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A luxurious pashmina shawl, wrap, or scarf is the perfect fashion accessory for any season, event or occasion! You will feel as great as you look since pashmina wool is the finest cashmere. You will not find "viscose" or imitation items here. Plus, many products offer special Happy February Savings of 20 - 50% to help keep you and your loved ones stylish, warm and comfortable!
A pashmina scarf, wrap or shawl is the perfect finishing touch to any outfit. A few pashminas will breathe new life into your wardrobe. For timeless luxury, wrap up in 100% pure cashmere pashmina. For a classic accent, put on an elegant pashmina/silk blend. Either way, you will look fashionable and feel wonderful.
We make hand-woven pashmina shawls, pashmina stoles and pashmina scarves for women. Unlike most pashmina products available in the market which are made with power-looms, all our shawls and other pashmina products are handmade on traditional looms. We use only 100% pure pashmina from Ladakh.
The climatic conditions in Changthang are very harsh, and the winters are particularly severe. These conditions are ideal for the goats to develop very fine and soft pashmina undercoats to survive the harsh winters. It is for this reason that pashmina is one of the finest materials and is ideal for making shawls and stoles.
In the old days (that is until the 1950s) all pashmina shawls in Kashmir were made with material from western Tibet. This was purchased and brought to Leh and Srinagar by a group of traders called Palace Traders, who had the monopoly of purchasing pashmina from Tibet. The trade in pashmina between Ladakh and Tibet was regulated by a treaty (called Treaty of Tingmosgang), according to which Tibetan nomads were required to sell pashmina only to traders from Ladakh. These traders supplied pashmina to weavers in Kashmir, who used it to make wonderful pashmina shawls.
This situation changed after the 1950s following the border conflict between India and China. As the border with Tibet closed, the supply of pashmina from Tibet stopped. The shawl makers in Kashmir had to look for alternative sources, and the demand for pashmina from Ladakh grew. Today, Ladakh provides a large proportion of the pashmina used in India.
The Changpas comb the goats to gather pashmina (along with thick goat hair) in summer, when it is not needed by the goats. On average a goat provides about 250 grams of raw pashmina. Before it can be used for spinning and weaving, it is necessary to separate the fine pashmina from the thick hair (a process called de-hairing). In the past this was done by hand. A large number of women in Srinagar and other pashmina shawl producing areas were engaged in this process. In recent years a number of mechanized dehairing plants have been set up, almost completely replacing the manual de-hairing practice.
As the demand and price of pashmina has seen a steady increase in recent years, goats have become the most important source of income for Changpas. It is estimated that the Changpas have between 150,000 and 200,000 pashmina goats, which produce between 35 to 40 tons of pashmina every year. The demand for pashmina has seen a large increase in recent years, which production from Ladakh is not sufficient to meet. The gap in supply is being met by imports from Mongolia and other places.
For most tourists, the critical issue soon becomes how to get all the loot back home, especially considering baggage restrictions and Customs issues. (Americans are allowed to bring home only $800 worth of foreign purchases per person.) Bronze statuary, Tibetan carpets, carved furniture, alabaster chess sets, and exotic pets are tempting but challenging. Gifts for children, such as papier mache mobiles, multicolor knit sweaters and caps, and other bargains, may be light and inexpensive, but the value-to-volume ratio is quite low. For many people, the most attractive gift in terms of value, volume, and weight, is pashmina. The main problem is choice: with so much variety and such a wide range of prices, how can a first-time buyer make an informed selection?
The short answer is that pashmina is cashmere. Pashmina is not the best cashmere, or a variety of cashmere. It is just cashmere. In fact, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission does not recognize pashmina as a legal term. Cashmere is the fiber or fabric woven from fiber deriving from the undercoat of certain high-elevation (and therefore long-haired) breeds of Capra hircus, the domestic goat. The fibers are generally 14 to 19 microns in diameter; human hair, by comparison, averages around 100 microns in diameter, while red blood cells are around 7 microns. Some cashmere goat bloodlines have finer and longer hair than others, and the pashmina wool used in Nepal (and elsewhere) varies in quality and price, but the difference is not linked to a terminological distinction known to people in the pashmina trade.
