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Cashmere fabric can be as temperamental as a toddler or your hair on a rainy day. This precious fabric looks and feels soft, yet can shrink up at the bat of an eyelash. If your cashmere has started to shrink, there are a few steps you can take to keep it from becoming a sweater for your dog or stuffed animal.
Why Cashmere Shrinks
Cashmere has ultradelicate fibers that must be washed, worn and stored cautiously. When properly cared for, cashmere can last years. Two key factors lead to cashmere shrinkage: hot temperatures and agitation from a washing machine. Both can cause cashmere fibers to bunch together, shrinking your sweater. Although the fibers haven’t technically gone anywhere, they are collected tightly together.
If it can be saved, washing it is one way to try to restore your cashmere sweater. Since cashmere is a delicate fabric, wash it by hand to minimize agitation and heat problems that can arise from machine washing. Start by preparing a bowl of tepid -- about room temperature -- water. Add a few drops of dishwashing liquid or another mild detergent. Place the sweater in the water, and swish it, but do not wring or stretch it. Allow the sweater to soak for at least 10 minutes in the soapy mixture, then remove it. Rinse out the bowl you used for washing, and refill it with clean water about the same temperature to rinse the detergent out. If you want to try and stretch the sweater, you can rinse it under running water. However, this may stretch the sweater unevenly, so it’s definitely a risk to do so.
Drying your sweater is where you may be able to re-extend the fibers to keep the sweater from appearing shrunken. After you remove the sweater from the water, lay it on a white towel to prevent any towel dye from transferring onto your sweater. Roll the towel and sweater together to get out as much moisture as possible. Now you can block the sweater, which helps to stretch it back to its normal size. Try placing the sweater on a mesh drying rack and gently pulling at the fibers to shape the sweater’s sleeves, shoulders and hem. By establishing the proper shape for drying, you can reduce shrinkage. While you shouldn’t hang a cashmere sweater for a long time, you could hang it while steaming the sweater and let gravity pull the fibers downward to reduce shrinking.
Reweaving is a process in which a specialist can fix shrinking cashmere by knitting on fabric to elongate your sweater. If it sounds pricey, that’s because it is. But if you have a favorite cashmere sweater, this is an option that can help to extend its life. Reweaving also can fix a sweater that may have developed holes over years of wear or storage.