Cashmere Facts: How to spot cashmere

I buy a lot of used cashmere sweaters - which means I go through a lot of racks of used sweaters to find the cashmere. Since time = money, I have to be able to do this pretty quickly, otherwise I would be spending my life in thrift stores (which sometimes my husband thinks is the case).

So people often ask me, how do I do this so efficiently (read quickly). The answer is all in the touch. There are a couple of simple facts (and fallacies) about cashmere:

  1. Cashmere is hairy, so if you walk down an aisle and look at the sweater on the hanger (usually the shoulder seam), you will see the little hairs sticking up. Mohair, alpaca and angora are also hairy, but in different ways - you get used to the difference, like angora is long straight hairs.
  2. Cashmere is soft - as in dreamy soft. You touch it and you melt.
  3. Cashmere is extremely light weight - the fiber is hollow and small in diameter.
  4. Cashmere won't squeak when you rub it between your fingers (acrylic will). Cashmere will pill, so pilling is not a good test.
  5. Cashmere is not shiney (acrylic and silk both catch the light and shimmer).
  6. When you pinch and pull out a few cashmere fibers, the fibers are fairly short and kinky/curly. If the fibers come out straight and seem pretty continuous, they are acrylic. Again, do it a few times with the aid of a microscope to double check and you get used to the difference pretty quick.
I will also admit that I have friends and family that also buy sweaters for me. There is no way that I can do this all on my own. I've pretty much got buyers from Tukwila to Everett and all stops in between. You can ask them and I think they will agree - cashmere just feels different.

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