Asneh Cashmere Blog -English
Here is a collection of Asneh cashmere blogs. If you want to learn about cashmere, quality and what real pashminas are then this is the right place for you. On top of that we like to entertain with stories about Asneh. Hope you enjoy it, let us know if you have any thoughts, comments or questions.

Why should you love cashmere? 

Well, let me answer you curious reader.

First of all, cashmere is a super soft fibre (especially when you get the good quality). It is lovely and scrumptious to wear against your skin. It is non-allergenic and anti-bacterial, all good qualities even if you can see it with the naked eye.

Furthermore, when you wear a nice (woven) cashmere scarf or shawl, you get just the right amount of bulk to look chic and that's never a bad thing. On top of that, a woven cashmere scarf just drapes so nicely and elegantly, that you will look great wearing it - and honestly, isn't that reason enough to wear cashmere scarves? It is! However, there are many more reasons why you should wear cashmere, and rather sensible and scientific ones in fact.

Listen carefully: did you know that cashmere is up to 8 times warmer than its beloved cousin wool? Cashmere fibre has a crimp that wool does not have; the little crimp holds pockets of warm air close to the body and makes it warmer. You see, cashmere goats (carpa hircus, or chyangra as they are called in Himalayan regions where they originate) developed this special fibre underneath their outer coat (the coarser fibres that at a first glance covers the goat) in order to keep warm in temperatures that at times dip below - 40 C. They needed to develop this special fibre if they were going to survive in such a harsh climate, and because they need to stay nimble and quick on their feet they couldn't bulk up by adding more layers of heavy wool, hence they grow this special inner coat of fine fibres. If they are at higher altitudes, they even develop a special fine type of cashmere that in the Himalayas is known as pashm (as in pashmina, a subject I will cover in another blog). If you take the goats away from this special climate, then their fibres will change because their natural needs will change - yes, nature is impressively clever.

Ayh, you make think, it is all very well and good that cashmere is so warm despite its loftiness and airiness, but I work in an office with central heating. In the weekends, you may continue, I spend time with heat-emitting people in shops and cafes. Well, you see, this is where cashmere is so special. Cashmere has a high moisture content, which means that the insulating properties of the cashmere changes with the humidity in the air. In other words, it adjusts to your needs and is comfortable to wear even in warmer weather.

Another bonus with cashmere is that it is so light. The same crimp that helps making the cashmere fibres warmer, also helps the fibres interlock during processing and that's how they can be spun into such a fine and light yarn. Thus you have a super soft, very light fibre with a low micron (19 or less). This gives you a piece of clothing that literally is light to take along. A cashmere shawl or scarf can be folded and rolled up, so it takes little space in your handbag and is very light to carry. This is another reason why a cashmere shawl or scarf is the ideal travel companion. It is extremely versatile (scarf, blanket, wrap all in one) and it weighs so little.

Gosh, so cashmere is warm and yet doesn't make you uncomfortably warm, it is light to carry and drapes extremely well. It is non-allergenic, naturally anti-bacterial and best of all; it is super soft and luxurious. You see, it is easy to love cashmere.

(published Oct 2013)

Cashmere - a few words about quality

Up-loading pictures of some gorgeous hand made cashmere scarves for today, I started thinking about how amazed people always are when they see and feel the scarves and how difficult it is to convey that feel on a picture. Once in a while a picture doesn't speak more than a thousand words!

Cashmere is great, but not all cashmere is created equal, and here lies the catch. You see, cashmere comes from a goat (capra hircus), but otherwise it is it many ways like gold, it is a precious raw material. Just as there are different levels of gold (carats), so you have different levels of cashmere. The quality of cashmere depends on a number of factors. Let's look at the three basic ones.

First of all there is the thickness to consider, or should I rather say the thinness? For clothing to be classified as cashmere, the fibre must to come from the right animal (capra hircus), and the average fibre micron (circumference of fibres are measured in micron) mustn’t exceed 19 microns. A human hair is about 76 microns - just to give you an idea about what 19 microns or less means.

Now if you want the best quality, then you need to look for cashmere with a micron about 15 or less.

Good, so fibre thickness is an issue, what else? Purity. A cashmere item is only legally a cashmere item if it has a purity of 97 % (this can vary from country to country, but 97% is the most common guideline). This means that there must be no more than 3 % makeshift fibres in a cashmere product. In general the purer a cashmere is, the finer the microns and the better the fibre length (I'll get to this in a moment). Cashmere is sorted after the combing or shearing of the goats, here the coarser hair that do not qualify as cashmere are taken away (those with a micron over 19).

If the sorting is well done, then the purity is high. However, sometimes fibres are added afterwards (makeshift fibres such as wool, cotton, silk or - oh horror - synthetic fibres), either to make a blend or simply to make cheaper cashmere. Of course, cheap cashmere can be a bit of an oxymoron, because once you mix in other fibres it isn't really cashmere any more, but a blend.

