Pashminas are only pashminas if they are made from the fleece of the Himalayan goat called the chyangra. Not sheep (from which comes wool) or other goats, nor synthetic fibres or blend thereof. The craft of pashmina making is a long and tedious process: from sorting and carding the fleece, to spinning, warping, drafting, dyeing, weaving to checking, ironing and finishing. Our pashminas are handwoven and hand-dyed. Real pashminas are not cheap and are lighter, won’t scratch, and are 8 times warmer than wool.
Pashminas are either dyed by the piece after weaving or dyed at the yarn stage before weaving. A ‘piece-dyed’ pashmina has one solid colour, while a ‘yarn-dyed’ pashmina has 2 or more colours. We also use the tie-dye technique to produce single or double ikats. Whatever method we use, you can be sure that our pashminas are all hand-dyed, and that our Swiss dyestuffs are colour-fast, eco-friendly and non-carcinogenic. Our colours range from classic/neutral tones to radiant happy ones, depending on the purpose the pashmina is designed for. Slight variations in colour may occur because of the hand-dyeing process.
Excluding the pre-production process (sorting, carding, spinning, drafting, etc) and the post-production process (dyeing, drying, checking, finishing), it takes a weaver a day to weave 7 shawls.
Handlooms (whether standard or jacquard) require an experienced weaver to apply consistent tension when setting the warp, and shuffling the bobbin for the weft. More complex techniques like those used to make dhaka or songket motifs on pashminas require more painstaking effort as multiple coloured bobbins need to be inserted at precise points in weaving to attain the desired motifs.
Pashmina yarn is very delicate. When a shawl is 100% (or pure) pashmina, it means the warp has to be set in pashmina yarn, as well as the weft. High skills are needed to produce a pure pashmina to ensure that the yarn does not break during handling and weaving.
A critical component of a good pashmina is the yarn. Apart from the origin of the yarn (which determines the genuineness of the yarn), the texture and weight of a pashmina is determined by the yarn count. The higher the count, the finer is the fibre (ie the diameter/micron is smaller). The chyangra’s fibre is 12-14 microns while a human hair is about 50 microns. Other natural fibres like wool, vicuna and quiviut have smaller microns but are not as soft and buttery as chyangra fibres.
Our pashmina yarn comes from chyangras that live in the arid dry cold of the Tibetan and Mongolian plateaux. Their inner coat is combed out in Spring, and it grows back by Winter.
The yarn can also be spun loosely or tightly, depending on how fluffy the feel is going to be. It can also be plyed. Two or more ply pashminas are warmer and more expensive and have less torque (twist tendency) than single ply ones. However single ply pashminas are hard to create, especially if the count is high; they are also highly coveted for their light and ethereal appeal.