The name Pashmina comes from Pashmineh, made from Persian pashm (“wool”). Pashima (Cashmere) wool comes from the soft under fur of Changthangi, or Pashmina goats, which are a special breed of goat indigenous to high Himalayan altitudes.
Pashminas come in all mixes and sizes ranging from small scarves to blanket sized wraps. Pashminas are often mixed with other materials that reinforce the delicate wool fibres, such as silk or bamboo. To be considered good quality, Pashmina shawls need to contain at least 70% Cashmere wool. But in the market, you’ll often see cheaper Pashminas that contain only 50% wool.
Here are a few tips for those seeking the perfect Pashima:
All Cashmere wool is hand spun, primarily in the regions of Kashmir and Nepal where such wool has been made for thousands of years. Every spring Changthangi goats shed their soft winter coats, and weavers work to painstakingly collect the wool shed from the goats. Each Pashmina requires the under fur of at least two goats. These goats will live at altitudes of 12,000 to 17,000 feet. It’s important to note that better quality fibre comes from goats that live in the higher altitudes, because their fur is much softer and dense and insulates better than the slightly coarser under fur found in goats from lower altitudes.
High quality Pashminas are always hand spun with weavers using different combinations of Cashmere with other fibres to produce Pashminas of graduated value. Each shawl is individually hand woven and hand dyed. Many Pashmina weavers choose to use patterned artistry to adorn their scarves, stoles and shawls, with everything from floral filigree to animal patterns, and even modern fashion trends like Burberry.
You may be asking yourself at this point “Why choose a more expensive shawl when you can buy one that’s cheaper, just simply with less wool?” Even though silk may seem like a hot commodity, there’s a reason Pashminas have been mentioned in history since the 3rd century B.C. If a Changthangi goat’s thin layer of insulating wool is fine enough to keep it warm at -20 Fahrenheit, how nice and comfy do think it’ll feel when turned into a beautifully hand-woven scarf just for you? Even though silk is often expensive, it’s a whole lot easier to commercially produce than the wool from a Changthangi goat. So when you’re shopping around for that perfect Pashmina just for you, and find yourself indignant at the significantly higher price of a pure Cashmere blended one, just think of a common little silk worm in comparison to the extremely difficult to procure downy under fur of a high altitude Himalayan mountain
Pashminas have incredible insulation, making them practical and warm for all seasons. Their insulated properties also work well against summer moisture and humidity. It’s lightweight, with a large (2.9 by 6.7 feet) 100% Cashmere shawl weighing only 5.6 ounces!
You also have a fantastic array of choices, with a plethora of patterns (floral, animal prints, Burberry, traditional) and compositions (100% Cashmere, Silk Blended and Bamboo Blended). There’s an almost 100% guarantee you’ll fall in love with a Pashmina as soon as you feel it’s soft and warm qualities. There is no other shawl that can fashionably complement anything from casual sweaters to formal gowns.