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PASHMINA FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What is pashmina? Is it the same as cashmere and shahtoosh?

Pashmina is a term applied to the wool, and products made from the wool, derived from the undercoat of the Chyangra (Capra Hircus) goat, a domestic breed raised primarily at high elevations in Central Asia, particularly Mongolia.

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For years it has been used by weavers in Kashmir (hence "cashmere"), a disputed area between Pakistan and India. Due to the ongoing war there, much of the production has been relocated to other parts of India. Wool from the same goats, but of a higher quality (a couple of microns thinner, in general) has been used to produce "pashmina" in Nepal.

Shahtoosh, on the other hand, is a fiber derived from the under coat of an endangered Tibetan antelope, and is illegal in most Western countries. It is, unbelievably soft, smooth and warm and are much more expensive than pashmina.

2. Are PashminaStores.Com pashmina products really as good as the stuff they're selling at the department stores?

In a word: Yes. Actually pashmina is hand made products. Therefore the quality of pashmina depends upon the making process. Hand made pashmina products or pashmina garments are more finer, tighter, warmer and luxurious than the machine made pashmina garments or pashmina products. Since the diameter of the pure pashmina a is 15 to 19 microns in diameter it is difficult to spun the pashmina wool by machine. Therefore hand spun is required to make pashmina wool. Do not be misled by fancy designer labels! Most pashmina textiles are woven by local craftsmen in Nepal; the big names are just attached later. Actually, some of the pashmina shawls or pashmina stoles sold by the biggest importers are machine-made: that's the only way they can assure themselves of a reliable supply, not to mention lower cost. However, there is a difference! Hand-woven pashmina garments or pashmina products are finer, smoother, warmer, tighter and luxurious than that of machine made pashmina products or pashmina garments. To spot a machine-made wrap, look at the fringe base: machines make an unnaturally straight edge. We www.pashminastores.com or www.himalayanmart.com sells only textiles handcrafted by experienced weavers from Nepal and who have been in this pashmina weaving business from generations.

3. I see references to "100% pashmina", as well as "70% Pashmina and 30% Silk Blended Pashmina" and "50% Pashmina and 50% Silk Blended Pashmina". What's that all about? And what's a "ring shawl"?

Actually these are the quality of pashmina wool. 100% pashmina refers to the pure pashmina wool and no silk is blended in 100% pashmina. 70% pashmina and 30% silk blended pashmina refers to pashmina wool that has the mixture of 70% pure pashmina wool and 30% silk. And the 50% pashmina and 50% silk blended pashmina has a mixture of 50% pure pashmina and 50% silk. The different quality of pashmina wool have their own plus and minus aspects. Some customers prefers 100% pashmina products where some customers prefers 70% pashmina with 30% silk blended pashmina products. Some even prefers 50% pashmina with 50% silk blended pashmina products. The best-selling Pashminas -- sometimes advertised as "pure" -- are really of 70% wool and 30% silk. Some marketers try to gain a competitive advantage by claiming 75% Pure Pashmina wool with 25% Silk Blended or 80% Pure Pashmina wool with 20% Silk Blended Pashmina, but the difference is unsubstantial. True 100% pure pashmina is obviously softer, lighter, finer, luxurious and warmer than silk blends. However, the 100% pashminas or Cashmere are not as strong as the 70% pashmina and 30% silk blend, and any other quality of pashmina products and they lack the sheen and the elegant drape of the silk, which some people prefer.

The "ring shawl" is a full-sized 100% pure pashmina shawl that theoretically is fine enough to pass through a ring. Longer, finer fibers are better because they are much softer, that's why a large (82 x 32) shawl made of finest cashmere fibers can pass through a ring, this kind of precious Pashmina shawl is known as the ring shawl because it is so fine that it can easily pass through a woman's ring. This shawl is so elegant and luxurious you'll love it at first sight. It conveys not only affluence but also taste and elegance.

It's stunning over an evening gown for special occasions, as well as casual wear at home. Ring shawl is practically weightless (just less than 5 ounces) yet warmer than wool shawls two or three times the weight, not to mention the soft touch that you can never find from a wool shawl! Indulge yourself or someone you love in the ultimate wrap and that will give a lifetime of pleasure. Let us make sure that ring shawl mentioned here is not to be misunderstood with the ring shawl (Shahtoosh) made from endangered Tibetan Antelope wool which is considered illegal in most western countries.

4. I've seen some pashminas that are a lot cheaper than the products you offer. What gives?

Well the main answer of this question lies in the quality of pashmina products we offer. Some of the shawls and scarves being marketed as pashmina are made in India and other places, and are likely to be inferior... not bad, but just not the real stuff. Even in Nepal, shawls, stoles and scarves in the pashmina style have been made for years; the cheaper products are made from acrylics, or from regular wool and cotton. Unfortunately, the word "pashmina" has acquired a rather broad generic meaning. In fact, the shawls, stoles, scarves that are most popular in the West today are woven from a blend of pashmina wool and silk, yet everyone refers them as "pashmina."

What other factors contribute to the quality in pashmina or Cashmere shawls?

The main factors, of course, are the specific fabric blend, and the style of looming ("hand" or "machine"). A relatively minor cost factor is the dye. We use Swiss dyes to compete the quality.

Somebody got a really fluffy pashmina from Nepal. How come I don't see pictures of shawls like hers?

Many first-time pashmina/Cashmere buyers (including quite a few tourists) are attracted by the fuzzy look and feel of brushed wraps. Brushing, however, weakens the cloth, induces shedding, and turns your wrap into a dust mop for lint.

5.What's with the dimensions of the "full-size" shawls What's up with that?

Conventionally, the full-size is supposed to measure 82" x 32" or some weavers go for 35" x 78". The natural un dyed pashminas may correspond to these values, but the cloth shrinks in length by about 4% (roughly 3") during the dying process. These days there has been some attempt to compensate for the shrinkage by increasing the measurements. At the same time, it is very hard to arrive at an objective measurement of such an elastic cloth. Remember that these are supposed to be hand-woven, with some variability in weaving style, loom tension, and so on: naturally there is inconsistency in the precise measurements. Some sellers prefer to advertise the maximum dimensions; others feel safer advertising minimum measurements. We state dimensions that are nearer the minimum -- generally the true measurements are a bit longer. However pashmina shawls or stoles or mufflers or scarves or blankets can be made in any sizes as per the order of customers but the minimum requirement i.e. 25 of each of pashmina products have to be ordered.

6.Somebody says to get a "two-ply" shawl. I kind of like the "single-ply." What do you think?

"Two-ply" shawls are made by doubling up the pashmina threads. The result is a thicker cloth, which might feel more plush: remember, however, that with Pashmina, lightness is the prime factor. In one ply pashmina the pashmina shawls and other pashmina products are made in single pashmina threads. Therefore single ply pashmina products are lighter and softer than the two ply pashmina products. But the warmth of the pashmina is not much difference because it is the the wool of the Chyangra (Capra Hircus) goat which keeps warm. There is no more differences between the two types of pashmina products. Both single and two ply pashmina products have their own plus and minus aspects.

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