You know you're getting quality pashmina when you see a tag that says "Made in Nepal." Pashmina that comes from Nepal and Tibet are several microns thinner than the ones from some parts in Kashmir in India. Therefore, the pashmina is softer and lighter and more comfortable.
Pashmina is the name of the luxurious, beautiful fabric that is made from the wool of the Chyangra goat or the Capra Hircus. These goats live in the cold, temperate, mountainous regions of Central Asia, particularly in the central plains of Mongolia and the Himalayas. Because this rare of breed of goats lives around 12,000 to 14,500 feet above sea level, they have developed short, thin and shiny inner coats to insulate themselves from the cold. Weavers collect the hair these goats shred during spring to produce the pashmina. In fact, the word pashmina itself comes from the ancient Persian word "pashm" which means wool and which refers to the inner coat of the capra hircus.
For many years, pashmina has been used by weavers in Kashmir, from which the name cashmere is derived. Kashmir is a disputed area that lies between Pakistan and India. Due to the ongoing civil war, much of the production has been transferred to other parts of India and Nepal.
The raw materials, such as the wool and the fleece, are carefully hand-spun and then dyed using environment-friendly dyes such as Swiss Sandoz dyes. Some manufacturers even employ authentic Tibetan artists in Nepal especially for the dyeing process, as dyeing involves a more delicate, intricate procedure. One mistake by a less skilled artisan can spell the difference between a quality pashmina and a bad one. The pashmina that comes from Nepal are treated with dyes that are of higher quality than the dyes coming from India. Dyeing, then, is done faster and the colors last longer.
Pashmina from Nepal, which is thinner, softer and lighter than pashmina from other parts of the world, is combined with silk, which adds durability and luster to the fabric. This is then hand-woven into the shawls, stoles and scarves which are shipped all over the world and which you see in your favorite clothing store. Pashmina makers from Nepal also take pride in the fact that the pashmina from their country are handmade. Some are machine made, and although they are less expensive, they are also relatively harsher and rougher to the touch. Handweaving allows the pashmina to be densely woven yet still lightweight and much more comfortable.
The incredibly high demand for pashmina all over the world has resulted not only in making women more stylish and fashionable, it has also kept the tradition of hand weaving in Nepal alive. Pashmina-making is an old tradition that has been passed down from generation to generation. This also provides valuable income for the artisans and their families.
There are many ways of wearing pashmina, from the belt style, to the old Hollywood style, to the full wrap and the full shawl wrap. You can even wear a pashmina a la Grace Kelly, the famous Hollywood actress who popularized wearing the scarf over the head.
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