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Pashmina Wool

Pashmina Fiber to Fabric



            Pashmina, a prince of specialty hair fiber is one of the finest natural fiber. Encyclopedia of textiles (1980) defines specialty hair fibers as the rare animal fibers which possess special qualities of fineness and luster. Pashmina is the down fibers or undercoat derived from domestic goat known as Capra hircus, which is native to India (Von Bergen, 1963). Pashmina can also be defined as the down (undercoat) fiber derived from Cashmere goats with a diameter of 30 microns or less (ASTM, D-123-59). Pashmina has derived its name from the Persian word pashm meaning soft gold, the king of fibers (Anon, 2005).  It is well known for its fineness, warmth, softness, desirable aesthetic value, elegance and timelessness in fashion. It is most luxurious fiber which is much softer than superfine merino wool of the same diameter with the result it commands much higher price. It has occupied a unique position among the fibers of animal origin because of its warmth, lightness, handle and its better ability to absorb dyes and moisture. On equal weigh basis, it is having 3 times more insulating capacity as that of wool (Von Bergen, 1963). The term Pashmina is also known as Cashmere, kashmir, pashm, tiflit, tiftik, tivit, tibit.

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            The habitat of Pashmina goats is spread throughout the mountaineers regions of Central Asia. The areas of distribution for these breeds range from China proper through Xinjing into Tibet and Mongolia to Kirghizia in and there are also other down producing goats in Russian Republic, Afghanistan and Iran (Ryder, 1987). The leading Pashmina producing countries in the world include China, Iran, Mongolia, Australia, New Zealand, Britain, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. Out of the total worlds Pashmina production, China is producing 2/3th followed by Mongolia which contributes 1/4th (Singh, 2004). Even though India contributes only about 1% of the worlds Pashmina, but the Pashmina produced in India is best of the whole and occupies unique position .In India, Pashmina is obtained from Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir, Lahul and Spitti valley of Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Kashi, Chamoli and Pithargarh districts of Uttranchal. The Pashmina obtained from Jammu and Kashmir is known as Changthangi Pashmina whereas that obtained from H.P and Uttranchal is known as Chegu pashmina.



The production of Pashmina in the world has increased tremendously over last decade or so as it has increased from 4500 tons / year in 1990 to 8000-10000 tons/ year in 2004  (Dubeuf, et al. 2004). Out of 40 tons of Pashmina produced in  India, Jammu and Kashmir alone produces 32 tons of Pashmina worth Rs 1.8 crore (Singh, 2004). The Annual Pashmina production per animal in China and Russia has been reported to be ranging from 700 grams to 1000 grams but in India it is far lower and is ranging from 100 grams in Chegu goats to about 250 grams in Changthangi goats (Singh, 2004).


The production of Pashmina depends on number of factors, among which main factor is number of hair follicles per unit body surface. Pashmina production is more in males than females due to the difference in body size. Lactation is having an effect on fiber yield. There is an apparent variation in the fiber length of Pashmina from different body regions in case of both male and females. As Pashmina grows as undercoat and acts as protective mechanism in Pashmina goats, so the sub zero winter temperature also has an effect on the growth of Pashmina fibers.


Breed Characteristics

            The goat (Capra hircus) is a mammal belonging to the subfamily Caprinae of the family Bovidae. The goats produce a double fleece consisting of the fine, soft undercoat of hair mingled with a straighter and much coarser outer coating of hair called guard hair. These goat are of medium type, their height ranges from 60 - 80 centimeters. The average weight of male and female Pashmina goats is about 45 and 35 kilograms respectively. They possess wide horns, have blocky builds, and refined features.  Pashmina goats occur in different colours.  White tends to be dominant but black, brown, red, cream, grey, and badger faced are very common.  These goats tend to be alert and cautious, rather than docile and placid.  These traits are largely due to their feral ancestry, relatively only a few generations back. 


