Nepal is famous for its finely woven pashmina shawls that are hand-made from the wool of the mountain goat or Capra hircus, which graze in the mountainous regions in altitudes ranging from 2,700 to 3,400 metres above sea level. In Nepal the shawls woven from the hair of this mountain goat are referred to as pashmina shawls, pashm being the Persian word for ‘wool’. The warmest and most luxurious of animal fibres, the wool in its natural form is found in one of four colours: grey, white, black, and cream.
As pashmina shawls have become a major item of trade, hand-spun pashmina wool is being replaced by imported machine-spun yarn. This has discouraged local production, thus reducing opportunities for both employment and income.
PROCESS & TECHNIQUE
The processing of pashminas is done in Kathmandu itself; it is here that – during the spring months – the wool is brought down by collecting agencies from the higher reaches o the Himalayas. The pashmina wool is shorn manually from the hair on the neck and chest of the mountain goat; the wool that is shed naturally or been rubbed off by the goat against rocks and shrubs, is also collected carefully. Each goat contributes a maximum of about 115 grams of down per year.
The first step involves the cutting of the down and hair from the skin of the goat: while most of the wool collected is used for the weaving of shawls, the hard outer hair is used mainly for weaving ropes and rugs.
After cutting the tufts, the down and long hair of the goat are both carefully placed over a bamboo comb, and the pashmina wool is carded to separate the rough outer part. This highly skilled and painstaking job ensures that nothing of the long hairs remain mixed in with the down. This yarn is then hand-woven on the charka or loom, either in its pure form or in combination with cotton or silk, to create fine pashmina shawls.
The mountain goat or Capra hircus graze in the mountainous regions in altitudes ranging from 2,700 to 3,400 metres above sea level. A number of pashmina goats are also found in some of the northernmost parts of Nepal like Mustang. The skin of the goat is brought down to Kathmandu from remote mountain districts of Nepal and Tibet. The pashmina fibres are processed and woven in the Kathmandu Valley itself.