a store. Feel a sweater before looking at the tag and decide if it is Acrylic or not. This will help you feel confident in identifying something without a tag.

Have fun!!

Monday, March 26, 2007

TSE Cashmere - Wonderful Investment

Well, it is overcast today and that put me in the mood to wear more cashmere!! Even though it's still about 80 degrees... it's gloomy looking. So, I'm going to review the cashmere brand: TSE.

Alright, if you buy TSE at retail prices, it's a decent investment. You will be spending hundreds on a wardrobe basic and much more for trendy, elaborated pieces. TSE, which is pronounced "say" has made a name for itself with its cashmere, but also makes luxurious blends and garments in other fabrics. Of course, I love their cashmere. TSE cashmere is sold in many department stores and boutiques. Saks Fifth Avenue has a great selection online at: www.Saks.com

For detailed information on TSE's production methods, history, and FAQ's, visit: www.TSECashmere.com

At their website, you can view their collection and look up retailers in your state. What they will not tell you on their website is that they have an OUTLET (yes, outlet!!) in Cabazon, CA at the Desert Hill Premium Outlets. I have visited their outlet and it is wonderful. Their prices are anywhere from 15%-70% off. They are always busy in there so expect a line.

They sell their traditional TSE line, but they also have a lower-end, more affordable line called TSESay. So it's, "say say"! Very cute! Today, I will be reviewing the brand as a whole instead of garment by garment. I will do that another time as I have many of their pieces.

TSE Cashmere Brand
Quality 9
Style 9
Comfort 10
Price 4-5

Overall Value- Superior A

By superior, I mean that if you take care of your TSE cashmere pieces, they WILL last a lifetime. I would suggest buying their more classic designs as they will likely not go out of style. Some of their more trendy designs are beautiful, but are very pricey for one season's use. They will pill less than other brands because they use the best quality cashmere in their manufacturing.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Care For Your Cashmere Sweaters

Hey everyone! I have a shameless request... My daughter and I are finalists in the Rosetta Stone Go Places video contest! We have until November 21st to get votes for our video to win $2500 which would help us out a LOT with baby #2 on the way!! Please take a moment to vote and get entered to win a Kindle Fire!!! You can vote once daily. And feel free to share this post wherever you can!

My video entry!

Now back to the show...


Alright, here is some information about how to clean and care for your cashmere collection. *****SUPER IMPORTANT: The following applies to KNIT fabrics, not WOVEN fabrics found in many suits and blankets.*****

Wearing:
  1. Wait for your deodorant to dry before putting on your sweater. This will help keep the deodorant from building up on the inside of the sweater. It's a giant PIA (pain in the you-know-what) to remove.
  2. Do not wear perfume. It can stain your sweater and attract moths (boo!).
  3. Do not wear the same sweater more than once in a four/five day period.
  4. Try to keep your sweater away from rough items: purses, jewelry, etc. These items can cause pilling, a snag, or even a hole! (gasp!)
Cleaning:
  1. I do not recommend dry-cleaning your cashmere sweaters unless you need specific stain removal treatments.
  2. Wash your sweaters in your PRE-CLEANED sink or a large Tupperware bin. (Please don't wash your cashmere after you have just washed dishes. Come on now...)
  3. Be cautious with bulky, large pieces. They become extremely heavy when they are filled with water.
  4. Do not hold up a wet piece of cashmere by the shoulders, this will stretch your sweater. Keep your sweater in a lump when you go to pick it up when wet, fully supported by your hands. Think: BLOB. Let it be a blob.
  5. Wash you cashmere in cold water. NEVER use hot water, it will cause your sweaters to shrink.
  6. Use hair shampoo (after all, cashmere is goat hair...) or a mild detergent made for fine fabrics. Personally, I use Cashmere Wash from the Laundress. J Crew now sells it!
  7. Agitate the water and detergent before you put the sweater in. You want it to be as evenly distributed as possible.
  8. Press and squish the soapy water through your sweater. Do not wring, twist, or rub. SQUISH!! 
  9. Drain the sink and rinse with the same temperature of water that you used for washing. A sudden change in temperature will cause your cashmere to shrink. So if you used warm-ish water to wash, use warm-ish water to rinse. 
  10. After rinsing, squish and squeeze as much water as you can out of your sweater. DO NOT wring or twist. I keep my sweaters in a ball and press it in between my hands. Kind of like checking a basketball for air pressure... How else can I describe this... SQUISH the BLOB.
  11. Lay out your semi-wet sweater onto a towel and roll it up. Press out as much water as you can with the towel.
  12. Remove the sweater and lay it out on a fresh towel or drying rack, making sure to put the sweater back into its original shape. It will dry however you place it, believe me. (Tip: if you want to shrink or stretch a sweater, now is the time to do it- see my other post about this).
  13. Keep your sweaters away from heat sources and windows.
  14. Air Dry.
  15. TAH DAH!
**I originally wrote this post before I had the pleasure of owning a fancy washing machine with a hand wash cycle. I now use the hand wash cycle for my cashmere. If you trust your machine, GO FOR IT but don't blame me if something bad happens to your sweater, lol. If you don't trust your machine, stick with the hand washing I described above**

