Pashmina also known as “Cashmere” is the fiber derived from the hair of domesticated goat – Capra hircus – indigenous to high altitude areas of Asia. It is the softest, most luxurious, warmest and the best wool to spin and to wear! This Capra hircus goat is blessed by nature with a unique very thin short inner coat of hair. It is survived in the surrounding extreme cold because of this nature gifted hair! This inner coat of hair is known as PASHMINA.
There are two Pashmina producing goat breeds in India – Changthangi and Chegu. The Changthangi breed is domesticated in the Union Territory region of Ladakh and Chegu in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand states. The Changthangi area, producing the majority of Indian pashmina, is situated at 3000 to 5000 m above sea level. The area is extremely arid with very low humidity and rainfall. The temperature in these areas ranges from -40°C to +40°C.
The processing of Pashmina involves lot of labor in sorting, spinning, weaving and dyeing which are usually done manually.
Raw Pashmina is collected during spring moulting season when animals naturally shed their undercoat. On the basis of weather conditions and region, the goats start moulting over a period from February to late May.
After harvesting, Pashmina is dusted manually to remove adhered impurities like sand, dust, etc. The fleece is also sorted based on its color. The natural colors of the fiber are white, grey mixed with brown and brown. Generally, white fibers with long fiber length fetch higher price since longer fibers are easy to spin. The Fiber fineness is the most important quality parameter giving value to pashmina fiber and differentiates it from the sheep wool.
Facts about Pashmina Fiber:
- Pashmina fiber is 15 to 19 microns in diameter where as a human hair is 75 microns in diameter.
- One Himalayan goat produces 3 to 8 ounce s of Pashmina per year.
- Pashmina is the finest wool shorn from the soft undercoat (neck and belly) of Himalayan mountain goats.
- This feather light fiber is extraordinarily soft and light, yet exceptionally warm.
- The pashmina wool is collected every spring.
- The raw wool is treated by stretching and cleaning it to remove any dirt and is soaked for a few days in a mixture of rice and water to make it softer.
- The treated wool is handspun into yarn using the Charkha (Spinning wheel). Hand-spinning Pashmina into yarn is an extremely painstaking task because of soft and delicate nature of the wool.
- 100% Pashmina refers to the pure Pashmina wool and no other fiber is blended into it.
The fabric produced from Pashmina is usually hand spun and hand woven product. Different products like knitwear, scarves, blankets, gloves, hats, woven fabrics, outer coats, etc. are made from Pashmina. However in India, most of the pashmina is utilized for the preparation of shawls, mainly in Kashmir valley.