Cashmere is the lightest, softest & warmest wool & our cashmere scarves make great presents!
They make great presents for yourself as well as your friends! My first visit to Nepal was in 1980 and I still have the cashmere shawl I bought in the market. The ancient trade in cashmere brought wealth to the Himalayan trading towns especially Srinagar in Kashmir, Leh in Ladakh and the Kathmandu valley in Nepal where our scarves originate. Buy them here!
Bringing in the goats at Hanupatta, Ladakh - buy this photo.
The wool is from the fine underbelly of the pashmina goats who inhabit the high mountains of Ladakh, and the Changtang plateau of Western Tibet near the Ladakhi border. The shepherds brought their wool to Leh, Ladakh in northern India to sell to the merchants who came from Kashmir to the West. The word Cashmere is the spelling that the English gave to Kashmir.
Some of the rough wool would be woven into basic shawls in Ladakh but the best wool went to Kashmir where it would be refined and handed to the more sophisticated weavers to produce what came to called Pashmina shawls. Pashm itself is a Persian word for wool.
Goats on the move, Changtang plateau, Eastern Ladakh
This trade from Eastern Ladakh and Western Tibet with the traders from Kashmir was the main source of income for Ladakh for several centuries but a strategic blunder by a Ladakhi king, the legendary Sengge Namgyal, led to the trade being abruptly closed for several decades. The Changtang shepherds needed to establish another route to get their pashm to Kashmir - they took it through Nepal where some was secretly syphoned off and woven into shawls.
The Kashmiri weavers still produce the finest work although these days the market for such high priced items - it can take over a year to weave the finest pashminas - is very limited and cheaper machine woven copies have taken over.
Goats, Changtang plateau, Eastern Ladakh
But we can still enjoy the beautiful soft cashmere scarves woven in Nepal. Our collection come from a women's collective that gives work to disadvantaged women who suffer from abuse, poor education, disabilities and the challenges that come from being widowed or divorced in a culture where there is little support.
Trekking in the mountains of Ladakh we often encounter these hardy goats that are the source of pashm. At night the shepherds gather the goats into rough stone shelters for protection from wolves and snow leopards - and bears and foxes! The shepherd boys and women use slingshots to gather the flocks and drive them down to the enclosures and pack them tight for the night. If they have guard dogs they'll wear jagged metal collars to protect their necks from the leopards' jaws.
The spectacular Changtang Plateau
It always stops you in your tracks to see a flock of maybe hundreds moving like dark liquid across a distant hillside or pouring down a steep slope to drink at a mountain stream. Maybe you don't see them but you hear a distant call of a shepherd and scan the mountains until they appear - and then you wonder how you hadn't noticed them. In fact they're hard to see, the variation in their colours from pale grey to black and brown being a perfect match for the stony hillside.
The goats produce a double fleece of the soft underbelly wool that is so light, soft and insulating and which makes for such wonderful scarves - so light they can easily roll up into your bag and are perfect for the approaching autumn nights. They are truly wonderful, are delightful to wear and last for years.