So, now that I no longer dress everyday for an office job I have discovered I love sweaters! And it's because there was a learning curve and several tricks to wearing and caring for sweaters that I never knew!
For years and years, I had a plastic crate of winter sweaters. Each winter I rotated them out into my closet and each spring I put them back in storage. Without ever wearing a single one of them for more than an hour or so. Because, when you work in an office the building heat is too much. And yet, you can't just count on the sweater to be warm enough if you are running errands, etc. And then there's the part of trying to pull your coat over your bulky sweater. And the problem (if you have long, fine hair) of the back of your hair ratting up as it moves across the sweater all day. And then, of course, if you like dangly earrings they tend to get caught in the sweater during the day's movement.
Problems, problems! Oh, and the biggest problem is that every cute sweater you buy is only cute until you wash it! After its first washing it becomes a faded wad of pills which take hours to brush or shave off!
But, then, I discovered that I had been sold a faulty line of thinking by a fashion industry that is focused on selling us something new and cheap every week.
An acrylic or polyester sweater is a piece of plastic. It will take on the temperature of the room around it - making you cold in the cold and hot in the heat. And it's not breathable stuff. So, it feels suffocating. It's like wrapping yourself in a trashbag.
But, old fashioned sweaters? The ones made of materials from nature? Heaven!
Here is my sweater remedy:
1) Acrylic sweaters are no longer allowed to live in my closet!!!!!!! Just get rid of them, immediately. They will never bring you happiness, or warmth. They are the evil alter ego of real sweaters. And, we've lost touch with real sweaters because our stores are heaped with the evil alter egos. Since the 1980's, our choices have been poor and we didn't know we were being duped.
2) Buy only natural fiber sweaters. These come under many descriptive names such as, of course, cashmere. But also just as wonderful....wool, angora, lambswool, rabbit, merino. Sometimes these materials are blended with a nylon, acrylic or polyester. So beware! I will buy a sweater that has up to about 10% of one of these man made fibers if 90% of the fiber is a natural material. But, many of the fashion profit centers have caught on to bloggers and wardrobe consultant advice to look for the perfect "cashmere" sweater.... so they are sneakily offering such mixed mutts as an "angora" sweater that has 5% angora dumped into the mix that is 95% acrylic. These are junk! What an embarrassment to the angora rabbit or goat or whatever critter gives us these gifts of natural fibers!
3) Watch for thin sweaters in natural fibers. The thick ones are eye catching and fun. But, day by day, you will come to love the thinner ones. These will become as easy for you to wear as tee shirts. But, they are so luxurious and upscale. They are a bit harder to find, but worth it. They hide in the thrift stores because they are so plain. Sometimes I find them in the blouse or tee shirt racks. Sometimes they have holes or splits that will need repaired.
4) Watch for athletic type cut natural fiber sweaters such as hooded cardigans. These are also hard to find but wonderful.
5) And my favorite tip is about care because the most wonderful of these sweaters are sitting in thrift shops! No one seems to know how to care for them so they send them out the door at the first sign of a problem. And I pick them up and fix them. These are my common fixes:
a) small holes - find a very closely matching thread and do a darning stitch to close up the holes. No one will ever notice. Even you will have a hard time locating the patched hole later. Just make sure your thread is exactly the same color. See Repairing a $1 Thrift Store Cashmere Sweater
b) too tight. This is what I am doing today (photos above). Some sweaters have been "felted" by too much heat and friction. Those are ruined, but can be great for crafts. But, 90% of the expensive natural fiber sweaters I run across in the thrifts have just been washed incorrectly. Use about a tablespoon of creme rinse (same as used for your hair) in a sink of cold water. Let the sweater soak up the water mix. Gently squeeze water out without wringing the sweater or twisting it. Lay the sweater out to dry on a towel. Now, shape the sweater! Gently ease it out to full size again by stretching it lengthwise and width wise over and over. Gently tug and smooth like you're pushing out pie dough into a bigger and bigger circle. Use a measuring tape to check to see if the sweater fibers have been pulled enough to fit you well. I usually do this to several sweaters at a time and throughout the day I will go back and smooth and stretch each of them as they dry. Flip them over. Keep working them. Work the upper armholes and the shoulder seams to assure they are back to the original intended shape and size. I also try them on a few times while they are drying. It works best with a slick tight tee shirt underneath. Pull the sweater on and stand in front of the mirror - stretching and easing out the fabric for length and width where you need it. Then lay the sweater back on the towel to dry further.
c) fuzz. I usually brush my sweaters with a lint brush and pick off any bigger pills. I have never had luck with the sticky pad lint brushes. Buy the old fashioned kind. They brush the fibers and capture the pills easily. You only have to do this once and the sweater will be wearable for the whole season or longer. These natural fibers sweaters do not like being cleaned each time you wear them. They keep themselves clean. And many times I will wear a tight cotton t-shirt or tank under so they stay clean even longer.
Sometimes, you will get a natural fiber sweater that pills up like crazy after washing. I am finding this is true with the cashmere sweaters you can get for new prices at $20 - $40. They are indeed made of cashmere fibers but only the lowest grade; the short fibers left over from the animal after the luxurious fibers have been selected out for the high cost sweaters. This is the number one reason I buy used and vintage. Before the 1980's, no designer would have put out a line of cashmere, merino or angora sweaters using this throw away fiber junk. I have several cashmere sweaters that I paid $3 for that come out of the wash without a single pill. My brand new cashmere from Kohls can't even be combed out anymore - it is just a wad of pills and lost its true, saturated color after the first wash.
It's not you! It's the profit motive of fast, cheap fashion that is making you so unhappy! American women buy the same things over and over with little to no satisfaction!
Next time I am ready to tell you what has happened to womens pants. Why you are buying and buying and buying and crying and crying because nothing fits. It's not you.