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A cashmere repair specialist repairing knitwear in Begg x Co Burlington Arcade store window.

Cashmere Repair with Alexandra Brinck - Begg x Co

As part of this year’s London Craft Week, we welcomed Cashmere Circle and one of their knitwear experts, Alexandra Brinck, to join us at our Burlington Arcade store, alongside customers and friends of the brand.
Cashmere repair specialists receiving questions at Begg x Co Burlington Arcade Store

It was a day of talks, live-mending and demonstrations to highlight the importance of caring for your knitwear. Partnering with Cashmere Circle, allows us to offer UK-based customers a luxury, environmentally mindful repair, revive and recycling service, to extend the life of your treasured Begg x Co knitwear, for generations to come. As part of our journey towards full circularity, we also launched our carefully curated cashmere care kit in-store and online.

We sat down with Alexandra Brinck, a London-based textile designer and repair specialist, who is part of Cashmere Circle's collective of knitwear experts, to hear her thoughts on caring for your cashmere knitwear.

A cashmere repair specialist repairing a cashmere clothing item
Cashmere repair specialist Alexandra Brinck repairing a cashmere sweater

How did you start your journey around mending and caring for cashmere?

The way I see it, knowing how to repair something is just the flip side of knowing how to make it. I’ve had a love for textile crafts all my life: I grew up surrounded by skilled craftswomen, so I’ve been making things for as long as I can remember, and mending things for nearly as long. As a textile designer, I’ve been fortunate enough to work in various areas of both craft and design. As a result, I’m a bit of a textile Jack-of-all-trades, which is probably what you need as a repair specialist!

Cashmere patches with cashmere repair tools

Why do you enjoy working with cashmere?

I work with all sorts of materials and fibres, but nothing quite compares to working with cashmere. Aside from the wonderful tactile experience of working with this very precious fibre, cashmere is particularly well suited to being repaired. The loftiness and halo of the yarn allow repairs to blend into the surrounding fabric really well, resulting in truly invisible mending. Adding to that, the luxury nature of the fibre means that cashmere garments are often a cut above the rest - and it's always lovely to work with beautifully things that have been well made.

Cashmere repair specialist Alexandra Brinck repairing a cashmere sweater in the Begg x Co Burlington Arcade Store window

What is invisible mending, and what are the benefits of using this technique?

When a garment is restored with invisible mending, the knitted fabric is replicated perfectly, in order to erase all signs of damage. Aside from making the garment as good as new again, there is additional benefit to this type of repair because you are not altering the integrity of the fabric. When a knitted fabric is mended with a woven darn or a patch, the structure of the repair will be different to the surrounding area. This means that the repair will behave differently to the rest of the garment - for example, one of the main characteristics of a knitted fabric is that it has a certain amount of elasticity built in, which is often essential in garment design. For example, if you look at a hat or a sock, these are designed with what’s called ‘negative ease’, meaning that they are actually smaller than the part of the body they are to be worn on, and they stay in place because of being stretched out to fit. If part of the fabric was now replaced with a woven area, it would affect the fit of the piece. Of course, this is less of an issue with, say, a jumper - but here you may instead run into issues with the drape of a garment being affected.

A close up of a cashmere repair expert knitting a cashmere sweater

What other kinds of mending are there?

While invisible knit repair may be seen as the ‘gold standard’, I like to think that there is value in all forms of repair. Any time you extend the life of a garment and make it wearable, that’s a win! And while some methods may be more successful than others, I’m always interested in seeing how a garment was repaired before it reached my studio.

Invisible mending works so well because it both erases the signs of damage and leaves the structural integrity of the fabric intact, but sometimes another type of repair can work well. Woven darning can be fairly discreet, and may also add a bit of extra reinforcement to areas that are prone to breaking (such as sock heels). Another option is decorative repair, which uses embroidery techniques to embellish the garment while at the same time covering up damaged areas. When this type of repair is done in a way that looks intentional and considered, it can really add to the beauty and uniqueness of a garment.

A patch of cashmere darning ready for a cashmere repair project

At the talk in our Burlington Arcade store, the audience discussed the emotional journey of garments and the value of mending – could you tell us a little more about it?

When we talk about mending, we often focus on the financial and environmental benefits. And while these are obviously important, I also get a lot of commissions where these are not the main motivation. Aside from being practical objects that protect us from the elements, clothes can also be imbued with additional value and meaning, and clients often entrust me with garments that are far more precious to them than the mere monetary value. One client handed me a pair of Fair Isle gloves that had belonged to her grandmother and shared with me her childhood memories of walking hand in hand with her granny wearing those gloves. Another client sent me a jumper for repair and told me that it had belonged to her mother who had passed away, and that her father now wears the jumper to remember his wife. And of course, there are heirlooms like baby blankets and handknitted jumpers that are passed down through the generations and form part of someone’s family history. Getting to restore pieces like these is a wonderful aspect of my job.

A close up of a cashmere repair expert’s hands as she’s organising her tools and patches

Why is it important to care for our cashmere and ensure a longer life for these garments?

Ideally, we should aim to extend the lifecycle of all clothing regardless of fibre composition or price tag, but when it comes to cashmere there is obviously some additional incentive. Purchasing a cashmere garment is often a rather different experience than simply buying some everyday clothing; it’s about investing in a beautiful statement piece that will last a long time. And so it makes sense to take a little extra care of how we treat our cashmere. In the same way we routinely service our cars to make sure they stay in running order, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on your favourite cashmere pieces so that any developing issues can be quickly dealt with. What starts as a tiny hole can soon develop into a much bigger one which may be more difficult to repair successfully. (It really is true what they say about a stitch in time saving nine…)

A well-made cashmere jumper can be a trusty wardrobe stable for decades, but far too often people tell me they’ve thrown out favourite garments with very minor damage because they simply weren’t aware that repair services exist…

Find out more about our Begg x Co + Cashmere Circle Revive and Repair Services

Photography: Sophie Stafford