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The best Kashmiri shawls produced today are made from the soft, downy undercoat that grows primarily on the neck and belly of the Himalayan mountain goat, Capra hircus. Although fine wool of various grades is commonly marketed in the West as “cashmere”, the name that Kashmiris themselves give to the fiber from Capra hircus is pashm, which is the Persian word for “wool.” “Pashmina” is pashm in its woven form, the highest quality of cashmere, and Capra hircus is often referred to as the “pashmina goat”.
Pashm has a special luster due to its long, fine fibers, which are as thin as 12 microns; by contrast, the fibers from premium sheep’s wool, such as Merino Extrafine, are 23 microns thick, and human hair ranges up to 200 microns thickness. Thus pashmina is exceptionally light, soft and warm, and feels luxurious against the skin. The natural colors of the fleece range from white to gray, red, brown and black.
The growth of the fine, warm pashm is an adaptive response to the harshly windswept terrain and winter temperatures that fall as low as minus 30 degrees Centigrade (-22?? F).
What makes the Kashmiri shawls, kashmir Pashmina or cashmere pashmina superior is not only the fineness of the individual pashm fibers, but also meticulous cleaning, sorting, dehairing and hand spinning. These are all manual skills, perfected by Kashmiri women and passed down through generations since the late 16th century, the time when the Mughal emperors began to encourage the shawl industry.
The beautiful vale of Kashmir has always been famed for its craftsmanship. The wearing of tapestry shawls was first introduced into the valley from Turkistan by Zain-Ul-Abdin, the ruler of Kashmir, in the 15th century. Production benefited from the patronage of the Mughal rulers like Akbar and his successors, who wore these shawls, and also because of patronage of local government.
The skill, experience and time it takes to produce top-quality kashmir pashmina are reasons for its high cost. Workers harvest the soft undercoat of the upper Himalayan mountain goats during the moulting season when they shed their longer winter coats. Weavers separate the soft and much shorter undercoat for quality, comb it and hand spin it with traditional spinning wheels. The weaving, again done by hand, is on traditional looms. A high quality pashmina can take up to three days to complete because of the delicate nature of the fine threads used to create the woven material.
Hand embroidered in typical Kashmiri stitch, which is so famous all over the world. One cannot even imagine the amount of labor gone into it in embroidering this lovely piece, truly a masterpiece, one would cherish forever.The embroidery is so fine and intricate, it takes months to embroider a fine pattern like this. Graceful and eye-catching, this luxurious shawl is hand-woven in semi pashmina in the valley of Kashmir, in India, and sells at very steep prices even in India.