Thursday, January 31, 2013

Pahsmina vs. Shawl

Pashminas and shawls  --  they aren't the same!!!

Yes, I have both, and I'll show you some, directly.  But, for now:  a rant.  {Where did I put that soapbox??}

Twice in the past week I have come across shawls incorrectly labelled and marketed as "Pashminas". This kind of thing drives me nuts.

One of them, which I purchased (what? It was 75%off!!, and a lovely Blush/Beige color), was labeled, "Pashmina  100%wool  Made in China"   Wrong.  Close - but, no cigar.   The other (which I did NOT purchase) was labeled, "Pashmina   60% Viscose/40% Acrylic   Made in Guatemala"  So wrong, I scarce know where to begin.  Perhaps, some defining parameters are in order.

Wikipedia has this to say on the subject of pashminas:

Pashmina refers to a type of fine cashmere wool and the textiles made from it. The name comes from Pashmineh (پشمینه), made from Persian pashm ("wool"). The wool comes from changthangi or pashmina goat, which is a special breed of goat indigenous to high altitudes of the Himalayas in Nepal, Pakistan and northern India. Pashmina shawls are hand spun, woven and embroidered in Kashmir, and made from fine cashmere fibre.

[Sorry, Guatemala  --  you didn't make the cut.]

More wiki-elucidation:

"Pure pashmina is a rather gauzy, open weave, as the fibre cannot tolerate high tension. The most popular pashmina fabric is a 70% pashmina/30% silk blend, but 50/50 is also common. The 70/30 is tightly woven, has an elegant sheen and drapes nicely, but is still quite soft and light-weight."

I confess, 70/30 is my pashmina blend of choice, but I do have one that is 50/50, and it is lustrous, soft, and - not surprisingly - silky. 

The US Federal Trade Commission has this to say on the subject:
"Some manufacturers use the term pashmina to describe an ultra fine cashmere fiber; others use the term to describe a blend of cashmere and silk. The FTC encourages manufacturers and sellers of products described as pashmina to explain to consumers, on a hangtag, for example, what they mean by the term. As with all other wool products, the fiber content of a shawl, scarf or other item marketed as pashmina must be accurately disclosed. For example, a blend of cashmere and silk might be labeled 50% Cashmere, 50% Silk or 70% Cashmere, 30% Silk, depending upon the actual cashmere and silk content. If the item contains only cashmere, it should be labeled 100% Cashmere or All Cashmere. The label cannot say 100% Pashmina, as pashmina is not a fiber recognized by the Wool Act or regulations.[8]"

A quality pashmina is not cheap. They are made of fibers not in large production, require much personal handling, and,unless you live in the Himalayans, cannot be locally sourced. They are an investment, and you don't want to waste your money on a cheap fake. How do you know if it's worth the price? 

 Can you tell  by looking if it's a real pashmina?  Very possibly not.  Some of the fakes are very good.  When they are new.  Cashmere and silk are both very durable fibers.  Properly cared for (hand-wash, no wringing, air-dry; OR dry-clean.), you should expect to pass them on to your descendants.  Cheap acrylics, or wool of very poor quality will shrink, pill, distort, and not be color-fast over time.

Can you tell by feel?  Once you have worn, and loved, a true pashmina - oh, yes - you can feel the difference.

Several of my pashminas were purchased overseas, and thus, at tremendous discounts compared to US department stores.  This explains why I own several pashminas.  At $200.+ , I might only own 1 or 2.  Having purchased them in a country where labeling laws aren't so strict as in America, and, where I don't speak the local language, how did I know that I was buying real pashminas?  The feel and drape told me that I was likely dealing with good-quality cashmere, and  --  not to brag  -- but, even at a blend as low as 20%, I know silk when I smell it.  It's distinctive.  Still, I am unwilling to part with even a modicum of hard-earned money without reason, so, while my husband distracted the shopkeeper(s) in the Textile Souks in Dubai, I surreptitiously burn-tested fibers. I never bargin-shop for fabrics without my fiber ID-kit in my purse.  {Still can't believe I got that through Security at the airport unchallenged.}  If you are unfamiliar with burn-testing, or you want a  chart to keep handy, this one from the Sewing and Craft Alliance is wonderful!

Remember:  if the price sounds too good to be true  --  it probably is!!!  Also:  if the shawl is sealed up tightly in plastic: run!  Natural fibers are organic and need to breathe!  This, especially, includes your wedding gown, quilts, anything handed down from your grandmother.  Go!  Now! Right now, and get them OUT of their plastic bags, and wrap them in acid-free tissue, and place in an acid-free box.  NOW!!!
[Sorry.  The usually-latent archivist in me just reared her curly-topped head.]

Here are the promised pictures of some of my pashminas and shawls.  I love them all!!

These are 70/30 pashminas purchased in Dubai.  After several trips to dry cleaners, and one hand washing with Eucalan (the purple heather one - a favorite), they have retained their softness, warmth, lustre, and silky smell. 


These are not, strictly speaking pashminas, owing to the introduction of metallic threads.  The teal one, is however, a cashmere/silk blend.  The orange one is 100% wool. Both are beautiful, and cuddly soft!  They were purchased in Shanghai.

These are shawls.   The coral one is 100% silk, and the blue one is 100% wool.  Both were labeled, "pashmina".  The coral one was purchased at Ann Taylor, and the blue one at Nordstrom. 
S * I * G * H 

So, yes  -- buyer beware  --  but, not to the extent that you don't purchase, enjoy, and love a fine quality pashmina when you find it!!

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