So here we are in knitwear season. I am approaching with caution this year and not just because there are some terrifyingly awful jumpers out there. Fully grown women wearing crew necks with pictures of animals across their chest? I don’t get it, it’s an invitation for toddlers to point and yell, “Look Mummy, an elephant!” and that’s not ideal.
I shall be sticking with my reliable v-necks and cardigans because these pet motif garments are not just for Christmas you know. Hands up those who are a bit put off at the thought of the bobbling, shrinking and sagging that goes along with our woolly friends? Knitwear is high maintenance and not all problems are as easily solved as a quick de-bobble of the bobbles with a de-bobbler.*
A few weeks ago I unpacked my collection of scarves only to find one of them, an overpriced snood from All Saints, (overpriced and not even cashmere but cherished nonetheless) so full of holes it looked like it had been shot at with a machine gun. Now you may be surprised to hear I am actually pretty handy with a needle and thread. Well, at over £100 for a cashmere piece, I am more than happy to repair any holes caused by hungry moths, but when the holes are the size of 2 pence pieces you have to accept defeat. I keep expecting to discover a family of moths so fat and drunk on the good life provided by my knitwear that they have rendered themselves unable to move. No fluttering around the light bulbs for them, ohh no. These South London moths are full of fashionable knitwear, they could be franchised by Benetton.
Having worked for a company which produces merino and cashmere goods, I know what you can and can’t get away with and have experimented at length with how far you can bend a ‘hand wash only’ rule. Which is quite far as it happens. Quality control departments test fabrics for shrinkage and quality but if at the end of all the inspections there is any doubt, then on goes the ‘dry clean only’ label. You might feel obliged to trot down to the dry cleaners with a suit or a coat, but it’s more than a little galling to have to make such an effort for a cheapo blouse from the high street. My current squeeze, aka the Knitwear King, takes his knits very seriously. He only dry cleans his sweaters and checks the care labels for content before purchasing. Very sensible in these times of austerity. I suppose it’s the equivalent of checking how many calories are in a tub of Ben and Jerry’s; Oh look at that, there are 3 million calories in this flavour, I’ll be able to live off the fat content for months – bargain!
I rarely even hand wash anything since modern washing machines usually have a program for delicate items. Admittedly there has been the odd occasion when the spin cycle has left a lovely little fifties style cardi looking like Dr.Who’s scarf. And if you think a newborn’s JoJo Maman jumper can’t get any smaller than the size of a newborn, think again. There are some very well dressed dollies round my place.
I have it on good authority from the lovely girls at Brora that the way to deal with moths and their even more damaging eggs is to do the following:
1. Wash and dry your cashmere
2. Place article in a sealed garment bag (vacuum packed, even better)
3. Leave in the freezer overnight
4. Defrost and put a cedar ball into the bag before storing.
5. If cashmere contains nibble holes on opening, call the police (Brora girls didn’t actually endorse this last bit).
Dry-cleaning is one of those things – a bit like childcare and car servicing – where in the end you just have to trust that if there’s a problem they’ll call you and will make every effort to ensure the safe return of your property. You never really know what goes on behind the scenes but whatever it is they do, you pay what they ask because you can’t do it yourself so there’s no way around it. Unlike reputable childcare, dry cleaning has long had a reputation for compromising the quality of garments. Don’t get me wrong, I quite like getting a free hanger** and having my coats displayed in their own see-through body bag but they never smell very nice do they? I once put an H&M skirt suit in the washing machine (stop sniggering – it was ancient, cost next to nothing and had had a good innings etc etc.) and while it may not have looked, ahem, much like a suit when it came out, it smelt right nice.
Obviously, one can’t be putting one’s McQueen tuxedo style jacket (£99 from the Maxx – I’ll never tire of showing off about it) on a forty degree wash just so it has a whiff of summer meadows.
So it is something of a revelation to hear that someone very clever indeed has come up with an all new dry cleaning process called Greenearth that is gentler on clothes so you don’t get them back with that slightly drained and flattened appearance. Almost as if they’ve just watched Blair Witch Project for the first time. (Ooo Hallowe’en reference, get me!) And did you guess from the name that it’s kinder to the environment too? That’s the whole point really, it’s just a jolly nice, friendly process to be around in general. Johnsons the Cleaners have replaced all their traditional methods with this sparkly new process so they must be pretty flippin’ pleased with the results.
This discovery has almost softened the blow of finding out this morning that my new Thomas Pink lace shirt – which I wore with carefree abandon whilst cleaning the bathroom – is dry clean only.
In between writing that last paragraph and trying to think up a title, I tried (unsuccessfully) to replace the fan belt on my Hoover. I now have a huge dirty mark on my cream cashmere wrap cardigan. What was it I was saying in my previous blog about not hoarding clothes you can do odd jobs in? Yeah well, I might just have to go back and edit that sentence out. Now, where did I put my overalls…
*LOVE a de-bobbler gadget, me.
**Yes I know, wire hangers, bad.