Repair, recycle and de-pill knitwear: Cashmere Circle

Monday, November 8th 2021
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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. 

Whenever I write about caring for knitwear, it spurs me to improve. That might be why I’ve written about it so much - see video on care here, an article on darning, and a previous piece on repairs.   

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 something I’ve done before with the company Love Cashmere in Scotland - but I tried another recently, Cashmere Circle, and wanted to add them to people’s lists. 

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

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Ant

The prices seem really reasonable – great idea. I’m not sure what it was, but I used to have such a mental block when it came to washing knitwear – maybe it was from many, many ruined/shrunken disasters previously (my fault, I now know how to do it better!).

It’s a shame there aren’t more places – from an environmental perspective having to post things there and back isn’t ideal I guess? Or actually would it still be better than treating clothes as entirely disposable? Probably – what do you think?

Andrey

Hi Simon,
Many thanks for a very useful post. I was wondering if you could make one on washing the knitwear, for I think this is the area many people struggle with. Sorry if you’ve done this before – I don’t think I’ve seen anything on the PS yet.

Andrey

Thank you! Strangely enough, I prefer reading texts, rather than watching videos, but I’ll definitely have a look at this one.

Mike T

It can be a little nerve racking for your first one. My wife washed one jumper following Audie to the letter ( including listening to the radio) and it worked perfectly.
The following weekend she washed a further 12 without incident, the only awkward one was a really thick jumper which, even with the towel method, took 5 days to dry. In retrospect better to let a professional take over on this one.
I think the quality of detergent is important and Tenemoll has been our goto product for 15 years.

Martins

Actually I was the one to comment about 5 years… and the point for it was buying cotton Ralph Lauren or similar knitwear in tk max, with a big discount, treat it like a long sleeved T-shirt, so I don’t have to care. So I can just chuck it in a washing machine with the rest of my laundry, hang dry it and don’t have to be too sad, if I accidentally put them on 60* or in the dryer.

Same with jeans/chinos. Im just not hip enough to walk around with holes patched on my clothes, so if I blow the crotch in 2-3 years on Lewis 501 that I got for 50£ or Hackett/Ralph Lauren chinos for 30-40£, just from commuting, I’d much rather get 5 pairs of those from tk maxx and be set for a decade than spend 300£ for a ‘nicer’ denim that will last me as long…

But Thanks to you my wardrobe actually has split into 2 tiers, 1. I don’t have to care but I want it smarter than a tracksuit or a sweatshirt. And 2. I did my best to buy the best I can afford and I’m willing to take care of it the way I should.

Tore

A bit unrelated, but are the trousers you’re wearing here by any chance the Anthology Civilman in white denim? If so, may I ask if you find them versatile for everyday use, or limited in any way, compared to other white/cream jeans or chinos? Thanks!

Tore

Ok, thanks! Will check the recent Top 10 piece.

JSB

Hi Simon,
I too, like another one of your readers find washing knitwear a little daunting, having that ‘mental block’; keep thinking I’m going to ruin it.
I like to add that I have a Ralph Lauren zipper knit cardigan that is over 10 years old. It is lambswool and had pilled quite badly and I was close to calling time on it. I then invested in a Philips Fabric Shaver, which yielded brilliant results and the cardigan is now probably good for another 10 years at least. Does take a bit of practice with the fabric shaver. Go soft and slow on the garment, and I found it works best on plain knits rather the cable knits or ribbed designs. The shaver is relatively inexpensive and I did exactly as you’ve advised to ANT, tried it out on another garment that wasn’t precious to me.

Chris W

Second that completely on the Philips Fabric Shaver. The (very slightly) cheaper unbranded ones aren’t very good, but the Philips one is brilliant. Would recommend it to anyone.

Triskel

After washing I suggest you do any ironing when the knitwear is still slightly damp, inside out, and through an old tea towel, to avoid visible scorches in case you get the temperature wrong. If an area resists smoothing come back to it. And be sure that it is dry, after gentle drying, before putting away

My grandmother’s advice was to look after it as if you would never be able to afford another.

Darryl

I keep old cashmere jumpers that have really come to the end of their ‘public’ life and wear them as rough clothes about the house, for gardening etc. It is surprisingly easy to wash them in a machine at 30 degrees on wool cycle without any apparent problem, and should the worst happen (it hasn’t so far) then its really no great loss. This seems particularly suited to thinner plys.

