Definition


Origin of Pashmina dates back to ancient civilization. Earlier in olden days pashmina found favor with the royal families, emperors, rulers, king etc. "Pashmina" is very soft, exotically delicate, weightless and the finest natural insulating fiber of the world. It is extracted from the inner coats of the hardy little mountain goats (capra hircus) locally called "Chyangra", which live at the altitude above 3000 mtrs in the Himalayas. Such wonderful and gossamer properties of "Pashmina" have popularized it as the "Diamond Fibre". The outer layer fibres of "Chyangra" are discarded as they are comparatively thicker & coarser. Thus only the inner layer fibres measuring under 16.5 microns are specified for use as "Pashmina". These kind of extraordinary qualities of Pashmina fibres have encouraged weavers to produce various types of wraps for warmness.


Many people are not aware that Nepali Pashmina and Kashmir Pashmina are different. Kashmir Pashminas are softest and warmest while Nepali Pashmina is the cheep variety of cashmere that is semi-mechanically made. It is believed that the art of Pashmina making in the valley of Kashmir is as old as 3000 years B.C. at that time only rich and elite people could enjoy the luxury of this kind of fabric. To make a single pure plain pashmina shawl without embroidery on an average 200-250 man hours require.


Steps of Pashmina Making Process


  1. Wool Collection
    The source of Pashmina Capra Hircus lives at elevation of 14,500 feet and above, where normal temperature in winter is -30°C. Himalayan farmer climb the mountain to comb the fine woolen. To survive the freezing environment at 14,000 feet altitude these Chyangra / Cashmere goats have unique incredibly soft pashm, inner coat, six times finer than human hair. With the coming of summer, the goats shed their winter coat. Their underbellies are covered with two different types of wool: the fine, soft cashmere and a coarser outer layer. Local women gather this wool and comb it thoroughly to separate thicker and less luxuriant wool. The fur combing process is performed in every spring. This task is performed without harming the goats.


  1. Spinning
    The pashmina wool is collected every spring and is basically spun by hand. The yarn is spun on a spinning wheel locally known as 'Charkha'. Prior to spinning, the raw material is treated by stretching and cleaning it to remove any dirt and soaked for a few days in a mixture of rice and water to make it softer. Hand-spinning is an extremely painstaking task. Pashmina Spinning requires massive patience, dexterity and dedication. To watch this process is also a marvelous experience.


  1. Weaving
    There wool is 14-19 microns in diameter, which is too delicate for mechanical looms and therefore it must be spun and woven by hand. The techniques to produce fine cashmere products have been handed down through the generations. It requires immense patience, dexterity and dedication and is amazing process to watch. According to the nature of pashmina products the weaving process is differ. For each product like shawl, stoles, mufflers, scarves etc different looms are required. These looms take different amount of pashmina fibres and time as per product.


  1. Fringes and Designs
    To add extra beauty to pashmina products attractive and excellent fringe and designs are required. It takes hours to make pashmina product eye catchy.


  1. Dyeing
    Pashmina dyeing is also done by hand and it requires immense patience and generations of experience. To make pashmina products completely eco-friendly only metal and AZO free dyes are used. For dying pashmina pure water is used and the process done at a temperature just below boiling point for nearly an hour. Pashmina wool is extremely absorbent, and dyes easily and deeply.

 

Pashmina care while cleaning and storage


To increase the life of pashmina product proper care, cleaning and storage are required. Following are tips for pashmina care while cleaning and storage


  • To retain pashmina's insulation capacity wash before use with cold water
  • First dip of pashmina should not more than 10 to 20 minutes or else it may effect and alter the basic structure of the fabric.
  • It should be wash with mild detergents or baby shampoo and make sure that it gets dissolved completely in water before the pashmina is soaked.
  • Avoid using strong brushes and heavy scrubbers while washing
  • Rinse the pashmina with cold water gently, give a slight squeeze and the spread them flat and dry. Hard squeeze may change the shape of pashmina
  • Do not dry it in sunlight
  • Excess water should remove by pressing it with cold iron box
  • To keep pashmina's beauty as it is never use washing machine
  • While storing fold it in a tissue paper or plastic cover to protect from moisture.


Pashmina export from India


Pashmina wool is exported from India to many countries like Norway, Spain, Canada, Mexico, France, USA any many more. In Table 1 mentioned approximate monthly export of pashmina wool from India.


Table 1: Export figures of Pashmina Wool


Sr. No

Month

Export Value (INR)

1

January

1,04,91,325.04

2

February

27,48,915.09

3

March

3,07,830

4

April

36,85,674

5

May

34,02,409

6

June

1,15,06,242

7

July

NA

8

August

NA

9

September

1,12,40,280

10

October

2,21,09,788.98

11

November

NA

12

December

NA


Total (Appx.)

6,54,92,464.11



Hurdles for Pashmina Products


The famous Pashmina products are facing problems, which are not of its own making nor related to the economic crisis. Fake Pashmina products are circulating in the state of Jammu and Kashmir to the consternation of the traditional Pashmina producers. The customer is also not able to discern between a genuine and a fake. Since these fake Pashmina products are sold at cheap rates, people flock to buy them, unaware that they are counterfeits. Sales to the extent of nearly 50 percent have been affected since these bogus products started to find their way in to the Kashmiri markets.


Conclusion


The Pashmina producers are expecting the Government to intervene in the matter to overcome hurdles, before it is too late and most of the traditional weavers move out of the business. The Government on its part had introduced a law, making it mandatory for handicraft products to carry a logo to differentiate it from the fake ones. At present Kashmir Handmade Pashmina Promotion Trust (KHPPT) working for welfare of pashmina producers.