Cashmere has very become a Winter wardrobe staple in recent years, and for many women an investment too – knowing that picking out a quality garment will get them something that lasts and looks great for years to come. The luxury wool is sold on the High Street and in upmarket boutiques alike, but buying the right piece isn’t always easy. We consulted Queen of Cashmere Angela Bell of Queene and Belle to get the lowdown on what to look out for when shopping for cashmere. Previously a senior designer at Pringle of Scotland, before she launching Queene and Belle nearly 15 years ago, there’s nothing Angela doesn’t know about this luxury woollen wonder. Here are her Seven Cashmere Commandments…
1. Make sure the composition label reads 100% cashmere, simple but now a days there are an awful lot of cashmere mixes out there.
2. Make sure the garment has a close even knit, with a good stitch clarity.
3. Make sure the cashmere is not too hairy, fuzzy or overly soft – a good quality cashmere will be made from 14.5 – 15.5 micron (thickness of loose fibre), it will have the correct twist per inch – too tight = too hard and too loose = piling The right twist comes from the correct length of fibre (staple). The very best cashmere will have the correct length with the correct twist which means that the garment will knit evenly and be extremely durable.
4. Make sure the garment has a clean soft hand feel – not soapy! This means the raw fibre is excellent quality and has not had softeners added. Scottish cashmere in particular always has a good clean hand feel as the cashmere yarn is delivered ‘greasy’ and is then washed in the soft Scottish water bringing the product up to it’s purest finish.
5. A good quality cashmere is normally always ‘fully fashioned’ (knitted to the exact shape) and never cut especially along the shoulders. It should look pristine and have a good even knitting tension.
6. Look at the colour – if it has a good lustre and sparkle – it means that the cashmere has been dyed using loose stock, not hank or batch dyed. Dying using loose stock makes the colour perfectly even. You will notice this on non classic colours especially, tones of pinks, greens, blues and especially pastels have a fabulous clarity which you just wouldn’t get with an inferior cashmere or a batch dyed yarn.
7. Finally a high quality, expensive piece of cashmere should be a real investment, and if taken care of should last for many many years. I have lots of vintage cashmere sweaters handed down from my grandparents who worked in the Scottish knitwear industry all their lives, and I have taken care of them (as per their instruction!) and I have to say they really do stand the test of time!
Angela is keen for cashmere lovers to embrace the whole tradition behind the production of her garments. She says : “Queene and Belle is a highly individual collection of specially designed pieces which have been created to enhance both visually and sensually. Oure cashmere knitwear is produced by artisan craftsmen in the world famous town of Hawick – the historical home of cashmere in the Scottish Borders. The specialist knitting techniques originating in the area such as intarsia are embraced by Queene and Belle with some of the graphic images used on the designs taking up to 12 hours to knit a single piece. The local heritage, craftsmanship and inherent love of quality are the passions that make up a Queene and Belle garment. Acquiring Queene and Belle not only endows you with a beautiful garment but gives you the satisfaction that you are contributing to a local community and helping keep alive their skills and traditions.”
To view the collection or find a stockist, see www.queeneandbelle.com