            Pashmina fibers can be collected during spring moulting season when animals naturally shed their winter coat. On the basis of weather conditions and region, the goats start moulting over a period from Feb to late May. In India combing is the major way of harvesting Pashmina. Since combing and manual separation is labour intensive so combing is sometimes replaced by shearing (Miller, 1986). Shearing followed by mechanical dehairing has become a common practice in Australia and New Zealand (Aglink, 1984) but in Iran the process of shearing was combined with laborious manual dehairing (Von Bergen, 1963). In India combing/shearing followed by laborious manual dehairing was a common practice but has now changed to combing/ shearing followed by machine dehairing on the modified cotton cards.


Quality of Fiber

            Pashmina is a fine fiber possessing scales of cylindrical nature. The quality of fibres in terms of fineness varies as reported by various workers e.g. 11.30 (Sahni, 1981) 13.200.20 (Deb, 1998), 12.16-12.55 (Ganai et al 2004), 13.51 (Wani et al. 2004). Like fiber diameter, fiber length also shows considerable variation. The fiber length has been

reported as 4.0-6.20 cm (Sahni, 1981), 5.80 cm (Deb, 1998), 4.86 cm (Ganai et al 2004), 4.95 0.11 cm (Darokhan and Tomar, 1983).

            Undercoat Pashmina fibers are non medullated and are lacking crimps. It is having scale width to length ratio of 2:3. The internal cortical structure comprises of ortho and meso cortical cells, which is quite distinct from mohair and wool as they possess 100 percent ortho-para cortical and bilateral ortho structure respectively. In contrast to wool,

Pashmina fibers are having little felting property. The fiber is slightly weaker than wool and is more susceptible to wetting (Ryder, 1984). The strength of Cashmere fibers is about 10% below finest sheep wool and 40% below Mohair (Von Bergen, 1963). Breaking length has been reported as 6.92 Km for Kazaki goats (Dauletbav and Aryngaziev, 1980), 3.776 0.012 gwt/km for Changthangi Pashmina (Ahmad and Gupta, 1989). On wetting, Pashmina is having 80% retention of breaking strength (Ahmad and Gupta, 1989) compared to wool having 50-60%. The commonest natural colours of Pashmina are gray, brown black while white being rarer. Among all shades, white one is fetching highest price because of rarity (Balleli, 1982).

            The physical, mechanical and chemical properties of Changthangi Pashmina reported are as under:


Physical quality:


Type of fiber


Undercoat %age


Fineness ()

Mean fiber length (cms)

Linear density Tex(g.wt/km)


No./ No




Fine under coat

71.07 1.917


13.37 0.0472

55.86 0.377

0.296 0.004


Mechanical quality:



In Air

In Water

Fine Pashmina

Guard Hair

Fine Pashmina

Guard Hair






Breaking Strength

11.812 0.1475

14.597  0.2596

10.043  0.1344

9.339  0.2773

Breaking Extension

34.58  0.3774

37.54  0.4408

55.93 0.6019

55.38  0.2773

Chemical Quality

Type of fiber

Grease content (%)

Suint content (%)

Vegetable matter (%)

Fine under coat




Guard Hair







            Pashmina is utilized for the development of aesthetic products like Knitwear in Scotland, woven fabrics as blends in Italy and Switzerland. After spun into yarns, pure Pashmina can be knitted into jumpers, hats, gloves, socks and other clothing or woven into

fabrics than cut and assembled into garments such as outer coats, jackets, pants, pajamas, scarves, blankets and other items. However in India, majority of Pashmina is utilized for preparation of shawls in Kashmir valley. The shawl preparation is hand woven only and involving labour in sorting, spinning and weaving on specified handlooms.




            In Jammu and Kashmir State, processing of Pashmina is an old age practice. Pashmina products prepared in Kashmir are known for its quality through out the world. Not only the quality of the fibers but the way of preparation involving sorting, dusting, spinning and especially weaving has given Pashmina products a special importance in the world. The steps involved in processing of Pashmina include:

         Dusting: Since fleece from Pashmina goats contain extraneous material including dust, thorns etc, it is necessary to remove it, which is done either manually or passing through dusting machine.