Unfortunately, the word is not used consistently. It may refer to a shawl (generally 28x80 or 36x80 inches), most commonly with fringes, woven of pashmina (goat undercoat) or pashmina mixed with silk. However, the word is also used for anything that looks something like pashmina, whether made of sheep wool, cotton, acrylic, or any other weavable fiber.
Let's be clear: "not pashmina" does not mean "not good." There are lots of gorgeous shawls out there in all sorts of material, natural and man-made, and almost all are cheaper -- way cheaper! -- than pashmina. Recently, shawls made of "modal" have become quite popular... maybe even chic. Modal is a "semi-synthetic" fabric (as opposed to "synthetic," which generally means manufactured out of a petroleum derivative); it is made by chemically mulching plant fiber until the cellulose walls are separated and broken down in little bits that can be reassembled as long fibers. Most modal is apparently derived from beech wood, but the purveyors can safely claim it is bamboo (falsely presumed to be more ecosensitive) because the source of the cellulose is essentially indistinguishable. Modal is robust, soft, and (unlike pashmina) extremely amenable to dyes. These days, India is producing modal shawls with insanely flamboyant digital prints, which look a bit shocking when unfurled, but seem only pleasantly gaudy when draped and folded.
Another non-pashmina fabric worth considering is the fine wool (perhaps combined with a bit of pashmina) that is used as a base for heavily embroidered shawls. The rounded chain-stitching that resembles crochet work is produced with a heavy needle that would pull apart 100% pashmina shawl apart. The fine jaggedy needle point style typical of Kashmiri embroidery can be done on pure pashmina, but is usually done on sheep wool. Real Kashmiri-style embroidery always leaves a rat's-nest of threads on the back side; embroidery done on a sewing machine looks quite similar on both sides. Again, the machine stitching (which is actually applied by hand, not by robot) may look better, but connoisseurs prefer the much more labor-intensive hand-stitched variety.
Pashmina/silk blends can be found in 50/50, 70/30, and 80/20 proportions. Silk is more rugged than most natural fibers, including pashmina and sheep wool. It is also more dense, which means that it drapes better, and it has a sheen, which may be desirable. On the other hand, silk is naturally unkinky at the microscopic level, and is not going to add much to the insulating quality of the fabric. Until the last few years, silk was quite a bit cheaper than pashmina in Nepal, so the blended shawl was heavier, stronger, cheaper, shinier, and less warm in proportion to the amount of silk in the blend. These days silk is just as pricey as cashmere, so more people are opting for 100% pashmina shawls.
Pashmina is sometimes blended with other fibers, notably cotton and sheep wool, for one of two reasons. First, the admixtures make it cheaper. Second, as mentioned above, the stronger sheep wool -- like the silk -- can safely be embroidered, while pure pashmina is more likely to be damaged in the process.
The plain weave in 100% pashmina appears especially gauzy when photographed with flash; the shawls are not at all see-through when worn under normal lighting conditions, especially when draped in overlapping folds.
Color-fast dye is important. There are Indian dyes and Swiss dyes in use, and the Indian are reputed to be less stable than the Swiss. When shopping, you could wet a corner of a handkerchief and squeeze it on the pashmina to see if there is a color transfer. (Ask the shopkeeper first.) There may or may not be genuine vegetable dyes on the market these days, but they certainly are not common. Natural (undyed) pashmina comes in a range of grays, cream, and brown.
So: power-loomed fabrics may appear more perfect, but they are less desirable. Of course, most large-scale purveyors of pashminas must rely on power looms, since they are dealing with more stringent production schedules.
This shop in the heart of Thamel is owned by Pranab Manandhar, who supplies our online company, Sunrise Pashmina. If you go there, tell him that you're looking for the same quality and price that he gives us. He has a range of qualities in pashmina, as well as modal, silk, and other fabrics, and he is happy to explain the differences.
Seth Sicroff is the Nepal Editor for Wandering Educators, He and his wife Empar (shown in some of the above photos) have owned Sunrise-Pashmina.com since 1999. Their Web site has comprehensive information on the laundering and styling of pashmina shawls. Seth is also director of the Sir Edmund Hillary Mountain Legacy Medal project of Mountain Legacy (www.hillarymedal.com; www.mountainlegacy.org); the prize is presented more or less annually "for remarkable service in the conservation of culture and nature in mountainous regions." If you know (or are yourself) a worthy candidate, please email Seth at sicroff[at]hillarymedal.com. 041b061a72