EVE STARR FIBER ARTS STUDIO
Okay, y’all. You know by now, those of you that have been checking in since January, that I never release a pattern without spewing factoids, providing a backstory for the design, and smooshing in a history lesson wherever possible! I guess it’s the big sister in me that tirelessly helped little bro with his ABC’s (remember? “h” is “the tired sound, huff huff huff…” You know who you are
MY FIRST PUPIL, & FIRST CAPTIVE AUDIENCE
Anyway, I think that when you know the history of an artisanal craft, you feel connected to the past, and that’s the point, isn’t it? You can buy a Pashmina shawl and be done with it. It’ll be terrific for an evening out, dressing up a T-shirt, and adding a major splash of color to your face. All good things, and it has its place in anyone’s wardrobe.
Before we debate whether to knit one, or keep buying only the woven version, let’s breeze through some info from Wikipedia:
Pashmina refers to a type of fine cashmere wool and the textiles made from it. The name comes from Pashmineh (پشمینه), made from Persian pashm(“wool”).The wool comes from changthangi or pashmina goat, which is a special breed of goat indigenous to high altitudes of the Himalayas in Nepal,Pakistan and northern India. Pashmina shawls are hand spun, woven and embroidered in Kashmir, and made from fine cashmere fibre.
The fibre is also known as pashm or pashmina for its use in the handmade shawls of Himalayas. The woolen shawls made in Kashmir find written mention in Afghan texts between 3rd century BC and the 11th century AD. However, the founder of the cashmere wool industry is traditionally held to be the 15th century ruler of Kashmir, Zayn-ul-Abidin, who introduced weavers from Central Asia.
Cashmere shawls have been manufactured in Nepal and Kashmir for thousands of years. The test for a quality pashmina is warmth and feel. Pashmina and Cashmere are derived from mountain goats. One distinct difference between Pashmina and Cashmere is the fiber diameter. Pashmina fibers are finer and thinner than cashmere fiber, therefore, it is ideal for making light weight apparel like fine scarves. Today, however, the word PASHMINA has been used too liberally and many scarves made from natural or synthetic fiber are sold as Pashmina creating confusion in the market.
Some people believe Pashmina from Nepal are the best in quality because of the conditions to which the mountain goats live, such as the India\China border at Kashmir. There we find very cold temperatures, and the climate is very supportive to the pashmina breed of goat. To survive the freezing environment at 14,000 feet altitude, it grows a unique, incredibly soft pashm (inner coat) six times finer than human hair. Because it is only 14-19 microns in diameter, it cannot be spun by machines, so the wool is hand-woven into cashmere products including shawls, scarves, wraps, throws, stoles etc. Pashmina is the Persian (Farsi) word “pashm” meaning soft and silky (Eve: so any “pashmina” made with fibers that are not fine and luxurious are not traditional.)
To meet the demand, the goats are now commercially reared in the Gobi Desert area in Inner and Outer Mongolia. The region has identical harsh weather conditions to those of the Himalayan region and is thereby apt for the goats to grow this inner wool. The location also has acres of grazing ground to produce cashmere economically and commercially. In the spring (the moulting season), the goats shed the inner wool, which regrows in winter. The inner wool is collected and spun to produce cashmere. Today, the quality of the cashmere produced in the Gobi Desert is oftentimes higher than that produced in the Himalayas, due to a more consistent manufacturing process and increased modernization of the Chinese
Pashmina accessories are available in a range of sizes, from “scarf” 12 × 60 in (0.30 × 1.5 m) to “wrap” or “stole” 28 × 80 in (0.71 × 2.0 m) to full sized shawl 36 × 80 in (0.91 × 2.0 m) and in rare cases, “Macho” 12 × 12 ft (3.7 × 3.7 m). Pure pashmina is a rather gauzy, open weave, as the fibre cannot tolerate high tension. (Eve: This adds to the drape of the garment)
The most popular pashmina fabric is a 70% pashmina/30% silk blend, but 50/50 is also common. The 70/30 is tightly woven, has an elegant sheen and drapes nicely, but is still quite soft and light-weight.
A craze for pashminas in the mid-1990s resulted in high demand for pashminas, so demand exceeded supply. When pashmina shawls rose into fashion prominence during the era, they were marketed dubiously. Cashmere used for pashmina shawls was claimed to be of a superior quality, which was in truth due to the enhanced sheen and softness that the fabric (cashmere blended with silk) had. In the consuming markets, pashmina shawls were redefined as a shawl/wrap with cashmere and silk, notwithstanding the actual meaning of pashmina. Some shawls marketed as pashmina shawls contain wool, while other unscrupulous companies marketed the man-made fabric viscose as “pashmina” with deceptive marketing statements such as “authentic viscose pashmina”. (Don’t get me started! Viscose! Plastic. Oy!)
So, here we are. The ORIGINAL Pashmina was more like the orignal Shetland shawl, some of which can be pulled through a wedding ring! Now, we tend to think of a silky, draped piece of cloth we can bunch around our necks, or spread out in one thin layer like a shawl.
