Pashmina, popularly known as cashmere wool, derived its name from Pashm, which refers to the under fleece of the Himalayan mountain goat, called Chyangra (Capra Hircus) which lives in the high altitude of 12,000 feet in Himalayan regions of Nepal where the temperature drops below -40 degrees and in some remote regions of Tibetan Plateau. One pashm goat yields 3 to 8 ounces for fiber a year. This wool has a thousand years of history of being woven into shawls, and blankets, and praised for its exquisite softness, long life, warmth, and beauty.
The thermo conductivity of this wool is very high and proves to be the best insulator. Pure Pashmina wool is coarse and too delicate to wear. So, it undergoes a process that makes it soft as silk and is referred as cashmere. Pure Pashmina comes from Tibet and not Kashmir. Cashmere is any wool under 19 microns in thickness.
Pashmina is around 12-14 microns thick and is six times finer than the human hair. (A human hair is 75 microns) It is lighter and far more delicate than cashmere wool. Manufacturers weave Pashmina garments with a blend of silk. The proportion varies from 80:20 percent to 50:50 percent. More the proportion of Pashmina, higher is the price of those clothes. Clothes with a blend of silk and pashmina is adored in the western world.
In the early ages, Pashmina was a
royal symbol and was known as Fiber for Kings. During the 15th century,
weaving of Tapestry shawls was introduced from Turkistan by Zain-ul-Abdin, the
ruler of Kashmir. Exquisitely soft, light weight, and still warm, this royal
luxury was patronized by successive rulers like Akbar. When the Mugal empire
collapsed these weavers became unemployed. Later on in the 19th
century, Pashmina became a craze in France after Napoleon presented an exotic
shawl to Empress Josephine.
State of the Art of Kashmir:
It takes 98 artisans and a whole day to weave 9 shawls. This finds its way as a part of dowry along with jewellery and other precious things that accompany the bride during marriages. Today most of the worlds Pashmina shawls are woven in Katmandu valley of Nepal and individually hand dyed. Nepal has the experience of dealing in Pashminas for more than two centuries.
Pashmina shawls are an exclusive art of Kashmir. Other countries have unsuccessfully tried to duplicate the art. These shawls are woven by weavers who have been into this craftsmanship for generations and have inherited this art from their ancestors. They create the designs with floral borders, chinar leaves and paisley, mostly from their memory, inspired by the lakes, sunrise and sunset. The main types of embroidery done on Pashmina shawls are sozni, papier-mache and aari.
Sonzi is a needlework done on the sides of the shawl with paisleys and flowers. Paper-mache is done to cover the entire surface of the shawl and is hook embroidery. Designs are also made as Motifs which consists of leaves and flowers outlined in black. Though basic colors of Pashmina are grey, brown and white, it is efficiently dyed and is available in approximately 400 charming rainbow colors.
Price and Maintenance of Pashminas:
The price of an original Pashmina may vary from 100 to thousands of rupees depending on the craftsmanship. While dry cleaning the Pashminas, the chemicals used during the process may affect the texture of the garment in the long run. So washing it in warm water with a mild shampoo and drying it without twisting, in shade would sustain the quality of clothing for a longer time. Todays fashion enthusiasts consider it as essential clothing in their wardrobe.
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