The word Pashmina comes from Persian: Pašmina which literally means “Made from Wool”. The textiles made from this fiber were first woven in Kashmir. Since Pashmina was first encountered by the Europeans in Kashmir, It came to be known as the ‘Cashmere’. The rough outer coat under the goat is soft Pashmina. The wool is mowed from the underbelly of goats which are native to the sky-high, far-flung and frosty regions of the Himalayas in Tibet, Nepal and Central Asia.
Different breeds of Cashmere Goat
#Changthangi or Kashmir Pashmina goat:
Comes from the Chanthang Plateau in Tibet and part of the Ladakh Region
Comes from the Kargil area in the region of Kashmir
Comes from the Himachal Pradesh in the Himalayas of northern India, and the chyangara or Nepalese pashmina goat from Nepal.
Depending on the color of the hair these goats made, Pashmina is usually made in Grey, White, Black or Cream Colors. Apart from being tagged as the “Heaven on the earth”, the second thing for which it’s widely known is the production of, one of the finest quality of shawls and scarves, made by the traditional Kashmiri Artisans. It was first woven in India. As far as the Pashmina Shawls are concerned, they are the most-predominant handicraft items from the Kashmir’s scenic Valley.
Pashmina Shawls and Scarves are extensively acknowledged worldwide for their matchless exclusivity due to their unexampled softness, elegance, warmth and covetable artful values. Though shawls are made worldwide by using the widest range of fabrics like fibers, silk, and wool, Kashmir product has their own value among customers mind, globally.
There are three major processes used to make these handloom pashminas:
Round the winter season, the inner coat of wool of goat re-grow and then is prepared for the elicitation in the spring season. Since Pashmina is premium and exclusive, it’s always bound to be expensive. If someone is selling it at extremely low cost, it’s most likely be the duplicate stuff. 100% original Pashmina is rare and is always high-priced. And the fabric lasts or many years but also require extreme care.
It takes from months to even the years to make a single Kashmir Pashmina Shawl, with fine hand-needle embroidery and its cost can go up to as high as 10, 000 dollars. However, the cost might vary depending on the finesse of needlework. For an instance- Empress Josephine from France, ordered fine needle embroidered Kashmir Pashmina Shawl, which took 6 artisans and 9 months to create.
The Journey of Cashmere: Step-By-Step Guide to How Pashmina Is Made
1. Pashmina Goat
Changthangi Goats are exceptionally strong, active and acclimatized animals. Throughout the year, they majorly grow-up in the free large range grazing system. Being a cold hardy animal, they can only survive in the grass in Ladakh areas where the temperature is as low as minus 20 °C & grow a thick, warm undercoat which is the source or Kashmir Pashmina wool. The Changthangi goats are less generative and can give birth to a single kid per year. But it’s highly-priced for their cashmere production.
The wool from these goats is obtained once a year, usually in the month of June or July. The hair is usually harvested either by combing or shearing. The production of Pashmina largely depends on the size of the goats, ranges from 70-500 grams per goat. The wool is used to make Kashmir’s famous Pashmina Shawls which, after completion are exported worldwide at a very high price. These Kashmiri goats are typically found in the Central Asia Countries, Northern India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, and Mongolia.
The wool is collected by the hand but combing out the under fleece from the Goat’s Coat (not like shearing, like lamb’s wool). If someone wants to measure, how many goats contributed to get that fine quality scarf, just take the scarf in hand and weigh it. In order to bring out the large piece, loosen the cashmere near the ear and top of the neck, first with the finger and then thumb.
While combing the goat, professionals never hassle, they wait until the cashmere is fully loose and comes off easily in several areas. It’s not required to comb the goat every day. Right timing is important to comb off the fleece. In order to preserve even the micro-samples, they for the full shedding of the Cashmere, and keep a zip-lock bags at the barn with each goat’s name.
Before they start combing, they watch the goat(s) closely, whether they (goats) are combing on their own using anything available. Sometimes goats can be found running through the bushes to remove their fleeces, and sometimes by rubbing their body on the fence several times a day. In order to filter the cream, combing professionals, comb the prime areas first and then shift on to the ears, neck, chest, and britches where the fiber is shorter and coarser. Then they get a grocery paper with the name of the goat’s body area they have combed and keep fiber inside the belonging area.
What are the main equipment and accessories used for combing?
In order to have a proper combing and to harvest the maximum fiber, experts require the following equipment’s.
- A paper grocery sack (has to be labeled with the name and date for each goat)
- A natural bristle brush
- A Large pin brush
- A fine Slicker (similar to a hand corner)
- A long multi-teeth metal comb
How combing is done?
