PONCHO COMPANY IN KASHMIR
Poncho Company went to Kashmir to find the best and purest cashmere wool – the PURE KASHMIR WOOL – ’the king of cashmere wool’.
The 100% Pure Kashmir Wool is a fine luxury fibre called ‘pashm’ that comes from the Changthangi goats. The Changthangi is found in the Ladakh Himalaya region in India, which is one of the highest plateaus in the world. These goats are largely reared by a nomadic tribe called the ‘Changpa’. The harsh climate is very supportive to this wool producing type of goat. To survive the freezing environment at 14,000 feet altitude, they produce a double fleece that consists of an outer coating called guard hair and a unique, incredibly soft and fine inner coat called ’pashm’, which is only 10 – 14 microns in diameter. Any goat fibre less than 19 microns can be classified as cashmere but Pure Kashmir Wool with 10-14 microns is therefore classified as the finest cashmere in the world. A difference of only one or two microns in fibre diameter has a significant impact on the quality.
A word about ‘Pashmina’
The marketing term “Pashmina” is often confused with cashmere. Pashmina is not a legal fibre term for labeling purposes, but instead is an Indian word used to describe cashmere wool in India. The raw fibre of cashmere is known as ‘pashm’; ‘pashmina’ is the yarn spun and the fabric. As the term ‘Pashmina’ is not protected by law, often items sold as “Pashmina” are a blend of acryl, silk and cashmere, however there is no guarantee or requirement that they have any cashmere in them.
Precious fleece of Pure Kashmir Wool is parceled out in small quantities to experienced spinners who work in their homes.
Collection and processing of Pure Kashmir Pashmina Wool
The goat’s wool is collected during early June molting when the goats begin to shed their coats in preparation for the warm season. In the Ladakh region, the fiber is usually collected the traditional way: plucking hairs of wild goats from lofty mountain bushes and rocks or carefully combing the goats by hand to get the precious ’pashm’. A comb is pulled through the animal’s hair in order to extract the fiber. This method is taking up to two weeks to complete. The amount of pure cashmere that is gathered this way, however, is often higher than can be gathered by shearing, a method which is used in most other parts of cashmere producing regions worldwide.
How carefully they spin the precious Pure Kashmir Wool into yarn is the secret of top quality cashmere products.
The fine Pure Kashmir Wool fiber cannot be spun by machines, so it has to be spun by hand to get the finest yarn immaginable. Spinning of cashmere yarns is performed by women who have practiced their skills from childhood. Their finished yarns are so evenly spun, so fine, and so strong that attempts were made to have Kashmiri women teach their skills to others, but none achieved the same excellence. Before spinning, they first clean the fleece and sort it into finer and coarser grades. Spinning is accomplished on wooden spinning wheels, or charkhas.
While spinning is a woman’s occupation occurring in the home amid other household tasks, weaving is a male occupation using some traditional machines. In India these machines are called khaddis which needs to be operated by hand instead of automatic weaving machines.
For centuries, Pashmina shawls have been woven on handlooms and handcrafted by Kashmiri families.
Poncho Company visited Kashmiri families in their homes in the Old city of Srinagar to check out the production of scarves, shawls and gowns made of Pure Kashmir Wool. Some of these shawls take over 2 years! to weave because of their intricate nature. It’s wonderful helping keep the tradition alive producing fibers that can be woven into exquisitely soft and warm garments.
Sabia (in front) invited us for traditional Kashmiri Tea – (Kashmiri green tea with cardamom pods, anise, cinnamon, almonds and safran).
Another Kashmiri family home, welcoming us–they would invite us to eat with them–traditionally sitting on the floor.
In Kashmiri homes, up to four generations are working and living under one roof.
The hospitality, kindness and the smile of Kashmiri people is amazing.
Doing business, being the only woman among Kashmiri men
Our Kashmiri home, a privat houseboat on Dal Lake– far away from tourist places.