It’s sweater time!
There are a few other words to describe them: upcycled, recycled, vintage, green, eco friendly, one of a kind. And all those words apply. But the reincarnated tagline started sometime in 2004, before the popular buzzwords we now know were created to describe environmentally conscious fashion. In my quest to explain the idea of recycling a sweater to a boutique buyer who couldn’t wrap her head around what the word recycled meant no matter how I explained it, I came up with a word that became my new term. Reincarnated.
I was interviewed about my eco friendly designs back in 2006 by Lime TV and featured on the Gaiam website. This video explains my philosophy nicely. The gorgeous model wearing my clothing is Erin Salt.
Cashmere is a soft, luxurious, warm, and often expensive fiber. So why would anyone pitch an upscale sweater into a goodwill box? Perhaps a stain, the fit, or more than likely, holes chomped into it by those pesky cashmere-loving moths.
Appliques became my way of camouflaging such flaws, and I chose to work with the sweater in a cut-and-sewn way, sometimes keeping the basic shape, but more often, completely reworking it. thereby “reincarnating” it into a unique and sometimes one of a kind piece.
My first sweaters were sleeveless with the sleeves turned into what I called “arm socks” allowing the wearer to stay warm but still show off a bit of skin. (I live in LA so the skin part made good fashion sense) Soon enough, that one sweater/armsox combo blossomed into a full collection of sweaters and accessories in all shapes and sizes, worn by fashionable women, men, kids, dogs, celebrities and seen in magazines and blogs worldwide. My most recent additions include cashmere pillows for the home, and even a winter wedding dress in vintage beaded wool and cashmere fit for a wedding in an ice church in Sweden.
Photos by Autumn Stankay
I’ve learned a few things about cashmere along the way since I’ve carefully picked, sorted, and reincarnated hundreds of cashmere sweaters since 2004. I’d like to pass on a few things you may or may not know about their care.
Here are “My Top 10 Reincarnated Cashmere Sweater Hints “
- Dry cleaning is the best way to insure the appliques continue to look the way they did when you bought the sweater. Earth friendly dry cleaners are more abundantly available these days. Gently hand washing and drying them flat is also possible, however the applique edges may curl up a bit if you choose to wash them. But please don’t throw them into a washing machine or dryer The agitation of a washer will create applique havoc. And a dryer will turn your sweater into a pint sized, felted version of its former self.
- Store cashmere sweaters in an airtight plastic container with a lid to insure the hungry cashmere-loving moths don’t find them, even when you feel you’ll be wearing them during the cold weather season. The egg larvae laid by the moths are actually the real culprit. You may not notice them, but they love dark, undisturbed locations such as a drawer or closet shelf and can live on an undisturbed piece for months, creating their idea of art on your precious sweater or accessory. Unfortunately at this time I don’t know of an earth friendly, post-consumer plastic container fit for sweaters. If you do, let me know.
- Place a sachet of lavender or rosemary blended with some drops of the same essential oils into your container and you’ll have double moth protection in addition to a fresh natural fragrance.
- The old-fashioned cedar chest is a good storage option in case you have inherited one from Grandma. To insure the scent of cedar is strong enough to repel moths, give the wood a good sanding before storing your sweaters inside it.
- Please don’t use mothballs. They are a pesticide, containing the active ingredients naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene and are harmful to you and to the environment. Besides, who wants to wear eau-de-mothball?
- If you’ve already found holes in your sweater and are concerned about more, put it in a plastic bag and place it in the freezer overnight. Freezing will kill the eggs.
- When storing your sweaters, keep them clean. Pests are attracted to food stains and perspiration.
- Some sweaters pill more than others, typically in areas where 2 surfaces rub together, such as underams and sides. The best tool I have found to remove pilling is an item called the “Sweater Stone”, which is basically a piece of pumice. Its also earth friendly which of course is right up my alley. I find it works better than anything but it must be used gently to avoid creating weakness or holes in the sweater, most often at the seam lines.
- The gentlest, least expensive pill -removing tool I’ve found is one I found in a pinch. The green scrub pad you use on your pots and pans is a great pill remover! (A new one, of course.). There is also an earth friendly, even gentler version made of coconut fiber from Wise Earth Remedies. Either or all of these pill removers and a good sticky lint roller will keep your cashmere looking its best.
- And lastly, if you have a cashmere sweater you’d like to change for any reason, send it my way and lets design a unique, reincarnated, bespoke, cashmere sweater for you, your home, or a loved one. See sweater and accessory options here. Dog and children’s sweaters here. And home decorative accessories here.
But very importantly, make sure the sachet itself doesn’t contain live critters by first putting it in the freezer overnight.
Photos by Deborah Lindquist and Glenn Campbell
Have a blessed holiday everyone! Consider the environment when making your purchases, and as always, live green and prosper!