In order to commence the combing process, professionals use the bristle brush and clean off any surface debris. Initially, they start brushing against the guard hair gran and then with the normal lay of the hair. Afterward, they use the large pin brush and start brushing along the backbone. Across the goat’s ribs to the belly, they brush in 6′ strips down across. This process helps the loosen the cashmere fiber. And lastly, they use the slicker and the lifting fiber that is started from the belly and in small sections comb down.
But throughout the procedure, they ensure not to put too much fiber on the slicker, instead, they simply comb in a series of strips working up the side, and then remove it by pulling gently from the side with the comb. After this procedure, a small thin square of Cashmere fiber is obtained. However, most of the guard hair is still be left on the goat. Then they work up the goat, by doing one side and then the other. In order to comb the whole goat, it usually takes 30 minutes. Though it can further extend depending on the level of skills. Apart from that, bad weather can also affect combing.
3. Raw Pashmina (Fine Hair and Guard Hair)
The Raw Pashmina describes the fiber obtained under the fleece of mountainous goat. Once removed from the goat’s skin, it’s packed and then parceled to different countries for the final processing which is time taking and requires skillfullabor to create high-quality material. It is broadly collected with the help of the combing process (explained above) since the goat sheds its winter coat naturally, the better it is combed the better quality it gets. And the most important factor is that it should always be hand-spun and hand-woven only.
The Pashmina fiber is free of all the chemicals, and the mix of other animal’s wool (other than the Kashmiri Goat. The fine cashmere pashmina has the fineness of below 16 microns which is then hand spun by the traditional spin ‘Charkha’.
As you know that the Cashmere is collected during the spring season when the goats naturally shed their winter coat. Cashmere goats generally produce double fleece that consists of a fine, soft undercoat or under down of hair mingled with an untwisted and much coarser outer coating of hair called guard hair that keeps moisture while the underfur acts as an insulating blanket that keeps the animal warm.
A good amount of guard hair has the diameter of more than 40 ? are obtained from the Pashmina Fleece after dehairing. Since the guard is not capable of fetching any value to the farmers, therefore powder technology is used to convert the guard hairs into the valuable products. The coarse guard hair is typically clipped from the goat and is often used to make brushes, interfacings and other types of non-apparel uses.
Once the stock of cashmere arrives at the processing meal, it goes through the multi-staged sorting procedure and is sorted by keeping the number of goals in the mind. At the first stage, it is sorted to eradicate the low-grade cashmere and any synthetic contamination that is found. The stock is then baled and stored. The skilful labor with the help of their years of experience in making pashmina products better sort the fine pashmina with the mix of other substances like Guard Hair.
Though they carefully use the sorting technique right from the earlier procedure it’s overdone to ensure the quality of Pashmina. Original Pashmina has no diversification. It is meant to be 100% pure. However, with the high demand of Pashmina and the lower rate of production, nowadays a lot of companies and individuals blend the different synthetic and natural fibers for producing the value-added products which ultimately affect the quality of the apparel. Once the low-grade synthetic waste is removed, then the other sorting ensures to break down the fiber into the colors, white, light grey, cream and brown.
5. Fine Pashmina
Fine pashmina denotes to the rarely found fiber fetched through the Kashmiri Goats which produce the Cashmere once a year. Henceforth, it takes month and years to create a single piece of Kashmiri Pashmina. The processing of pashmina involves a lot of labor in sorting, spinning, weaving, and dying which are usually done manually. With the growing demand for a pure pashmina, today it’s hard to find.
You have to go through a lot of efforts and apply a different level of quality check measurements to finally get the right cashmere pashmina. The best grade pashminas are available for 14-15.5 microns. So you are suggested not to buy anything above 19 microns for better quality. The lower is the micron count the lighter and softer will be the product.
The Pashmina fleece is the finest raw material for the wool which is often 14 times finer than the human hair. It is produced by the Himalayan goats, living on the high range of Himalaya in Ladkah, at the altitude of as high as 3500 or above the sea level. It is extracted from the underbelly of Pashmina goat by applying the combing method. Later on, the artisans of Kashmir Valley make shawls and scarves from this super fine fleece.
Cashmere pashmina is produced by the Kashmiri Himalayan Goats when they naturally lose the wool in the month of spring. Owing to the thickness of the hair, real pashmina is very soft and warm to touch. Since it’s made from the Himalayan goats, most of individual think that this is meant to be worn only in summer season, however, the fact sounds quite irrelevant in some contexts. You can also feel the essence of pashmina during the spring, autumn, and winter. If you wear it in the month of autumn or summer, it will feel warm but would not make you uncomfortable. The material is as flexible as others are.