The last parameter that I will cover here is fibre length. The longer the fibres, the better it usually is. Premium cashmere fibres are 36mm plus. Why is length important? For one thing, you get the longest hairs when you comb them off the goats or collect them when they moult and rub them off on nature. Does this sound like a lot of work? I am sure it is. However, long fibres give you the smooths and most silken cashmere products, plus they also tend to pill less. Regardless of how good a cashmere quality you have, there will always be some pilling, but with the use of longer fibres there will be less - especially over time.

So, you may say, it is all very well that I now have this knowledge, but how do I apply it in real life? Well, truth be told, it is not always that easy, however, there are a few tips:

For one thing, if a woven product (such as a scarf or a shawl) is handmade, then it normally is of a good quality, because the lesser qualities are generally mass-produced in big factories.

When you have fine hand embroidered pashminas (not machine embroidery or hook-needle embroidery), then usually, but not always, the quality is good. After all, it takes an average of three months to produce a hand embroidered pashmina and why put in all the labour intensive - and hence cost adding - work if the shawl is not good quality?

Finally, and I am sorry to say this, but when you see cashmere that is so cheap it seems to good to be true, then it probably isn't true. Good quality raw cashmere sells at a kilo price of € 55-60. From this state there is still a long process with many steps that the cashmere has to go through. Often there is a correlation between quality and price. Trust me, once you have had the real deal, you know why good cashmere costs money and why it is worth pay for.

(published Nov 2013)

Couture Embroidery

Have you ever spotted a woman in a clothing store turning the seam of a jacket inside out or peering intensely at a button while gently tugging it? Oh you have? Well good, because you have probably seen me or someone else from my fraternity. You know the infamous fraternity-of-people-who-are-interested-in-genuinely-good-quality-clothes-and-craftsmanship. Yes, I know it has an exceedingly catchy name.

A part from being happy to invent catchy slogans (or maybe not so catchy ; 0 ) for the quality sodality , I am very happy about the return of craftsmanship to fashion. Valentino, Dolce & Gabbana - to name a few - have been sending out the most amazing embroidered and embellished items for the coming seasons. Quality and craftsmanship cannot be quickly and cheaply copied in order to overflow the high-street market, because they are by their very nature unhurried and elaborately time consuming.

If you look to a real pashmina (hand woven cashmere scarf or shawl of fine quality cashmere) the average production time is 3 months per item. For one thing, the fineness of the fibre is so high that it cannot be power loomed, but has to be hand spun and hand woven. On top of that, you sometimes have embroidery. Only one person always does the embroidery work on one single pashmina, as every person has his or her own patterns and special touch to the stitch (literally). Furthermore, many pashminas has such fine embroidery that it can only be done by daylight, which - given that they are embroidered in Kashmir - does limit the potential working hours.

Sometimes the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and although you cannot feel or taste via a blog, at least you can admire some photos of wonderful craftsmanship. Enjoy!

(published Oct 2013)

An Englishman went up the Mountain and bought a Goat

In 1812 William Moorcroft had a vision: England should become the world's leading producer of fine cashmere shawls. To understand how he came to this conclusion, you will have to know a little bit more about William. 

William was born in England and studied to become a veterinarian. In this capacity he travels to Calcutta in 1808 and starts working for the East India Company where he has the responsibility their horses. While working here, horse-man William gets to hear about Turkoman horses. Turkoman horses are slim and elegant but strong and can endure riding for very long distances without food or water - in other words: they are perfect! William now knows that all East India Company needs for a better future are Turkoman horses.

William presents his case for the East India Company and off his goes in search of the wonderful horses of Bukhara.

He never quite makes it to Bukhara on this trip, but William is not disheartened because he has travelled the Himalayas and discovered a few lakes and cashmere shawls! He happily returns to Calcutta and presents the cashmere shawls. "Aren't they wonderful? See the marvellous embroidery? Feel how soft they are?" William is full of enthusiasm as he presents the wonders to his superiors. However, the directors of East India Company snort at Williams fine pashminas and tell him to stay in Calcutta in and mind his horse instead of running around finding lakes and fondling cashmere shawls in the Himalayas. Poor William, imagine how very different his reception would have been if there had been some women on board of the East India Company . . . . 