Ian

There are small de-pilling gadgets available which are both cheap and, in my experience, very effective. If there are no other issues, I would recommend trying one of those before the expense of a professional refurbish.

Is there more information on the steaming of suits please?

Ian

I recommend searching online for ‘fabric shaver’. I use the ones that look like an electric razor.

Ian

I would just go for the cheapest – they all work in basically the same way. None are expensive though.

When using them the more patient you are the better the result but it shouldn’t take longer than 15 mins per sweater.

Steve B

An alternative for those still without steam irons, including me ( they are huge & not nimble compared to old non steam models ) is to use steamers used for showers with attachments that give different penetration or diffusion. Your previous video on pressing suits with A&S was very useful for suits as was the one on care of knitwear.👍

Anon

Can I also recommend 40 colori for repairs. Had a number of pieces freshened up and very good service

Anon

Nope – a whole hodgepodge ranging from thin cotton to think lambs wool

MBB355

What is your take on dry cleaning knitwear? I’ll note that plenty of brands covered on this site including Luca Faloni and Colhays approve of it in their care instructions.

MBB355

Do you mind elaborating on why hand washing from home is better? Does it have something to do with dry cleaning chemicals degrading the fabric? If so, then why would anyone recommend dry cleaning at all? Thanks.

Benjamin

Is it better then to ask a dry cleaners to steam/wash heavy knitwear like a Colhay or Drake’s shawl collar cardigan, or would you always ask them to dry clean it? Thanks.

Robin

I’m wealomga wool blend (certainly some polyester in there) v neck and having worn it and machine washed it , its never pilled .
Is that due to the polyester ?

The Audie video is great although I still can’t get my head around washing woollens after several wears and doing this 3/4 times to avoid pilling.
Even using a very mild baby shampoo doesn’t the water strip the wool of its natural oils ?

Michael K

For US readers, a plug for Rave Fabricare in Arizona, which is where I send my better quality knitwear at the end of each season (I will wash my own more rugged stuff, like a couple of alpaca sweaters from Peru). It comes back looking and feeling as good as new — wrap it in tissue paper, put it in the cedar chest, and pull it out again the following October. Also, as many have already commented in this thread, steaming makes a huge difference and really takes care of odors, if, for instance, you’ve been sat too near the open kitchen at a restaurant and you can smell it on the sweater the next day.

Georgios

Simon can you help with something irrelevant from cashmere ? I read yesterday your article about the angloitalian leather boots and i want to get them but i cant decide the size. I wear at crocket and jones 6.5-7. should i get half a size bigger or stick with 7 ? Thanx for your time

Dave

I have a couple of PWVC cashmere turtlenecks that I unfortunately sized wrong. They are a good though roomy fit immediately after washing, but by the end of the first day have stretched out and are too big. The bigness is even throughout: neck too loose, sleeves too long. Is it possible to shrink them in a controlled way? If not, uh, Simon how do you feel about classified ads on there threads? 🙂

Stephen

Hi. I’d definitely recommend Marrkt. I have sold higher end pieces such as Drakes with them.

RT

My experience with Market was extremely negative. I know that others have had similar experiences. I’d avoid them.

Joseph

Noting that this is solely for cashmere, can you suggest a similar service for wool knitwear?

Joseph

I see. When ordering the revive and repair service on their website, the FAQ dropdown says otherwise!
Do you only revive and repair 100% cashmere garments?
Yes. Our speciality is to invisibly mend 100% cashmere garments. However, these can be any brand and any age.
(https://www.cashmere-circle.co.uk/collections/cashmere-circle-shop/products/cashmere-full-revive-repair?variant=33046367371316)

Thomas

I hand wash my cashmere sweaters in cold water using The Laundress Wool and Cashmere shampoo. Rolling them in towels to get rid of excess water and then lying them out flat on perforated rungs. I do three at a time. It takes a few days depending on the thickness to dry naturally. Turning them inside out once a day until dry. Before washing I do de-pilling but it always amazes me that quality (and expensive) cashmere has very little pilling e.g. Brunello Cucinelli, Avon Celli, Malo. Some of my sweaters are over 10 years old and still look as good as new. I really don’t see them wearing out. Amazing really !!

Sir Cumference

Kudos for your endeavour to make menswear more sustainable Simon!
And an OT question: I’m on the lookout for some quality crafted knitwear for my girlfriend. Say similar to drakes or anderson & sheppard. Can you recommend any shops and/or brands?

zo

my wife wears my connolly and drake’s sweaters/cardigans more than I do. we’re at least one size apart. also, i think drake’s sometimes use women to model their jumpers too, so why not.