PROS OF WOVEN PASHMINA: Wonderful drape. Drape comes from weight, rather than loft. Drapey fibers include silk, alpaca, bamboo, corn, and synthetic microfibers. The fibers tend to lay down rather than spring up. Go for the Grecian look, long and elegant. Silk grabs dyes and reflects color like nothing else, so a woven silk “pashmina” is a slippery, shiny splash of luxury.
CONS OF WOVEN PASHMINA: How to keep it ON? Without knots, pins that can damage the fabric, constant readjustment to slippery silk blends? The video on youTube that I referenced in an earlier post helps with this, but it is an issue.
Bring on the knitted Pashmineh!! I’ll use the other spelling to distinguish it from the current term. The advantage to adding a couple of knitted Pashminehs to your arsenal is the way they behave.
1: LOFT versus DRAPE. The Shetland shawl is famous for weighing nothing while being warm, clingy, and easy to wear. You lose some of the fiber’s spring and loft when you weave it, but with knitting we build in our own amount of loft. In the pattern I’ll be sharing with you soon, I’ve chosen to take the best of both a woven and knitted Pashmineh by choosing a yarn that has drape rather than loft. Loft is what you see in Merino wool that has been minimally messed with (and Icelandic wool that is more like unspun roving) and leads to what I call SPROING. There is so much CRIMP in the hair that it’s a network of a zillion little springs. This creates lots of pockets of air (warmth, light in weight) and resiliency (stretches back into shape). A good example of LOFT is Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light or Malabrigo worsted. (see my “Moor in Bloom Shawl” below; despite the cashmere content, the merino wool in the yarn keeps the shawl light and springy despite its size. Pattern published later in 2012, in time for fall.)
“MOOR IN BLOOM SHAWL”, PART OF THE SHERLOCK COLLECTION BY EVE STARR FIBER ARTS, EVE STARR KNITS
2. CLOSURES: The options for knitted-in ways of keeping the thing attached are there when you knit it yourself. Quality shawl pins won’t damage the fabric if you go between the stitches, or you can finish each end with a band with buttons and buttonholes. You can give it a half-twist (see earlier post on my “Infinity With a Half-Twist” from my Sherlock Collection, coming in several weeks…) and let the Mobius principle work for you.
3. CONTROL: You’ll know exactly what’s going around your neck! This is the time to go for luxury and colors that you wouldn’t wear all over. I keep lots of stretchy black and brown T-shirts around so I can add a crazy splash of color(s) around my neck.
4. EASE IN CONSTRUCTION: A GREAT project for newer knitters, or a great on-the-go project with minimal notes. It’s up to you whether to add texture, reversible lace, etc.
So, I’m taking the DRAPE of the traditional woven Pashmina with the natural LOFT and SPROING inherent in hand-knitting. It’s a pretty problem, to be sure, but with enough data, the science of deduction, and the best yarn we can afford, we can take the best of both characteristics and come up with something greater than the sum of its parts. And that’s the point of knitting by hand!
Rather than my usual Merino fetish, this time I’m choosing Mirasol NUNA, which is a blend of drapey fibers: 40% SILK, 20% BAMBOO, and for balance, 40% MERINO WOOL. The drape will have some resilience, the silk and bamboo shine and feel amazing around my neck. (When I release “A STUDY IN FAROESE” you’ll see the opposite process. It’s a Faroese-style shawl, which behaves best with lofty, light yarns, so that it’s weightless and clingy, staying put because of the architecture and the fiber itself. It’s a late-summer garment, so the pattern will be ready this summer….)
HERE’S A SNAP OF THE MIRASOL NUNA I USED IN MY PASHMINEH:
SILK, BAMBOO, AND MERINO WOOL, MIRASOL NUNA
It’s the yarn on the left. On the right are several sock yarns I was using for comparison. See the sheen? Silk and bamboo both have long, smooth fibers that reflect light rather than absorb it like a really sproingy Merino. I’m happy to announce the latest additon to my Sherlock Collection!
A STUDY IN PINK: PASHMINEH, a Pashmina to Knit
A versatile accessory inspired by the original garment, with sophistication and simplicity, and PINK (Sherlock! Season 1, victim of the murder, but so very well-dressed! Even a pink iPhone!)
You’ll get details over the next week or two; I’m moving this one to the front of the line for publication because of our crazy early spring! This will be season-spanning, so no worries about summer knitting here.
Then I’ll make sure to publish the PDF of “Infinity With a Half-Twist”, an ascot for your guy, and I guarantee that he will wear it like any Victorian gentleman! Tell him about Moriarty, the evil math genius, and the Mobius principle. It’s mind-bogglingly cool; while you have him temporarily awed, slip it over his head! My previous posts have all you need. I’ll try to have it triple-tested by the end of April, so that you can knock out a few as gifts for this fall and winter.
After that, I’ll publish another season-spanning small shawl/shawlette, my REICHENBACH TEXAS SHAWLETTE. It’s made of sock yarn in two weights, but the same colorway, and features a waterfall of beads down the center spine. Simpler than it looks!
REICHENBACH TEXAS SHAWLETTE, eve starr's Sherlock Collection
I’m determined to release patterns with lots of support, as few mistakes as humanly possible, with several test versions to weed out potential problems. This collection currently has over a dozen designs in post-production, and my goal is to publish for download at least six this year.