         Dehairing: Dehairing means removal of guard hairs or separation of guard hairs and fine fibers which is done with great care so as to minimize loss of valuable fibers. Dehairing can be done manually as well as by machine.


 Dusting and Dehairing losses of Pashmina fibers



Dusting loss


Dehairing loss


Fine Pashmina


Guard hair



The effect of the method of dehairing on the physico-chemical quality of Pashmina fibres is as under:


Mean fibre diameter ()

Medulation (%)

Fibre length (cms)

Scouring yield (%)

Guard Hair (%)

Fine fibre


Machine Dehaired


12.66 0.16




6.27  0.23


75. 80 1.12





Manual sorted


13.19 0.62




8.07   1.33


72.92   0.00







         Combing: Pashmina is combed manually on especially available wooden combs. Combed Pashmina is obtained in the form of a loaf called Tumb followed by gluing usually with soaked powdered rice.

         Spinning: Tumb is subjected to spinning on the traditional Charkha or spinning wheel so as to make yarn and is collected on small bobbins. Spun yarn is then doubled on hand reeler.


The yarn properties of Pashmina as reported are as under:

Theoretical count





Metric count  (Actual NM)

No. of fibers  / cross section


Actual count of yarn in Tex

Instron Single Thread Test

Breaking strength (g)

Tenacity ( g /  tex)






13.51 0.01














         Dyeing: The spun wool is dyed before knitting and weaving. Only natural ingredients are used in the dyes, which produce different colours depending on the concentration used.

         The range of colors of the hand-mixed dyes may vary as they are produced by a natural process. It is pertinent to mention that dyeing of the Pashmina is being done using mostly organic compounds.

         Weaving and knitting: After washing or dyeing, yarn is weaved on local handlooms into various designs (Jamawer, kanizama etc).

         Finishing: Finishing involves dyeing and embroidering for value addition, washing and pressing. 


Value addition

            Value addition in simple sense means the aesthetic exquisite and attractive appearance of the products which one intends to buy, in reciprocal it will beget more sales, better customers satisfaction, resulting in repeat customers and spin-off of good reputation. Value addition of Pashmina can be done with two reasons as follows:

a)      Reducing the cost of production 

Cost of production can be reduced by blending of Pashmina with fine merino tops, angora, silk etc. which can be achieved immediately after dehairing. Studies on this aspect carried out at Division of Livestock Products Technology, SKUAST-K, Srinagar, revealed it was reported that Pashmina wool blend ratio of 80:20, 70:30, and 50:50 reduced cost up to 30-40%. Up to 30% blended fibers produces fabric of comparative quality at both yarn and fabric level.


Effect of blending on properties of Pashmina yarn:


Sample name


Diameter ()


Count (Nm)

Metric count (Actual Nm)

No. of fibers / cross section

Single Fiber

Strength (gm)

Elongation (%)


13.51 0.01






70:30 wool

14.42 0.04






80:20 wool

15.66 0.86







 14.86 1.12






50:50 wool

16.33 0.38







Effect of blending on Physical quality of Pashmina shawls


No. of



Diameter ()

Wrap (No of ends per inch)

Weft ( No of ends per inch)

Weight (gm)



13.51 0.01


13.6 0.24


70:30 wool



27.82 9.82

13.7 9.17


80:20 wool


14.42 0.14

28.86 0.92

18.43 0.89





33 0.12

18.35 0.20


50:50 wool



34 0.14

18.40 0.22



 Effect of blending on Mechanical quality of Pashmina shawls



Shrinkage %

Air permeability


Thermal conductivity


Water permeability

(Cone test)


Wrap way


Weft way







70:30 wool






80:20 wool












50:50 wool








b)  Improving the design and aesthetic feel

      Aesthetic improvement and designing can be done at weaving stage also by giving different decorative weaves. These are formed by predetermined changes in the interlacing of wrap and filling yarns. Weaving process in this category includes, dobby weaves (chesmi-bul-bul), Jacquard weave (Kani shawl), and lappet weave (Jamawar). There is, however, need


to impart training to weavers in textile designing as per modern trends with development of better designs so that these shawls continue to command higher demands with variety to consumer.