Stefan

Sorry for this weird(?) question. Have you ever thought about doing something unexpected here on PS? It would be refreshing and fun to read about when you try a suit from a completely different world and give it a serious try. A Saint Laurent tuxedo or a Tom Ford made to measure suit? 🙂 I prefer as you the craftmanship in the brands you normally write about, but it would be very interesting and give an extra dimension to this blog if you try the opposite of what you think you like. It always good to try the opposite of what you think you’ll like. 🙂

Russ

You need, Simon, a Philips GC026/00 2 Height Settings Battery Operated Lint Shaver. This works fantastically on everything from cashmere and lambswool jumpers through to fraying cotton shirt collars. Garments come out looking almost like new.

Russ

And you can use the delicates or woollens setting on a good washing machine with an appropriate liquid soap made for delicates. Just make sure you turn the cashmere or lambswool garment inside out first and then put it in a net wash bag to protect it against the effects of the drum. Then dry it flat away from heat.

Russ

By the way, Amazon sell the Lint shaver for just over £15 and I highly recommend the Cashmere and Wool Eco Wash (no 3) by Clothes Doctor Laundry, also available on Amazon at £19.50.

Con

The hoodie is vey nice. And well designed. You’d think it wouldn’t be hard to design a good hoodie yet you rarely see the like of yours with a small enough neckhole, the over lapping at the front to shield the neck and a good sized hood that doesn’t become a wind tunnel. And that’s from co’s that have been making them for years or even decades. Nice find.
I didn’t realise that agitation had an impact on felting, I had thought it was only hot water did this so good to know. I’m just about to wash my first cashmere purchase for the first time and wasn’t sure about putting it in the machine. Will definitely do it by hand now. Someone mentioned steaming to remove smells from woolens. If you live by the sea, hanging outside on the line (over a the back of a chair if worried about stretching) over night or for a couple of days does the same and leaves woolens smelling so fresh. Doesn’t seem to work as well in the city.

M L S

Hi Simon,
Great article.
Question regarding the tightness of my knitted John Smedley Brushwood Classic.
I just wore it recently and button the three buttons and realized that it’s tight at the top. I have other shirts from them and button them to the top without the tightness.
Any suggestions on how to loosen the fit? Thank you in advance.
Michael

Steve B

Get a chest expander or similar exercise, alternatively gently stretch at the offending point.

Brendan

Do Cashmere Circle offer a stretching service a la Love Cashmere?

Brendan

Hello Simon, I have heard back from Cashmere Circle. They do not offer a stretching service, as they feel it would not result in a permanent effect – after a couple of home washes, the garment would return to the normal size. I am not sure if this has been your experience with the item you had stretched at Love Cashmere.

Steve B

Hi Simon,
As ever these articles with inputs from specialists in these areas is incredibly valuable for those who take pride in their clothing. If chosen carefully & looked after they do become old trusted friends. Occasionally however we do buy cashmere & other wooden knitwear products that state dry clean only, yet something else of the same composition states hand wash. Dry cleaning is a pain & is sometimes detrimental if done too frequently whereas a refreshing soak is all that’s needed. Have you any idea why some of these pure products require dry cleaning & would it be worth just soaking in tepid soapy water etc?

Fashion Bear

Simon,
Are you aware of any companies offering this kind of service in the U.S.? Cashmere Circles looks great, but I’m put off by the notion of shipping my knitwear overseas (it would also be rather detrimental to any environmental benefits one might otherwise incur). Even without such a service as my disposal, I still have numerous sweaters in my collection that are over two decades old. I have to say I find the “five-year” timeline you referenced to be rather appalling, but then I’m a bit obsessed with my knitwear.
Cheers,
Daniel

Fashion Bear

Ah, that makes sense. Do you know if Cashmere Circle works with customers in the U.S.? This would obviously just be for the cleaning service, as opposed to the alterations.

By the by, apropos of nothing other than being in virtual conversation with you, I received my PS donegal coat from the tailor’s this weekend (I had the sleeves and body length shortened), and it is simply a fantastic piece of kit. I’ve also received numerous comments regarding it. Well done, sir!

Fashion Bear

That makes sense; thanks again, Simon (for the advice and the coat!)