How to Grade Cashmere

Soft to the touch and gentle against the skin, cashmere is one of the most prized textiles in the world. Because of its insulating properties, cashmere keeps the wearer warm in fall and winter and is a lightweight layering option for spring and summer nights. With seasonal care, a high-quality handmade cashmere sweater will last a lifetime. 

Cashmere’s quality depends on the type of yarn used, its length and the thickness of its fibers. Knits made with longer, fine fibers tend to pill less and hold their shape better than those made with short fibers. The finer the cashmere fiber, the softer the garment will feel.

There are four factors to consider when determining whether a garment is made of high-quality cashmere: look, feel, stretch and pilling.

1. Feel

Hold the garment at eye level and look across the surface. A minimal amount of fluffiness, approximately 1mm – 2mm, is a sign of high-quality cashmere. If the fluffiness rises higher, it indicates shorter hairs have been used, which do not bind together as well as long hairs, and the item will pill and wear more quickly. 

2. Touch

Rub the cashmere on a sensitive area: such as the inner wrists or under the chin. High-quality cashmere is soft but not overly so; it softens with wear. Avoid unnaturally soft cashmere which has typically been treated and will not wear as well over time.

3. Stretch

Gently pull the cashmere to see if it holds its shape and bounces back. Lower-quality cashmere will remain stretched out after use, while quality cashmere will stretch to fit the wearer and retain its shape. While gently stretching the fabric, look through it. The tighter the cashmere knit, the better it will preserve its shape.

4. Pilling

Pilling is a natural occurrence in cashmere usually caused by friction. A seat belt, purse strap or even the synthetic lining of a jacket can cause pilling. In lesser-quality cashmere, simply running a hand over a garment can cause slight pilling and show wear — signaling shorter fibers and lower quality. Work your hands over the surface of a knit to see what happens. Less pilling means the cashmere will wear well.

Shobhan’s Favorite Cashmere

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