8. Playing on Charkha
Considering the small availability, rarity, and exclusivity of this material, most of it is utilized locally with the help of locally designed and manually operated traditional Charkha. Traditionally, the combing procedure is executed by the impaling dehaired raw pashmina, repeatedly on an upright comb. (10 cm wide, set on the wooden stand). The yarn can be spun up to 108 Nm (92.6 tex). Generally, 2/64-2/108 Nm yarn is spun in order to create the high quality shawls.
With the help of parota, the pashmina yarn is wound on a small flange ribbon. The sizing of the yarn is done in the form of hang by employing the Saresh as an adhesive in order to boost the strength and weave ability of the yarn. As far as the wrapping of yarn is concerned, it is manually done with the help of sticks. The procedure is time-consuming and creates non-uniform tension during the weaving. The weaving of pf Pashmina is magnitude by the special kind of resin/starch.
The washing method is applied after following the sorting procedure whereas the fiber is washed to remove the grease, dust, and other sorts of available impurities. In this process, the experienced labor cross check the whole bunch of fiber and ensure that it is free of all sorts of mixed harmful substances that can lead to affect the quality of final cashmere. And that’s what exactly leads to the 100% pure pashmina.
The dying procedure is also carefully executed by the experienced and professional people who have been into this art through generations. Since the beauty and attractiveness of the final apparel widely depend on the dying process, the overall journey requires a lot of patience. Because there is a zero chance of risk, one mistake can ruin the years-long hard work. The people who dye the scarves or shawls use the natural dyes to ensure the quality and beauty of the final product.
Gluing is one of the most quintessential procedure before the Pashmina strings are processed onto the hand loom for weaving. If strings are not properly glued, they won’t be strong enough to bear the weaving. Professionals use the natural glue which contains zero chemical content and later on, it is properly washed after the completion of the shawl.
13. Making of Warp
Right after the hanks of wool contort into the bobbins, they are made ready for the warping. One warp of each shawl at a time is the usual way. The warp or Tanil is a wound straight, that articulates a bobbin and stans on the ground, with the help of a warping stick, which ends in a hook. This is the way by which the thread passes. Then in the next step, this passes through the ring which is attached to the ceiling, in order to keep the flow smooth, the warp winder goes around and winds the warp around the four pegs crag fast into the land. Right after the fastened warp is connected directly to the loom. A bamboo stick is inserted in the lease. The warps are properly sized
14. Weaving of Shawl
The weaving of the Pashmina yarn into the shawl is performed in a special kind of handloom. Before initiating the weaving process, the pashmina yarn is carefully sized with the special type of resin. Since the handloom woven pashmina has special value in the market, it is broadly done by the highly skilled artisans. Usually, the weight of the hand-woven shawl is approximately 200g. The ends and the picks per inch of Pashmina shawl are generally kept between 50-60 and 46-56 respectively. And the dimensions of the gents, ladies and stole are 2.5m × 1.37m, 2.1m × 1m, and 2.0 × 0.8m respectively where’s the weight (GSM) of the fabric is kept at 50-70g on an average
15. Finishing of fabric
Generally, the finally produced pashmina fabric doesn’t require any additional finishing. They already have the unique soft property along with the luster. Using any additional finishing components may spoil the unique softness of the product. During the making process, Kashmir Artisans use several types of designing techniques to enhance the beauty of the final product like hand jacquard, block printing, hand embroidery etc.
16. Ready to wear
Once your desired product is ready after the months of processing, it is finally ready to wear. Since it’s premium stuff, it can make you stand wow in the crowd and will add more spark to your glamorous personality. You can also gift it to your loved ones who deserve an extra layer of elegance on their persona.
Also Read: How to wear a Pashmina in Different Ways!
Among all available fibers in the market, Pashmina fiber is the finest and the rarest fabric in the world which is known for its exclusivity, and what makes them so unique you already know with the start of this post. For the textile industry, it is the most expensive resource which ultimately makes it susceptible to falsifications. A lot of sellers across the world, use cheaper sheep wool instead of Pashmina and then declare it as a genuine pashmina.
Buy 100% Pure Pashmina Scarves, Stoles, & Shawls From Angela Jey
Now when you already know everything about the Pashmina, how it is made and the level of resources and efforts it takes to create the Pashmina made apparel, you should never be duped by the con-sellers. Always trust on the genuine pashmina sellers. If you want to buy Pure 100% authentic and ethically made Cashmere Pashmina Scarves, Wraps online, Angela Jey is the most trusted online source to rely on. All of our authentic Kashmiri Pashmina are handmade by the traditional Kashmiri Artisans.