Friday, 22nd March 2013
There’s only one problem with the cotton cardigan. No one believes it’s cotton. They think it’s wool. Some sort of merino maybe. But no: the cotton cardigan is — honestly, genuinely, and all joking aside — cotton.
Incredulousness is understandable. The cotton here is the stuff of luxury — the finest fibres of the most minuscule microns of diameter — and its use is made possible only by the anti-modern and anti-mechanisation technique of hand-framed knitwear making.
Hand-loomed knitting means knitwear made on one human-sized knitting contraption operated by one human-sized person. Someone usually very old and always very skillful carefully pushing a shuttle back and forth; going at a slow and unwavering pace to maintain tension and so on. It is slow going, hand-linking — each cardigan takes around one day to make — but, so goes the mantra at the factory, “quality takes time.” Taking up more time still is the herringbone pattern of the cardigan, with its two complementary shades of blue plain-stitched together to create everyone’s favourite sartorial serration.
The cardigan is also “fully fashioned”: tailored, in a sense, with front, back, and sleeves hand-linked together for a fit impossible with knitwear cobbled-together and mass-made. To fully appreciate the mind-boggling meticulousness of hand-linking, meanwhile, it is necessary really to see someone actually doing it. It sees every strand of yarn on, say, the body of the cardigan linked around the corresponding strand on the sleeve. That’s a lot of linking; a lot of work. The results, though, bear it out: hand-linking means no stitch lines, which means comfort and also means no “bump” where seam meets seam. Clever.
Back, then, to cotton. Cotton is lightweight and breathable and makes the odd prospect of spring-time knitwear an entirely normal one. What you get, in effect, is the best of all possible worlds: the appearance and handle of fine wool and the hard-working characteristics of cotton. Both light-blue and navy cotton cardigans are in the shop now.