How Pashmina is Made
Fiber Harvesting.Pashmina is collected during spring molting season when animals naturally shed their undercoat. Depending upon the weather conditions and region, the goats start molting anytime from February to late May. In India, combing is the major method of harvesting pashmina using special type of comb. After harvesting, pashmina is dusted manually to remove adhered impurities like sand, dust, etc. The fleece is also sorted based on its color. The natural colors of the fiber are white, grey mixed with brown and brown. Generally, white fibers with long fiber length fetch higher price since longer fibers are easy to spin. The value of the fiber mainly depends on its fineness, length, color and down fiber content. Finer, longer and white pashmina realizes better price as compared to coarser, colored and shorter fiber. In India, the procurement of pashmina is generally done from all Changthangi Pashmina growers Association, Leh Ladakh. Major portion of the fiber is sold and sent to Srinagar and Kullu Valley for utilization. The price of raw pashmina fiber is 10-15 times more than that of crossbred fine wool in India.
Pashmina is collected during the spring season when the goats naturally shed their winter coat. In dehairing, goats are combed to get the fine woolen undercoat hair. Goats generally produce double fleece which is mix of fine hair and guard hair. Fine hair are separated by either by combing out the down or by using special equipments. The guard hair is removed completely before processing. The presence of more than 5% guard hair affects the appearance, handle and quality of the final products.
The wool is collected and undergoes the hand spinning process. The fiber is spun on a spinning wheel also known as Charkha locally known as yander. Before undergoing the spinning, raw material is treated by stretching and cleaning in order to remove all the dirt. Then it is soaked for a few days in a blend of rice and water so as to enhance its softness. Hand-spinning is a time consuming and painstaking process which requires a lot of dedication and patience.
Pashmina wool is a highly delicate material. The vibrations caused by the power looms can be damaging to its fiber. Therefore, weaving of the customary 100% Pashmina Shawls is done on hand looms. Weaving, which in itself is an art form, is done using a shuttle. This art has been passed over from generation to generation. A single shawl takes about four to five days to weave on a handloom.
Like spinning, dyeing is also performed by hand. Azo-free and metal free dyes are used during the process to make these eco-friendly shawls. Pure water is pumped up from deep under the surface and dyeing is done at a temperature just below the boiling point of water for around an hour.