However, our dear William is not too browbeaten and a few years later he is off again, this time dressed as Hindu trading pilgrim (gosains, they are called). William the horse-man is slowly morphing into William the goat-man, because you see, he becomes even more convinced on this trip that there is no reason why England should not become the world's leading producer of fine cashmere stoles and shawls. This dreamed is fuelled by the observation that Kashmir and especially Srinangar is a rich and prosperous place thanks to a flourishing pashmina trade. For centuries Kashmir had virtually had a monopoly on the cashmere trade and William, being a patriotic Englishman, sees no reason why he should not be able to change this. To accomplish this dream, the determined William hires a painter to reproduce on paper all these wonderful patterns that William sees woven and embroidered onto the pashminas. The copied patterns are send to England and the entrepreneurial William is toying with the idea of shipping home a few Kashmiri families, so that they can teach the trade to the good people of England (well, I did tell you that he was determined!).

The plan to break the Kashmirian monopoly on the cashmere trade and start a thriving business in England is well on its way, however, there is still one small detail that William needs to deal with: cashmere procurement. Now, a less visionary and ambitious man than William might have contended with buying some bales of raw cashmere at this point. Buying cashmere would not necessarily be the world's easiest task as there is the Kashmirian monopoly to deal with. However, William has big plans, and he believes that there is no reason why the soon-to-be English cashmere trade should be dependent on the haggling of the cashmere traders of Tibet and the Himalayas, when England can produce its very own fine cashmere. The energetic William manages to buy a sizeable stock of cashmere goats (capra hircus) to be shipped home to mother England.

The goat herd is not to be shipped home on one boat, the majority travel on one ship bound for England and the rest on another ship. For some obscure reason, the female goats all go into one boat and the male onto another ship. Sadly, the ship with all the female goats never make it to England, so William's plan of breeding wonderful cashmere goats in the rolling hills of England is not going to be. Of course, the male goats do mate with female goats in England and produce a number of cute little curly-haired off-springs. However, their curls may be cute, but it isn't cashmere! Ah well, you may think, at least the unlucky William has the male goats to comb and make shawls from. Nope! The goats not only integrate in England, they assimilate. The relatively mild climate of England is very different from their natural habitat; hence these goats do not grow an inner coat of super fine fibres anymore. So all the lofty ambitions that the visionary William had all came to naught.

So to summarise the lesson that dear old William had to go through all that hardship to learn: fine cashmere is only produced in a very limited area of the world, because the goats need a specific type of climate before they start growing it. After all, their goal is to keep snug and warm, not to provide you with a nice pashmina (although we are grateful that they do :0)).

(published Nov 2013) 

We would wear wool, wouldn't we?

The answer is yes! As you all know my heart really is with cashmere because it is the most lovely of all yarns. Added to that comes the sad fact that I am one of many people who just cannot wear wool against my skin without breaking out and starting to itch like crazy. However, there is room for the humble cousin Wool in my life, because it is nice it its own little way.

Of course, wool can be many things, but for now let's just stick with the simplification that wool is wool (unlike cashmere that strictly speaking isn't wool, but a fibre). The woollen scarves that we sell at at the moment are super soft, because the wool has been spliced so it is thinner and finer. In fact, it is more like cashmere, but of course it doesn't have to properties that cashmere has. Still, it is very smooth and comfortable to wear as well.

If it is snowing heavily, then I like to wear a cashmere scarf wrapped around my neck and the put a woollen scarf on top to take the snow and prevent me from getting wet. Wool isn't as delicate or costly as cashmere, so I prefer wool to take the soaking and the sometimes less than ideal drying conditions in the office or where else I may go.

Another great use of wool is in fact for presents - especially for men! All the models we have are definitely unisex, because a woman can look great with a classic chequered but so can men. Anyway, men furthermore have a tendency to grow beards - yes, this is definitely not a unisex thing! Some men grow a very strong beard, which means that when they are sporting two days old stubbles on their necks, their necks are just about as soft as a steel sponge. Now rubbing a fine cashmere scarf with a steel sponge is not really something you should indulge in, hence for some men there are times when wearing a cashmere scarf actually isn't ideal. This is where wool comes in. Wool is a much harder fibre than cashmere, and isn't damaged so much by some rough stubbles. Therefore, although men definitely can wear cashmere, for some it is a really good idea to also have a nice woollen scarf in the wardrobe for those days when the razors have been given a rest. Sometimes you do need to have a practical approach to life!

(published Nov 2013)


