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Selecting the Right Shawl: Pashmina or Pashmina Silk Blended?

Date Added: July 15, 2007 09:56:44 AM

Selecting the Right Pashmina Accessory: Pashmina or Pashmina/Silk Blend?

Over time, the name "pashmina" has become a catch-all name for almost any shawl, wrap, stole or scarf. It is this generic use of the term that creates confusion among would-be buyers and wearers. 

Pashmina is actually the type material itself, which is a type of wool harvested from a specific breed of goat found naturally in the high altitudes of the Himalayan Mountains. Because they live approximately 14,000 feet above sea level, these special goats grow a thin, inner coat of hair that insulates them during the long, harsh Himalayan winters.  

It is this unique inner coat of hair that is used to produce pashmina. Each hair is about 1/6th the diameter of most other types of hair - but is still surprisingly durable while being stunningly soft and comforting to human skin. For thousands of years, the fleece from the goat has been utilized in the production of high quality fashion accessories such as shawls, wraps, and scarves. 

These shawls have been manufactured in Kashmir and Nepal for thousands of years. In Nepal, they were called "pashmina" and in Kashmir, they were typically called "Kashmiri wool shawls". Both are basically the same, just using different names. But during the popular shawl trend in the 1990s, "pashmina" became the most recognized term. 

What is known as a pashmina may be an accessory composed of pure pashmina or a pashmina/silk blend. The blend ratio can vary, but the most common is 70% pashmina wool and 30% silk. A pashmina shawl will typically be about 36"x80", a wrap/stole is about 28x80, and a scarf/muffler will be around 12x60. 

A pashmina is a very versatile accessory, whether it be a shawl, wrap, or scarf. The most popular website showing examples of how to wear one is from the television show "Oprah". This link can be found with a quick search online. 

Pashmina care is actually fairly easy and with proper care a pashmina can last a long, long time. While dry-cleaning is suggested, you may wash in cold water and a gentle shampoo, such as baby shampoo. Be careful if there are any tassels since they may unwind. Then lay the item flat to dry, do not wring dry. A warm iron is okay, but it is best to put a piece of paper or fabric between the iron and the pashmina. Store your pashmina in a bag away from moisture and light, as well as damaging insects. 

Once you have worn one, you will most likely become a pashmina addict. They are truly a wonderful way to dress up even a casual outfit or to accentuate more formal attire. They look great and feel even better. 

After being in the pashmina and cashmere business for over six years now, one of the most commonly asked questions by our customers is whether they should order a pure pashmina accessory or a pashmina/silk blend. It is a truly personal decision, but there are a few distinctions to consider. 

The first and most obvious distinction is the lustrous silky sheen of a pashmina/silk blend shawl, wrap or scarf. The sheen is caused not only by the addition of the silk (most often 30%), but also by the tighter weave commonly used for the blended items. The sheen is considered desirable for some occasions, such as weddings or formal events, where the dresses often are made of materials that also have sheen, such as silk or satin. Although you do not have to match the sheen of the dress to the pashmina, it is common practice. 

Another difference is the warmth of the item. In general, a 100% pure pashmina item is going to be warmer than a pashmina/silk blend. Pashmina wool, a type of fine cashmere, is both warm and light, so the additional content creates additional warmth. How much of a difference in warmth depends on the percentage of silk content, which can vary but should be clearly marked on the accessory. 

At my company, The Pashmina Store, we offer our pure pashmina items in 2 ply and 3 ply. The greater the ply, the thicker and warmer the item will be. Since many pashmina/silk blends are produced in 2 ply, a 3 ply pure pashmina can offer a significant difference in warmth. But since cashmere is a light fiber, even a 3 ply item is light in weight. 

The possible difference in the weave is another variable to consider. As I pointed out above, a pashmina/silk blend item is usually produced using a tighter weave that enhances the sheen and creates a smooth texture. A pure pashmina accessory is generally produced with a looser, more textured weave to help prevent pilling and shedding of the wool. It also makes the item a little bit "fluffier" and helps give it that luxurious hand feel that only cashmere provides. 

For many years, the term "pashmina" typically was considered by consumers to be a pashmina/silk blend, but pure pashminas are just as popular. It is not uncommon for fashionable pashmina wearers to have a selection of both types to suit their needs at any given time based on their particular mood, outfit or the occasion. In the end, you cannot go wrong with either.