Knitwear buying guide

Knitwear instantly conjures visions of chunky cable knits and luxuriously soft cashmere jumpers - wintery essentials designed to keep you warm as you brave the colder months. These wardrobe staples can come in a variety of shapes, styles and yarns. Take a look at our guide on how to care for your knits, and learn about the different wools on offer, then browse our knitwear collection.

Types of knitwear

The world of wool can seem pretty confusing at times. With an array of wool blends and animal fibres around, it can be hard to keep up with it all. Wool is just one of the yarns used in knitwear. Many brands now have styles crafted from lighter options including cotton, linen and luxurious silk plus a myriad of variations in-between.

Wool

Wool is the general term for describing the spun fibres from the hair of an animal coat. The most common wool fibres come from sheep and goats. These animal fibres provide good insulation to help keep you warm in the winter months, and cool in the summer months. These fibres are soft, lightweight, absorbent and stretch resistant – designed to stand the test of time.

Lambswool

Lambswool is wool taken from the first shearing of the animal, usually around seven months after its first coat has come in. The texture is fine and soft, and requires minimal processing. Lambswool is most commonly used in knitwear and can come from a variety of different lambs.

Merino wool

Merino wool is the finest grade of wool from the Merino sheep. Its microscopic uniquely thin diameter means it’s prized for being soft and extremely comfortable against the skin.
The beauty of Merino wool is that it can be worn almost all year round. When the weather warms up it creates a cooling effect and in the colder months it retains heat, creating a layer of warmth and insulation, acting as the perfect layering piece.

Mohair

Mohair comes from the Angora goat. The long silky hair of the goat is sheared twice a year and spun into yarn. It’s woven into cotton backing and custom hand dyed for the most luxurious animal friendly fur. Combined with smooth fibres to add shine and create a luxurious, soft feel, this durable fabric can be twisted and stretched with the unique ability to spring back into shape without shrinking. It also takes to dye instantly and resists colour fade too.

Cashmere

Ever popular due to its super-soft feel, cashmere wool is obtained from Capra Hircus Laniger - the Cashmere goat. Only the soft ultra-fine undercoat is used in the production of cashmere. The throat and underbelly provide the softest fibres and is most sought after for its quality. Limited in supply, only a relatively small amount can be harvested each year which is why it is considered a premium, luxury yarn.

Cashmere is highly desirable because of its versatility - it’s soft and lightweight while still remaining durable and makes a great insulator. It’s also commonly blended with other wools and fibres to produce a more hardwearing garment.

Pilling is common within cashmere; however this does not mean a sign of poor quality - it’s simply a natural characteristic of the long fibres naturally shedding over time, and can be easily treated with a cashmere comb. Using the cashmere comb will refresh the look and ensure your cashmere looks flawless for longer. Cashmere is a sensitive material which needs to be treated carefully, so care should be taken when washing, drying and storing to get the best out of it.

Caring for your knitwear

Good quality knitwear is becoming increasingly accessible to all budgets and many timeless styles can last for years if looked after properly. Investing a little time and following a few golden rules for how to treat your garments is the best way to ensure that these pieces are kept at their best, season after season.


John Lewis Anti-Moth Scented Bags

1. Storage

If at all avoidable, you should never hang your knitwear – particularly wool or cashmere. Gravity can distort the shape of your garments, so folding them flat will help to avoid misshaping or stretching. Store in a cool, dry place, in breathable sealed bags when possible, particularly if you don’t have plans to wear a piece for some time.


Keep cedar balls alongside knitwear to repel moths, if you’re unfortunate enough to discover evidence of moth activity – pop your garments into the freezer for 48 hours. This will eradicate any eggs and prevent further damage.

2. Shaving

Bobbling or pilling refers to the result of fabric rubbing together, usually through general wear or occasionally washing. Over time, areas that see lots of friction such as the underarms have a tendency to form small unsightly bobbles. Contrary to popular belief this is not a sign of poor quality, or a faulty garment and can be easily remedied. In order to keep your knitwear in pristine condition, an electric bobble remover is ideal. Run one of these simple gadgets over your garment to leave the surface looking and feeling smooth again.

3. Shedding

Shedding is usually associated with luxury yarns such as angora and cashmere, but can equally affect their synthetic counterparts. Often, the first few times a garment is worn, the long fine hairs can come away and transfer onto other garments. A lint roller is ideal for dealing for this – a quick roll over your favourite knit before and after wearing will help keep moulting fibres to a minimum.

4. Washing

Washing something on the wrong programme can cause irreversible damage, from loss of shape, to shrinking and unsightly bobbling. Only machine wash your knits if the brand recommends this, a hand wash setting is best, but gentle hand washing in lukewarm water is least likely to cause any accidental damage. Always wash inside out, with a mild detergent, never using bleach as this can dissolve fabrics causing permanent damage, and do not twist or wring your garment – instead carefully squeeze out excess water by scrunching into a ball between your hands.

5. Dry flat

Knitwear shouldn’t be dried in the tumble dryer - the extreme heat, friction and pressure can cause your garment to shrink. Instead dry flat, stretching your knit out gently to the correct shape and weighing down the edges if necessary. Allow to air dry naturally in a cool environment, ensuring that it’s completely dry before storing away – dampness (particularly on natural fibres) can result in mould or mildew if left to fester.