Pashmina - the Tell-tale Signs of the Real Deal.
What is a pashmina? Oh dear, that is such a good question and, unfortunately not one that can be answered quickly. Well, actually there is a quick answer: anything& everything!
Yes, the sad truth is that 'pashmina' is not trademark protected (unlike eg. cashmere) and therefore you are allowed to label whatever you want as 'pashmina'. In theory, I could take a yellow pencil and decide to call it a pashmina, and no one could protest. However, of course there is such a thing as a genuine pashmina and people in the industry know that there are several features that makes a pashmina a pashmina. And fortunately there are initiatives being taken to try and trademark pashminas. In Nepal for example they have trademarked it as "Chyangra Pashmina". Each item that is made of pure high quality cashmere comes with a unique hologrammed certificate from the Nepalese government. This is a great initiative, however, India still does not have a recognised certificate, and after all this is the only place to get the embroidered ones (see more on embroideries in Couture Embroidery). 
A pashmina is shawl or a stole made of cashmere. There is no such thing as pashmina wool (technically, cashmere is not a wool, but a fibre), thus if you see a shawl with 'made of 100 % pashmina' , it is almost certain that you are presented with a fake. It may be the real deal (and I stress the may be) if it also says 100 % cashmere. Likewise if it says 'pahmina-like', pashm wool', 'pashmina feel' etc. then they are fakes!
Pashminas are made of good quality cashmere; hence it must not have a micron exceeding around 15. More than that, and the fibres are not fine enough. A pashmina is always hand woven and always 100 % pure cashmere. Thus a genuine pashmina is produced in Nepal or in the Kashmir region of India, because here you have the people with the skills and traditions of making hand loom pashminas.  A country like China produces a lot of cashmere, but only power loom cashmere (which can be perfectly good and fine in other contexts). Because it is hand made, a real pashmina will always have a slightly uneven weave which can be clearly seen under strong light or against the light.
Be aware that you can get power loomed 100 % cashmere shawls and scarves as well. These are woven on a machine and therefore of a cashmere with a micron exceeding 15. However, they can be very nice and of good quality and should not be confused with synthetic or blends. The production cost of these is somewhat lower than of genuine pashminas, however, they are still not cheap to make and therefore it is rare that you will be presented with these at your average fake-pashmina pusher. So to sum it up: you can get very nice genuine cashmere shawls/scarves that are not pashminas. It does not make them bad quality, but they are not real pashminas.
A genuine pashmina does not have tassels at the ends, it either frayed edges or a hand fringed edge. The pashmina quality cashmere is so fine that you cannot be tassels with it. This usually also goes for power loomed cashmere shawls.
The name pashmina originates from the Persian word pashm which means wool. Now technically speaking cashmere is not wool, however it is a natural fibre and as all natural fibres (silk, lambs wool, camel hair, merino etc.) it will burn instead of melting if you put fire to it. If you were to burn your pashmina it would turn into ashes, a synthetic pashmina would melt into a little lump. It is a good to know rule, but one you should apply with care:
- first, and glaringly obvious, it doesn't make sense to burn your pashmina, right
- secondly, if a seller tries to convince you of the authenticity by burning a small piece of a pashmina in order to prove to you that it is genuine, I would be on my guard. The fake pashminas that are the hardest to distinguish from the real deal are the ones that are mixed with inferior but natural fibres such as wool, cotton or silk. These can be nice blends, but they certainly not fine cashmere and should not be confused with that.
Another test that you will often come across is 'the ring trick'. You may even be familiar with the term 'ring pashmina'.  The idea is that if you can pull a shawl/scarf through a ring, then it is proof that it is made of the finest cashmere and hence is a pashmina. Now this may be true, but then again it may not be true. These days you can splice wool and in general treat fibres (including synthetic ones) so many different ways that they may initially seem like soft cashmere to the untrained eye, but trust me a bit of wear will soon reveal their true origins. However, you may be able to pass them trough a ring. Furthermore, an embroidered pashmina will not always be able to pass through the ring if it is heavily embroidered or with a stiffer thread (that is often the case).  Another issue is that you can make thick and heave woven pashminas. It is relatively rare these days, because we in the West like them to be light and airy, but rich people in cold climates (as e.g. in Kashmir) would use them to protect against really cold weather and cold winds. They didn't need warm, light and airy, but warm and tightly woven. Thus the 'ring pashmina' test is not without its merits, it is however no guarantee.
Finally there is the always very sensible and boring fact that cost is a good indicator. It takes one year cashmere production from 3 goats to produce a single pashmina, hence good quality cashmere is expensive.  You will not be able to buy a real pashmina cheaply, although I am aware that many people claim they have done just that. But think about it, if real pashminas were to be had for little money, how come high-street chains such as Zara, H&M, COS and so forth have never had them? After all, they do sell low-grade cashmere sweater from time to time. The answer is, of course, that no matter how big and mighty a company may be, they will not be able to procure cheap pashminas, because they do not exist. But the good news is that once you have had a real pashmina, you will know that they are worth their price.
So as you see, it is not that easy to tell the real deal from the fakes. However, if you follow my guidelines, you should certainly be able to tell the worst offenders apart (the synthetics ones), and of course the Chyangra Certificate is another good indicator.
If you are interested in seeing more real pashminas and power loom cashmere shawls go to We do not use the term pashmina very often due to the trademark issues, however, we always clearly state whether a scarf/shawl is hand made or machine woven. We believe in honesty, in genuine pashminas and other cashmere products.