How to Save Your Shrunken Cashmere
Has this happened to you? In your haste to tidy up, you grabbed an armload of laundry, threw it in the wash and were never the wiser until you flipped the lid to do the dryer transfer. Everything looks fine until you hold up your favourite black cashmere sweater that looks about three sizes smaller. Gasp! Before you slide onto the floor in tears or march off to your closest charity bin to remove the evidence, take a deep breath, and let’s see if we can’t do a little resuscitation on one of the most luxurious items of clothing in your closet.
What Happened to My Cashmere?
We’ve written about how to care for your cashmere and explained why handwashing is the best way to clean this delicate material, but let’s go over why cashmere is so susceptible to shrinking and machine damage. Cashmere is taken from the underbelly and sides of the cashmere goat in the Mongolian Desert. It’s much lighter, finer and warmer than the wool from sheep (even Merino wool). Because cashmere is so fine, it is highly susceptible to moisture, heat and agitation. If you accidentally wash cashmere in hot water, the threads shrink and thousands of little pills will form on the inside and outside of the sweater. Certain harsh detergents can also cause significant damage to your cashmere.
Is There a Point of No Return?
Ugh, unfortunately, yes. If you pull your cashmere out of the washing machine and it has turned to ‘felt’, there isn’t much you can do after that point. What is felting you ask? Felting is when the temperature of the water gets so warm that the fibers of your cashmere become so bound together, you can’t see the weave of the design. Once this happens, you might as well repurpose your cashmere into a cute laptop cover or tea cozies. If that doesn’t happen, it’s still salvageable and you can save it with a few careful steps.
Steps to Saving Your Cashmere
You’re going to need to roll up your sleeves and gather a few items to save your item of clothing. Make sure you have a clean and sterile sink or container that is big enough to soak your sweat. You’ll also need some fabric softener or gentle baby shampoo, a few pins (stainless steel sewing pins work great), and a board made of foam. Remember that you want to soften the cashmere when you soak it, but you don’t want to use any dyes or harsh chemicals that may cause more damage. Fill your sink with water, preferably luke warm, and a couple of tablespoons of baby shampoo or fabric softener. Next, gently place your sweater in the water and set a timer for two hours. This time in the water will help the fabric become more stretchy and pliable.
Squeeze and Shape
Once your sweater has soaked for two hours, drain the sink and very gently squeeze as much moisture out of the fabric as you can. Next, lay your cashmere out on the piece of foam and again, gently tug at the fabric to stretch it back to its original shape and size. Then, take your sewing pins and strategically pin your cashmere in place, in the shape of what it’s supposed to be. Be very careful not to tear the fabric. Set your timer for an hour, and when the time's up, remove the foam beneath your sweater. Lay it out flat again, and let it dry on its own. And hopefully, your favourite wardrobe piece will be back in your closet, safe and sound, ready for its next adventure.