Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Pashmina from Kashmir

Wrap yourself in one of those butter-soft Pashmina shawls and you’ll be as snug as a bug in a rug.

What Pashmina is all about: Famous for its luxurious softness and luster, this fabric is made from ‘pashm’, that is the wool in Tibetan. This cashmere is the soft underbelly fur of Capra hircus, mountain goats which live in the foothills of the Himalayas and on the high Tibetan Plateau. Every summer, herders pluck the under fur from the goats and after cleaning and spinning, a fine cashmere yarn is produced. The ‘Pashmina’ shawl of Kashmir popularly known as the ‘ring shawl’ is so exquisite and fine that it can be passed through a mans signet ring.

History: About 200 years ago, Europeans discovered the woolen shawls of Kashmir; but the Kashmiris, were not about to give away the secrets of Pashmina. They knew no one in the world possessed their skill in working with these delicate fibers, but they also knew they couldn't resist for long the demands for their prized Pashmina.

Even when the Western world was able to obtain the real Pashmina, they didn't possess the skill to clean and process it. The best machines were no match for the nimble, experienced fingers of Kashmiri women who patiently pick out every course hair and then hand spin it into yarn which is almost transparent.

by Chandana Banerjee

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