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How To Identify Pashmina Shawls
Identifying a pure pashmina shawl without the aid of a microscope is a skill developed over years of practise and a great familiarity with pashmina because nowadays the reproduction of pashmina has become a huge industry. Even the term ‘Pashmina’ has become corrupted and is now a generic term for a fine shawl. However, with the naked eye and a few things to look out for and questions to ask, it will be possible to select a beautiful pashmina shawl that you will treasure
forever. Here are a few tips on how to select your pashmina shawl:
•Source of purchase – in most markets around the world people will be selling pashminas, in most cases these are fake. They will be mainly produced on power looms copying traditional patterns in the weave. The fabric will be made of acrylic, viscose, cotton, wool or a mix, of course the price will be extremely tempting but it is dnot pashmina. It is best to purchase from a reputable shop that specialises in Kashmiri Hand Embroidered shawls and ask if they sell pure pashmina, ask questions about how and where they are made to ascertain the knowledge of the vendor.
•What is Pure Pashmina – pure pashmina fibres come from the Lena Rama goat which is only found in the Chantang area of Ladakh. It is a small goat of just 18-24 inches in height and its fleece comes in colours of white, grey, black and brown. These little goats are extremely hardy as they live in temperatures often of less than -25 degrees Celsius. The fibre is unique in that it is hollow and inside there is lanolin. A real pashmina shawl is incredibly warm and yet so fine that a shawl will pass through a ring (but so do many manmade fibres so do not let this be your only guide).
•Check the Weave – pure pashmina shawls can only be produced on hand looms which are foot powered, this is because the fibres being so short must be hand spun and the thread is extremely fine therefore during weaving the weft will require reknotting frequently by hand. The weaving of pure pashmina is a highly skilled craft. When checking the weave you are looking to see that the warp and weft are of the same thread, you can check it is a natural fibre by pulling out a weft and burning it, if it smells of burning hair and crumbles into dust then it is a natural fibre (although not necessarily pashmina), if it melts into a round blob then it is a manmade fibre. The types of weave used are generally plain weave or chesme bulbul (diamond weave). Some fake pashmina shawls are being produced by using a manmade filament and adding cashmere or a mix of cashmere and pashmina, or angora and this enables a soft fabric to be mass produced that resembles the softness of pashmina, however when washed the fibres fall away and the shawl falls apart.
There are many fake pashmina shawls in the world and therefore it is best to be knowledgeable about the process of making a pashmina, select from reputable traders and if in doubt then trust your instinct. ‘Door to the Himalayas' has been working directly at source with craftsmen and women in Kashmir whose families have been involved with Pashmina for many generations. We are passionate about pashmina and aim to share our knowledge and love of the art of making pure pashmina shawls with you.
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