Pashmina shawls are not just any shawl to those who love it- they are the epitome of luxury, a status symbol. It is a coveted shawl but a very expensive one – a shawl many have in their to-buy list.
A pashmina shawl is very soft, very warm, and very fine. And it is not just pashmina shawls that are in demand – the shawls come in other avatars like pashmina wraps, pashmina scarfs, pashmina stoles
Pashmina shawls are made from very fine wool from the underbelly of a special breed of cashmere goats found in the Himalayan regions. Imagine this fur keeping the goat warm in the sub zero temperature high up in the Himalayas and that is how the shawl will keep you – but much more stylishly. ‘Pashm’ the Persian word means wool.
Most of the outside world think of pashmina and cashmere synonymously. But that is not true. The wool for pashmina shawls come from a distinct breed of the cashmere goat and even the wool is then sorted according to the quality. They are then cleaned, spun, woven and dyed into the precious pashmina shawls. A special spinning wheel is used to spun the fibers. The fibers are hand woven by skilled artisans and requires great expertise.
It is supposed to take more than 15 days for an artisan to make the final product which is why this hand woven product is so expensive. Most intricate of them even take several months to make.
You also get machine spun pashmina shawls which are not as costly as the traditionally woven ones, but they are subtle differences between the hand woven and machine woven ones which the fashion connoisseurs will easily recognize. You should not be duped into buying the fake ones, especially if you are paying through your nose.
Aside from Pure pashminas, you also get shawls in wool pashminas and silk pashminas. These are blends of pashmina, wool and silk which makes it very long lasting and more affordable.
Today pashmina shawls are available in different colors and patterns. Plain pashminas are much is demand but the younger generation mostly prefers printed pashminas – they are beautifully patterned with modern designs. Embroidered pashminas are a delight to see but will cost you a bomb.
Beautiful motifs from Kashmiri embroidery are used on these fabrics. There are dip dyed pashminas and specially designed pashminas called the Jamawar & palladhar, Kani Pashminas which have absolutely gorgeous Persian motifs and beautiful borders
How to know you have the best Pashmina shawl
You may be duped into buying acrylic or rayon or blended wool if you are not careful. But due diligence can make your purchase one you keep, cherish and use for years to come.
Just touch it and feel it against your hands. The best ones are as lightweight as feather and the softest. Infact a pure pashmina shawl can weigh as low as 200 gms.
The handwoven pashmina shawls are lighter than the machine woven ones. Costlier as well of course. Infact price is one way of knowing that you have the original pashmina shawl. If someone offers a pashmina shawl at a much lower rate than the market rate ( about 200 US dollars at present; the best ones are prized upwards of 350 US dollars) it may well be of lesser quality. If you are looking for a hand spun hand woven original pashmina donot go for a lesser priced one. A good quality machine woven pashmina sells for anything above 100 US dollars.
You should always buy from a reputed manufacturer. You can check out for GI mark ( Geographical Indication) on the shawls which is given by a certified Pashmina testing and quality certification center, which ensures that you have the best and finest pashmina wool. This testing is said to be a guarantee for buyers that their purchase is authentic and genuinely of its traditional origin.
Look at the label carefully. See how Cashmere is pronounced in your shawl if it is something odd like cashmore, cashmair, then your suspicion is right. You have a fake. Only genuine Cashmere products are allowed to be marked cashmere. If it says 100% pashmina and not 100% cashmere it is probably a fake. Anyone can write pashmina, but not anyone can label cashmere.
Then there is the test that gives you the original – The shawl has to pass through a thumb ring (Not tested it myself). If it eases easily through the ring you can be sure that you have the best in hand and can pay the premium prize for it.
Care for your Pashmina shawls.
Pashmina shawls are extremly delicate and can get damaged easily if you carelessly wash and maintain them. Most of the details given in this post on caring for cashmere clothes applies to pashmina as well.
Some important guidelines are as follows:
- Never wash it in a washing machine or in hot water. Hand wash in lukewarm water using neutral detergent for silk, wool, and cashmere. Be sure to dissolve the detergent thoroughly. Then put the garment into the water. Wash colored garments separately
- Never wring it or twist it to remove water. Squeeze gently
- Never iron it directly. Use damp press clothes to protect the delicate fibers; use a cool iron; iron from the inside of the garment.
- Never hang it to dry in direct sunlight. The thin fibers of pashmina are weaker when wet
- Store the pashmina shawls folded or rolled in the cupboard shelf wrapped in a muslin cloth.
Further reading : http://gaatha.com/pashmina-weaving-kashmir/
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- 100+Sewing techniques
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