Pashmina is the yarn spun & then woven into a fabric from Pashm.
The fleece of the Tibetan or Changthangi Goat is called Pashm which is an urdu word & has its origins in Farsi.
Where is Pashmina found?
The Changthangi goat, found in the trans-Himalayan region is the distinguished breed of pashmina fibre bearing goat. This goat is predominantly found in the high altitude regions where the temperatures drop significantly to allow them to grow the warm pashm fur to keep themselves warm.
How did Pashmina come to be?
During the stark winters, with temperatures below -40° C, the Changthangi goats grow a thick down of very fine & warm fibers under their coarse outer layer of fur. This fine fiber coat enables these goats to survive the chilly winters. This fine warm fiber, called “pashm” is shed by these goats during spring & that is when it gets harvested by the Changpa tribe.
The pashm of the changthangi goat is considered to be par excellence & is the raw material used to weave Kashmiri shawls. The westerners, unable to pronounce Kashmir, started calling it as “Cashmere”. This is the origin of the 19th century use of the term “Cashmere” for all goat pashm.
Why is Pashmina so exquisite?
The factors which determine the quality of pashmina are its fineness, its fiber length & color.
The raw pashm is available in colors ranging from white, considered the most premium, to brown & grey.
The diameter of the fibre determines its fineness & is measured in microns, i.e., 1/1000 of a millimeter. The pashm from the changthangi goat is between 13 to 19 microns. The suitable fibre length for hand weaving of “pashm” is more than 5 cms. The Changthangi goats that live at higher altitudes produce longer pashm fibre.
Why is Pashmina so sought after?
Ever since pashmina had been discovered, it had been the most sought after fibre, being the raw material for the delicate pashmina shawls worn by the rulers & emperors, kings & queens.
Pashmina, perhaps is the only fibre, for which various invasions had been planned & many treaties signed to gain control over its trade. It had always been the soft spot of the producing regions, reaping the most profitable revenues.
The pashm trade was shielded from any political controversy by the various treaties signed & this resulted in the prospering of Kashmir’s shawl industry in the late 19th century.
In the mid 1900’s, China increased its control on Tibet & the pashm trade between India & Tibet ended at the time. In the later half of 1900’s, the Indo- Tibet border closed down completely, as a result of which the Kashmiri shawl industry, started depending on the Pashm from Ladakh.
The sparse availability & high prices, along with the combination of high demand & banning of the toosh fibre, led to Pashmina becoming the most sought after fabric in the world.
Who process pashmina?
What types of pashmina are available?
Pashminas may be available in fabric form, gent’s size shawl, i.e., 100” X 50”, shawl size, i.e. 80” X 40”, stole size, i.e., 80” x 28” or scarf size, i.e., 80” X 14”. The most popular among these is the shawl size. The pashmina shawls may be available in plains colors, i.e., without any value addition, with hand embroidery or in the hand woven Kani shawl form.