Saturday, January 15, 2011

Cashmere - love it

Yesterday, browsing the bargains, I bought three pairs of cashmere socks. Not 100% cashmere but 60%. I have three pairs I bought last winter at a similar sale. They are soft and warm and very nice designs, excellent for wearing with slacks or jeans. I suspect they sell slowly because people are afraid to spend the money - but I bought 2 pair for $5 and one pair for $3 yesterday - for something they think will probably shrink to toddler size with one washing. Or that they must be carefully and delicately handwash with special soap. Not so. I put my already used socks in the laundry with the colored clothes in warm, not hot, water. I take them out and do not dry them in the drier but over a rack in the bathroom. Heat, not water, shrinks cashmere and wood. My used socks are perfect and have worn well. The temperature out is in the 20s, cashmere socks are wonderful under boots or with shoes.

Cashmere [from a goat, not a sheep] is a natural fiber, as is wool, silk and cotton, linen. I enjoy all of them and do not send any of the unstructured garments to a dry cleaner and almost never do hand washing. Problems arise with synthetics added as trim or lining. What was once considered a luxury fiber/fabric only the rich could wear is available to all of us today. Many of my sweaters are cashmere and my winter scarves also. I credit, or blame, the Chinese for flooding the American markets. I began noticing this several years ago with prices for sweaters dropping from three figures into lower and lower two figures. If one has the patience to wait for late in the season sales and pursue the diligent search that I and other bargain hunters like me truly enjoy the way some people enjoy searching for mushrooms in the forest one can accumulate a nice wardrobe of cashmere items and enjoy the softness and warmth all winter. We bargain hunters soon learn the technicalities: the thin one-ply, the satisfactory two-ply, the cushy three-ply knits. Cashmere is not often combined with synthetics. [To tell the truth, I have read so much about the Chinese way of knocking off American brands with inferior products that I suspect some "100% cashmere" may have a large amount of acrylic added in.]

I have not read an article in a fashion magazine which I don't look at them regularly but I suspect that cashmere [or Kashmir, from the high Himalayan valley originally] goats are grown and sheared in large numbers on China and the fiber made into the sweaters and other garments that flood the market -- quite a few are under large department stores' private labels but many carry 7th Avenue designer labels. Wearing something wonderfully soft, like cashmere, satisfyingly smooth like silk and delightfully crisp like cotton brings a feeling of luxury into the plainest life.

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