Pashmina
Art made weave           

Photo by Amit Jain on Unsplash

PASHMINA, ART MADE WEAVE

If there is any product that reminds us of the Indian subcontinent, it is undoubtedly the "Pashmina", a fine gift to bring home after a trip to India.

Pashmina, a word that is often used indiscriminately to refer to scarves, foulards, shawls, scarves, made of various materials. If you have ever been in an Indian business to buy pashmina, you have surely dealt with merchants convincingly offered you “100% Kashmir” quality. Who can resist the temptation and not take several?

Sure you made a very good purchase, but they were probably not "pashmina". It is difficult to distinguish even for an expert eye.

Pashmina has a long and interesting history and from its origins to the present day it has been a quintessential luxury item.

Known as the scarf for royalty, it has been worshiped by emperors and aristocrats.

Today it remains an essential piece of any self-respecting wardrobe. Fortunately, its value has become more accessible and the most basic will start $ 100,   depending on quality and design could go to several thousands.

WHAT IS A PASHMINA?

"All pashmina is kashmir, but not all kashmir is pashmina"

The word pashmina comes from the Persian "pashm" which means soft wool. So when we talk about pashmina, we always talk about the traditional hand-knitted shawl made of cashmere (Kashmir) wool.

There is a region in the upper Himalayas called Kashmir (Kashmir), one of the most beautiful in this world. This critical region, which is divided between India, Pakistan and China, represents one of the most important centers of international disputes in the world.

When western travelers came across the Silk Road, they found the beautiful crafts of this valley, including pashmina shawl making, papier mache technique, wood carving, and woven rugs hand.  Since then, pashmina has also been known as Kashmir in the west, because it has taken its birthplace as a name.

Pashmina is the wool that comes from a specific breed of goat called Capra Hircus, which lives from 4,000 meters altitude and is found in Ladakh (Kashmir) where temperatures rarely rise above minus 30 degrees Celsius in winter. This goat's thin inner layer insulates it from the cold during the long, harsh Himalayan winters and is used to create pashmina.

Each goat produces only about 100 grams of wool each year. A knitted shawl requires the wool of three goats. It is also the only fiber in the world that is less than 16 microns in diameter and has 3 times more insulating power than alpaca wool.

For reference: a human hair is 75 microns thick and kashmir wool from other goat species is about 20 microns. So here is why "all pashmina is from kashmir but not everything that is kashmir is pashmina".

Wool is collected during spring when these animals shed their inner layer. The hairs are separated, cleaned, combed and spun to prepare them for end use. Due to the fine texture of Pashmina, it is necessary to hand spin the wool and weave it on a manual loom, which is done on a silk wrap so that the fabric is resistant.

 Pashminas are made with intricate embroidery in various designs and styles (see: Embroidering Dreams: Pashminas.)

HOW TO RECOGNIZE A PASHMINA?

The pashminas are extremely soft, light and warm to the touch. They have no sheen, unless you have a blend with silk, in which case the label or some kind of certification should have assigned it. A high quality garment should be 70% pashmina.

Some tips to recognize real pashmina:

  • Label. It must clearly indicate the fiber content, it should say 100% cashmere or 70% cashmere, 30% silk.
  • Cigarette lighter test. Burning a fiber (usually from the fringes) produces a very small fire that goes out only almost immediately, producing the smell of burnt hair and white smoke.
  • The burned fiber is granulated and with a simple touch it will turn into ashes.
  • Being woven by hand loom, the fabric has irregularities.
  • The ring test. It goes through a simple ring, no matter how big the shawl is. But since it is not the only material that can go through a ring, it is not conclusive evidence in itself.

The pashmina authentication seal

In order to preserve this centuries-old art, the Government of India has included pashmina in the Geographical Indications (GI) product category and has established an authentication seal to avoid unfair competition from counterfeit products, to defend a significant industry that employs 300,000 people.

According to experts, fake pashmina makers agreed nylon so that they can withstand the pressure of the yarn in automatic machines. These shawls look very similar to genuine handmade pashmina. But after three or four years, the wool fiber begins to shrink and separate from the nylon, especially after washing.

Kashmir pashmina products go through quality controls using electron microscopy, physical and chemical testing before obtaining an authentication seal. This seal is micro fusion, non-removable and contains a unique code, has a diameter of 2.5 cm and adheres to the shawl by applying heat.

The label contains both open and covert information confirming that:

  • the wool is of the Capra Hircus species and its fibers are less than 16 microns thick 
  • it is spun and woven by hand
  • Contains information about the craftsman who has woven it.
  • The registration number on the seal can be tracked online on the Craft Development Institute Srinagar website. This seal can only be obtained by artisans

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