Our Journal

Pashmina- What is it exactly?

Winter is here, making memories of summer seem distant. Just the thought of chill weather makes us want to wrap ourselves in warm layers. Presenting the perfect accessory to complete your winter wardrobe. The Pashmina Shawl!

The Fibre –

Deemed as an eternal gift from higher gods, the word Pashmina came from the Persian word pasima, which literally means “made from wool”.

The Pashmina wool used for crafting our shawls comes from the semi-nomadic people known as the Changpa or Champa found mainly in the region of Changtang bordering Tibet and Ladakh. Unlike many other nomadic groups, the Changpa are not under pressure from settled farmers as most of the land they inhabit is too inhospitable for farming. Their livelihood depends on their animals, especially the Changra goats which are not raised for their meat but for their fibre (pashm).

The Pashmina fiber is the finest fiber amongst all goat hair. This fiber diameter is very low, between 12–15 microns while the commonly available commercial cashmere fiber is higher than 19 microns.

At around 14,000ft, the harsh surroundings of the Himalayan Mountains enable the Changra goats to produce the fiber of extraordinary fineness and warmth for protection from the unforgiving winters.

Pashmina wool is commonly referred to as Cashmere, it’s no surprise that the word cashmere is a term that was given to the products of Kashmir by the European colonials.

The Process –

 

 

During the spring season the wool from these goats is shaved and sold. It grows back till the next winter sets in.
Almost all the processes have names given in Kashmiri.

 

  • Combing: With the onset of spring, the goats start shedding the hair and during this time they are combed by the herders of the tribes to gather the wool.
  • Dusting: The raw wool from the goats is separated from the extraneous fiber.
  • Dehairing: It involves separation of the underlying fine wool from the outer fur called the guard hair. The tribes use the top coats of these guard fiber for their personal use and sell the finest undercoats.
  • Treating with Rice: The fine wool obtained by dehairing is treated with Pounded Rice mixed with water. This strengthens the delicate fibers. The rice water is used because it is water soluble and can be washed by simply soaking it in water. The wool obtained is called “Thumb” in Kashmiri.
  • Spinning: The wool is now ready to be converted to yarn by spinning. Traditionally it is done manually on a spinning wheel.
  • Hand Reeling: The yarn obtained after spinning is very fine and has to be doubled or tripled depending on the requirement. This is done using a hand realer.
  • Washing: The yarn is again washed in river water to make it ready for dyeing.
  • Dyeing: Depending on the requirement the yarn is dyed by specialist dyers called Rangers.
  • We at Bombay Birds use only AZO free dyes for our yarn.
  • Making bobbins: The yarn is rolled into small bobbins required by weavers to make the weft on a handloom.
  • Treating with Starch: The yarn is once again dipped in rice water scratch to give it strength, this process is called “Maya”.
  • Winding of Yarn: The starchy yarn after drying in sun is again wound on wooden spindles called “Prech” and this process is called “Tulun”.
  • Making of Warp: The warp is made by manually winding the pashmina yarn across 4 to 8 iron rods erected on the ground. This process is called “Yarun”.
  • Dressing the Warp: Before the warp can be put on the handloom it dressed by a person called “Bharangur” or Warp-Dresser. The process called “Bharun” involves stretching and fixing of yarn in the heddles of a loom called “Saaz”.
  • Weaving: Pashmina shawl is woven by an artisan called “Wovur” and the process is called “Wonun”. The weaving is done using the 15 century handlooms techniques.
  • Washing: Once again the fabric is washed in running spring waters of the Himalayas to remove the traces of starch.
  • Finishing: While weaving, the Pashmina thread breaks many times. To join the threads the weaver rolls the threads together and it results in protruding threads across the shawl. These threads are clipped by a process called “Purz” and the person called “Puruzgar”.
  • Finishing the Edges: The final process is the finishing of edges to make raw fringes by a process called “Andkadun” and the person called “Andgour”.

All this goes inside the making of your warm and luxurious Pashmina Shawl by Bombay Birds.

Pick up a piece you love from our collection, and we promise you will be transported into the world of artisanal haven of the snow clad Himalayas and the lovely warmth that is a Pashmina.