Stain Removal:
  1. If you don't feel comfortable removing stains yourself, take your sweater to a dry cleaner.
  2. Treat stains IMMEDIATELY with cold water and a stain remover. I use Zout and I love it.
  3. After your stain remover has penetrated, wash your sweater as normal. Do NOT rub or give much special attention to the stained areas. You'll rub a hole. (I know from experience, lol)
  4. I do not suggest this because I do not want to be responsible for mistakes, BUT: a relative of mine got a beauty oil on her cashmere sweater when a container opened in her suitcase while traveling. As far as she was concerned, the sweater was ruined so she let me fiddle with it. I used a wool carpet stain remover and it worked! I placed a towel inside the sweater, under the stain, and applied the remover. I let the remover soak into the sweater, then pressed it out with another towel. I did this over and over, pressing out the stain to the towel underneath. After it looked OK, I washed it as normal and it was as good as new.
Storage:
  1. Clean your sweaters before you store them. Moths are attracted to natural fibers, especially when they are dirty or stained. Ever notice how they never go for your faux-wanna-be-cashmere-acrylic sweaters?
  2. When you store your pieces, fold them around a piece of tissue paper to help prevent wrinkles. Honestly, I never do this. Lol. I use a steamer when I have a pesky wrinkle.
  3. Do not store your sweaters in plastic. I suggest using sweater bags that are breathable, but keep critters out.
  4. DO NOT HANG YOUR SWEATERS, period. Seriously. Take my word for this, people.
Other:
  1. Use a sweater shaver to remove pilling. Do not press hard or you will shave a hole into your sweater. (I also know this from experience... See why I made this blog?)
  2. You may iron your sweaters on low, while inside out to remove wrinkles. Or steam!! That's what I do.
Well, there you have it. Don't be overwhelmed. You will get the hang of it as soon as you try it out. If you are nervous, try out these techniques on a junky sweater or one you don't mind getting ruined (just in case).

Ask questions if you need help!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Neiman Marcus Exclusives Cashmere- Excellent Value

Well, it's raining. It's been 90 degrees here for the last couple of weeks so this is a refreshing change. Good thing I always have a great cashmere sweater handy. This time, I'm wearing an uber-thick, grey, open-front, HAND-KNIT cardigan from Neiman Marcus Exclusives. Thus, I will be talking about this sweater and brand today. My number totals refer to the sweater, specifically. The Brand's Overall Value refers to the brand as a whole.

Over the years, Neiman Marcus has put out some beautiful cashmere sweaters from their Exclusives collection. I was disappointed this year but that hasn't stopped me from loving their stuff. Their Exclusives are made in a variety of places, but still have top-of-the-line quality. These pieces aren't as expensive as your Eskandar, Loro Piano, and Brunello Cuccinelli pieces, but are just as nice. This grey sweater rivals my hand-knit, pink Brunello Cuccinelli piece any day.

This NM sweater has become one of my favorites, so I have had to take care of it. This sweater wears extremely well. It does not pill nearly as bad as one would expect of such a thick knit sweater. This sweater is at least 10-ply and is as thick as it sounds. It is my perfect, lay around the house sweater. I've used it for traveling and for staying warm in 26-degree weather. It is lightweight, but warm. It is very comfortable, but can be tricky if you are moving around a lot, as it has no closure. This piece retailed at around the $400-$500 range. The style of this piece is GREAT. It is not trendy, but classic in style. It is hand knit, which gives it a one-of-a-kind feel. This has been and will be one of my favorites for a long time.

Neiman Marcus Exclusives Grey Cardigan:
Quality 8-9
Style 8
Comfort 10
Price 6

Brand's Overall Value: Excellent B+/A-

To see some of their pieces that are now ON SALE!! go to: www.neimanmarcus.com and look in their sale section. If you search on the home page, it won't bring the good ones up! SO, go to the sales and values section, then search with the keyword "cashmere."

Quality: Evaluates construction, quality of materials, and lifespan.
Style: Trendy gets less points because you are less likely to wear it long-term. We want you to have some pieces that will last you a lifetime.
Comfort: Wearability and maneuverability while in it.
Price (retail):
$1,000+ 0 Points
$900-$1,000 1
$800-$900 2
$700-$800 3
$600-$700 4
$500-$600 5
$400-$500 6
$300-$400 7
$200-$300 8
$100-$200 9
Less than $100 10

Brand's Overall Value: Does not apply to any specific sweater. This is my opinion of the brand as a whole.

Keep in mind: Just because a sweater is cheap, doesn't mean it is quality... A piece of cashmere that is over $1,000 may get no points for price because it is plain expensive, but it doesn't mean that it's not worth it.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Indroduction

Like most women, I have acquired an unquenchable appetite for cashmere. I am a self-educated cashmere connoisseur of sorts. I love everything related to cashmere- especially the end product. But, I don't stop there! I enjoy taking apart cashmere items (mostly sweaters) to learn about how they were constructed, often to recycle them into treasured possessions. I knit and crochet new things from the recycled yarn and create stuffed animals from the fabric itself. My goal with this blog is to pass on my years of knowledge to people like you! I have an embarrassing collection of cashmere totaling over 200 pieces. My collection includes priceless one-of-a-kind treasures, the perfect basic sweater, and more!

I am going to give my opinions on every cashmere brand I am familiar with. I'm talking about hundreds here so we have a lot to get through! I will also show you how to take apart a sweater to salvage the yarn or to create something else out of it. I will give you my opinions on quality, the cashmere market, how to clean and store your collection, and current events related to cashmere production. You will find a bit of everything here.

I would love to answer any questions you may have! If I don't know the answer, I will find out for you so we can learn together!

To see some of my current creations, please visit: www.CashmereCreations.ETSY.com