Repair, recycle and de-pill knitwear: Cashmere Circle
One of the good things about writing about caring for clothes, is that it spurs me to be better at it myself.
I’m not too bad at most things, by the standards of Permanent Style. I brush and put cream on my shoes; I steam and brush my suits (rather than dry cleaning them); I am assiduous about moths. And of course all this makes me much better than the average guy.
But I’ve never been as good with knitwear. I don’t allow it enough room in the wardrobe, which leads to pilling, and I don’t wash as much of it as I should - even though it’s easy.
Today I’m doing it again; I hope it has a similar effect on you.
It’s good to wash knitwear regularly if not frequently. Certainly a couple of times a year. A simple, short soak in warm water and soap, and a little agitation is enough.
However, a really good refurbish and repair is also really worth it, and cannot be done yourself.
This includes a thorough depilling, a repair of any small moth holes, and perhaps some alterations.
It’s also worth having more than one because these companies use a network of people at Scottish mills, who use their downtime to take on extra work. There are few full-time employees, particularly for repairs, and so sometimes communications and lead times can be unreliable.
Good refurbishing of knitwear can make it look as good as new. It’s hard to believe that some people maintain great-looking knitwear for 20 years or more, until you see what good care like this can do.
My charcoal hoodie pictured is from Ralph Lauren Purple Label. I bought it in the sale about eight years ago, and I love it.
The neckhole is perfect - a little high, a little small. The hood is quite closed at the front, so it sits close to the back of the neck, rather than dropping down your back. And I like how the two sides of the hood overlap at the front.
It is also, as you’d expect, in a lovely soft and thick cashmere. It’s been worn so much, though, that it has pilled under the arms, and a little on the belly. (For more on why good things pill, look out for our upcoming article in the Guide to Knitwear series.)
I’ve tried a little de-pilling, with an emery board and with a razor, but neither are perfect. The emery board has a habit of pulling up fibres as it removes pills, while the razor misses quite a lot.
I still think this is worth doing occasionally yourself, but it makes a difference sending it to a professional. My charcoal hoodie came back from Cashmere Circle looking and feeling as good as new. Washed, pressed, de-pilled and with a small hole fixed too. (The photos seem to make it look a little pilled still, but that’s just the fluffiness.)
And of course, it’s not new. I haven’t used any more of the world’s cashmere to buy a new sweater, and I’ve spent a lot less money than a new piece. It’s a cheaper and a more sustainable retail high.
“The most sustainable clothes are the ones you already own,” as Ross Powell at Cashmere Circle puts it.
I spoke to Ross over Zoom to learn a little bit about the company.
“There’s two of us, me and my partner, in London. Then we use an office in Edinburgh to help share the work out among local people,” he says.
“We’ve seen a steady increase in demand, mostly around the theme of sustainability. And we can do any type of knitwear - anything knitted basically. Cashmere is just the most valuable and the most popular. Plus the name sounds better.”
Ross points out that fewer mills do refurbishing services these days, because it’s often not seen as worth the hassle. Also, while good shops might repair a piece of knitwear for you - sending it back to the mill they use - they’re unlikely to want to simply wash and refurbish it.
Just as important is the fact I can send all my knitwear to one place. I also gave Ross and his team a cardigan from Connolly to alter, so a different brand and indeed from Italy rather than Scotland. If everything had to go back to different places, I’d be much less likely to do it.
A few readers have asked about knitwear alterations recently, so it’s worth explaining how limited this usually is.
Knits normally need to be altered by a factory, which has fashioning machinery, rather than a tailor using a regular sewing machine.
They also have no inlay, no spare material inside the seams, so things can be taken in but not taken out.
Lastly, my experience has been that it’s worth keeping any alterations very simple. Pretty much the only thing I change is slimming the body of a piece. And even there, a miscommunication led to Love Cashmere slimming something too much for me in the past, making it unwearable.
With this Cashmere Circle alteration, I pinned the cardigan up the side seams, and then tried it on, to make sure I was happy with that shape. I then sent photos to them, to make sure it was understood where the new seam should be. Fortunately, the result was spot on.
When I put my results on Instagram recently, one reader asked whether I used Cashmere Circle to wash all my knitwear. No, absolutely not. That would be very indulgent, and perhaps a little lazy.
Still, if I did then it would be more responsible and sustainable than buying something new. So if you find you just never wash your knitwear, it might be worth considering.
And if you are going to get rid of knitwear, please don’t just throw it away. Give it to a friend, give it to charity, and as a last resort use something like Cashmere Circle’s recycling service.
Another reader commented recently that their knits looked good for about two years, then wearable for up to five, before being thrown away. That isn’t quite disposable fashion, but it’s not far off.
I think we can all do better than that.
www.cashmere-circle.co.uk. The laundry service costs £35, full revive and repair is £45, and elbow patches are £65