Present status of Pashmina in India

  Ladakh, Lahul and Spiti valleys are the only areas in India that represent the trans- Himalayan high altitude cold desert environment with an elevation of 3,500 to 4000 meters from MSL. Harsh dry climate, soil texture and land topography makes most of area in the region unsuitable for crop based activities. On the other hand, the region sustains some special livestock breeds especially Pashmina goats for worlds best quality Pashmina.

  Pashmina is a legendry fiber and important component of our cultural heritage.

  Demand for pure and quality Pashmina both at national and international levels is very high and local production does not suffice the requirement and have to depend on import. Further moved most of the import comes from China which is now developing its own industry that may result in raw material crunch in future.

  For centuries this breed has been reared by the nomadic pastoralists (Changpas) for their sustenance. The socio-economic status of these nomadic tribes has remained almost static since decades as there has been no qualitative and quantitative improvement in Pashmina production nor there has been any effort for its horizontal expansion in potential areas. 

  This pastoral goat farming has remained confined to Changthang and adjoining areas only.

  The Pashmina fiber has been unique in that raw/ unsorted fiber weighing 400gms costing up to Rs 800 after value addition fetches up to Rs  25000  with a net weight of shawl around 200gms.

  Hand made Pashmina is more durable (20 times) and has higher aesthetic feel than machine made Pashmina, therefore fetches higher price. But no quality standards are available for such products to protect rights of stakeholders and consumers.

  There have been meager systemic/scientific approaches for qualitative and quantitative improvement in Pashmina production and productivity. Yield of Pashmina has remained static (up to 270g/ animal/ annum) since last so many decades, although potential up to 900g do exists. Further Pashmina production has remained restricted to traditional Changthang belt and no efforts for its expansion in other potential areas have been made.

  Pashmina production system is mostly open range type and depends on pastures. Scientific studies have not been carried out on biomass availability for natural grass lands and other local resources and their conservation.

  Livestock suffers heavy mortality especially in young ones (up to 33%) due to lack of proper housing and non availability of efficient disease control and prophylactic measures.

  Old traditional packages of Pashmina processing are being followed which are less remunerative.

  Lack of awareness among stakeholders about production system, modern processing and market intelligence.


Future strategies

Kashmiri artisans are well trained in Pashmina trade which is providing a source of employment in both rural and urban areas. Moreover, Pashmina from Kashmir is best of the whole. Improvement in Pashmina production, collection, processing and utilization has further been necessitated by ban imposed on Shatosh processing thereby rendering a large population of cottage and handloom workers (about 45000 craft families) jobless. Further, the yield of Changthangi Pashmina is exceedingly low. Therefore, breeding strategy should be made with the objective of enhancing yield without compromising fiber fineness. Following steps should be adapted for bringing improvement of Pashmina:

  •    Selection of elite germplasm for better fiber quality and higher production and its dissemination to the farmers of traditional belts.

  •       Introduction and evaluation of Pashmina goats in potential non-traditional areas more or less similar to traditional belts.

  •       Identification of nuclear markers for higher Pashmina production.

  •       Systemic survey on pasture biomass production, evaluation and development of packages for their improvement and utilization.

  •       Development of low cost feed technology and housing systems from locally available resources for periods of scarcity and harsh climate to improve production.

  •       Surveillance of disease profile of Pashmina goats and development of packages for disease diagnosis and prophylaxis to arrest mortality.

  •       Improvement in processing of Pashmina by developing new products suitable to present day fashion as well as to revive the traditional designs of Pashmina products..

  •       To establish standards for quality evaluation of Pashmina products.  


