De Pashm à Pashmina
Born from an ancient textile tradition,
for centuries the Pashmina Shawl has embodied the very symbol of Kashmiri Culture.
In order to survive the extreme weather conditions that hit the Himalayas in winter, animals endemic to these mountains (yak, antelope, goats, sheep, etc. .. .) develop under their winter coat, a fleece composed of fibers of a rare delicacy.
This down, called Pashm by locals, allows these animals to survive polar winds and freezing temperatures, which can reach -50 ° C.
The arid Ladakh Plateau is a remote region of the Indian Peninsula, located in the Himalayan Range, at an average elevation of 4,000 meters, which occupies the eastern part
of Jammu & Kashmir State.
Despite cold semi-desert conditions, Ladakh is home to a species of goat whose Pashm is particularly sought after.
It is the trans-Himalayan Changthangi goat.
Its fiber has an average thickness of 13 microns, 6 times thinner than a human hair, which allows it to enter, de facto, in the category of ultra-fine natural fibers.
The Changthangi goat has been bred for centuries by the Chang-pa nomadic shepherds whose tents are scattered across Ladakh at altitudes ranging from 3,600 to 4,500 meters.
Of Buddhist belief, the Chang-pa firmly believe in the sacred origin of their flocks and live to the rhythm of their cattle and the nature that surrounds them.
Thus they change their camp between 8 and 10 times a year, each shift taking place when pasture and water resources are exhausted in the occupied area.
Harvesting of the Pashm begins in June when the first tufts of down rise naturally to the surface of the coat of the animal, and usually ends in August. For fear that the animal gets sick, the Chang-pa are especially careful to remove the Pashm in stages, never at one time.
The Pashm is gently removed using metal combs with rounded tips.
A female will give on average 200 to 250 g of fiber while a male will give between 300 and 500 g. Once cleaned of all impurities (secretions, earth, herbs, hair, etc ...) the net quantity of Pashm is estimated to be about 35% of the initial weight.
Hand cleaning 50 g of Pashm takes an average of 8 hours.
The fiber is immersed in a solution of rice water, allowing it to get rid of the last traces of impurity and gain strength, before being combed and transformed into yarn.
The spinning of the Pashm is carried out even today, on spinning wheels transmitted to the girls by their mothers. The thread obtained
is know as PASHMINA.
The term Pashmina therefore identifies, on one hand the thread of Pashm, on the other hand the finished product, result of its weaving, the famous Pashmina shawl.
Crédit photo Sudarshan Bhat