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How To Shop for Quality Knitwear

How To Shop for Quality Knitwear

By Carolyn Yim, Creative Director of Ply Knits

Knitwear is back in a big way. After managing to throw off its fusty image of for-Grandmas style, young people are falling back in love with all things knitted. But there’s an art to finding the right garment.

So here are four simple steps to consider when you’re next in the market for knit...

1. Choose natural materials over synthetics.

Avoid acrylic. Proceed with caution with modal, and viscose, and let yourself be drawn to merino wool, silk or cashmere. When in doubt, choose 70% Cashmere to 30% Silk, as the blend will give you great handfeel, durability and an elegant drape. Personally I even prefer this combination over 100% cashmere as the silk adds a delicate, deep luster to the cashmere. Silk also has high tensile strength, and binds with cashmere well. This means it upholds well over time, with better retention and shape.

2. Check for material handfeel.

Many customers make the mistake of merely scrunching the sweater in their hands to deduce whether if it’s soft. But that is misleading, as some brands use tricks such as chemical conditioner, overwashing or synthetic blends to create the illusion of quality softness. So instead of scrunching it on the hanger (and, by the way, knit should not be hung during storage), pick it up and hold it in your hands. It should feel full, dense and creamy. Then, stroke the sweater upwards to check if it’s smooth and aligned. This shows whether the sweater's construction and tension is correct.

3. Look for a tight tension sweater.

Tight tension in the sweater construction is paramount, as it means the sweater is stable and should warp less. Tight tension sweaters are hard to find because they are twice as expensive to make. You can tell if it is tight tension when the sweater feels extra compact and dense. When you hold the sweater in your hands, there is body and heft to it. It is heavy. Avoid knits that show wide gaps between stitches (this is called 'grin'). These are loose tension knits. Many brands trick customers by making their knitwear in loose tension, because it feels soft in the store, yet is cheaper to make. But they warp quickly and soon look like a mess.

4. Check for correct construction.

This is the most important step! Check five key places: the rib cuffs, the bottom hem rib, the neckline, the body and the shoulder joins. Flat and straight cuffs and bottom ribs are a good sign. A crew neck should be a perfect semicircle and should not be a bottomed-out U shape. In the body, the little rows and columns that make up a sweater should be a neat grid. Again, you can test this by holding up the sweater with one hand, and with your other hand, run up the sweater upwards: it should feel smooth.

Lastly, in the shoulder, look for two columns of tooth-like marks as this indicates that the sweater is fully-fashioned and hand-linked, a sign of superior quality over cut-and-sew sweaters.

Follow these steps and you’ll find yourself wrapped in the finest knits known to mankind. Happy hunting!

Thumbnail image from Flickr, by Sandra Cohen-Rose and Colin Rose.

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