Extensive research has proved that better quality meat with a longer shelf life can be produced if livestock are handled with greater patience, understanding and humaneness. Recent studies have shown the adverse effects of stress on animals. Transit stress is reported to impair rumen function. The stress imposed by transit had a greater detrimental effect on the animal's physiology than the stress of feed and water deprivation for the same length of time. The type and conditions of transport, fasting and conditions of the pens in the abattoir are included in the list of pre-slaughter factors affecting meat quality.

Transport injuries cause financial losses from deaths in transit, from condemnation of carcasses and portions of carcasses as a result of bruising, and from the lower grading of trimmed carcasses. Hence, it is necessary to ensure that slaughter animals reach their destination without delay and in as good and healthy a condition as possible. Transportation stress may have a prolonged effect in goats that could affect their immuno-competency. It has been documented that more the animals are stressed, the more likely they are to shed bacterial pathogens in their faces; and, their faces contaminates them as well as other animals in the same pen or truck. Unsanitary handling facilities contribute pathogens to the external surfaces of animals. It has been observed that external animal surfaces are a much more important source of contamination on animals than are the contents of the gastrointestinal tract and which is likely to be transferred to carcasses.

Live weight loss during transportation and holding is stated to be of particular economic importance in small ruminants since the digestive tract comprises a greater proportion of live weight than in other meat animals. In goats, live weight shrinkage, attributable to feed withdrawal and dehydration, could be as high as 10% in the summer. Fasting reduces carcass weight and fat score. Prolonged holding of animals without feed, especially in hot weather, could increase stress response in animals resulting in changes in muscle metabolism that could affect meat quality. Dehydration also reduces carcass weight and can cause meat to appear darker in color and less appealing to the consumer. So the

period when the animals are off-food and water prior to loading should be kept as short as practicable.

The ultimate pH attained by meat at rigor is of particular importance to meat quality and may have an important bearing since pre-slaughter stress can deplete muscle glycogen, the extent of depletion may reflect the pre-conditioning of animals to the environmental stressor inevitably present during transport and lair aging before slaughter. For example, an extensive pasture-based production system involves minimal human contact and handling compared with a feedlot-based production system, and pre-slaughter stressors may consequently elicit vigorous glycogenolysis under these conditions.

If an animal is under stress when slaughtered, the quality and shelf-life of the carcass and subsequent meat will be adversely affected. Even short-duration transportation before slaughter produces significant changes in stress responses, muscle metabolism, and meat quality. The effects of short-term pre-slaughter stress on muscle quality are reported to be more pronounced in young goats than older goats.

As a result of the stress factors of transportation exceptional amounts of adrenaline are produced by the affected animal and released into its blood stream. Glycogen reserves in muscles are reduced and blood sugar increases. There is consequently less lactic acid available, which in turn leads to shorter shelf-life and less tender meat. Blood supply to the musculature is increased and this can result in the carcass not bleeding out well. The meat of stressed animals may also undergo other undesirable changes. Stress during the transport and lair age period can predispose lambs to tough, dark cutting meat. This is particularly so for Merino lambs but less important for crossbred lambs. Measurements of meat quality and bruises are important. Handling must be measured on a regular basis to maintain high standards.

To aim at positive preventative measures with a view to avoiding the financial loss associated with severe injuries and even death.

i)                    Those of the areas where incidence of phosphate calculi are reported the L/S feed should contain an adequate balance of calcium and phosphorus (2:1)  to avoid precipitation of excess phosphorus in the urine.

ii)                  Alfa- Alfa feeding of Livestock results in high calcium phosphorus ratio and high potassium excretion which may prevent the calculi formation.


iii)                Urolithiasis cases are reported to have hyperphosphataemia and hypocalcemia and concentrate feeds are rich in phosphorus, absorption of this ion from intestines can be reduced by increasing calcium intake. For this purpose, salt of calcium Carbonate can be used.  This may also reduce the chances of calculi containing oxalates.

iv)                In drought condition and winter feeding period L/S should receive adequate supplements of Vitamin A

v)                  Herbal drugs like cystone/Stonil etc. may be used which can reduce the chances of calculi formation in ruminants.  The observations are in quite agreement with the findings reported by Blood et al; 1983).