Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Answers to Questions about Pashmina, Sunrise Pashmina, and other pertinent topics
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What is pashmina? Is it the same as cashmere and shahtoosh?
Short answer: pashmina is cashmere. Shahtoosh is different.
Pashmina is a term applied to the wool, and products made from the wool, derived from the undercoat of the Capra hircus goat, a domestic breed raised primarily at high elevations in Central Asia, particularly Mongolia. For years it has been used by weavers in Kashmir (hence "cashmere"), a disputed area between Pakistan and India. Due to the ongoing war there, China has been able to dominate pashmina production in the last decade.
Shahtoosh, on the other hand, is a fiber derived from the undercoat of an endangered Tibetan antelope, the chiru, and is illegal in most Western countries. It is, unbelievably enough, much more expensive that pashmina. For more information on this subject, see the articles available on our Links page.
Are Sunrise products really as good as the stuff they're selling at the ritzy department stores???
In a word: Yes.
Do not be misled by fancy designer labels! Most pashmina textiles are woven by local craftsmen in Nepal; the big names are just sewn on later.
Actually, some of the shawls sold by the biggest importers are machine-made: that's the only way they can assure themselves of a reliable supply, not to mention lower cost. However, there is a difference! Hand-woven cloths are tighter (therefore denser and warmer). To spot a machine-made wrap, look at the fringe base: machines make an unnaturally straight edge. Sunrise Pashmina sells only textiles handcrafted by experienced weavers.
I see references to "100% pashmina," as well as "70/30" and "50/50" silk blends. What's that all about? And what's a "ring shawl"?
The best-selling pashminas -- sometimes advertised as "pure" -- are really mixes of 70% wool (the crosswise "woof" thread) and 30% silk (the lengthwise "warp" thread). Some marketers hope to gain a competitive advantage by claiming 75%-25% or 80%-20%; generally, the difference is that they use a slightly lighter silk thread for the warf.
100% pashmina is palpably lighter and warmer than silk blends -- some people describe it as "buttery." What people refer to as a "ring shawl" is a full-size 100% wrap, which is fine enough to pass through a relatively small ring. In fact, a 70/30 will perform the same trick. Note that 100% pashmina shawls are not as hardy as the 70%-30% mix, and they lack the sheen and the elegant drape of the silk, which some people prefer.
I've seen some pashminas that are a little cheaper than yours. What gives?
There are lots of ways of making cheaper "pashminas." We don't cut corners. And, because of our ideological baggage, we pay a little more for our weaving. We do offer certain discounts: see Update page for details.
I've seen some pashminas that are a LOT cheaper than yours. What gives?
Some of the shawls and scarves being marketed as pashmina are not the real stuff. Even in Nepal, shawls and scarves in the pashmina style have been made for years; the cheaper products are made from acrylics, or from sheep wool and cotton. Medium cheap products are generally made from yarn that has been adulterated with varying proportions of sheep wool, often treated to remove the microscopic scales and make it more difficult to distinguish from goat wool.
The Persian word pashm, from which pashmina and other related words seem to derive, was used for any woven fabric or yarn. The word pashmina only gained international currency rather lately, with reference to shawls being woven in Nepal from the same kind of wool known elsewhere as cashmere or Kashmir. Sadly (for Nepali exporters), the word pashmina has re-acquired a rather broad generic meaning. In fact, the "pashmina shawls" that are most popular in the West today (and among our own customers!) are woven from a blend of pashmina goat wool and silk.
What other factors contribute to quality in pashmina shawls?
The main factors, of course, are the specific fabric (pure pashmina, or silk/pashmina mix), and the style of looming ("hand" or "machine"). An increasingly important factor is the yarn itself. Four or five grades of pashmina wool are now available, and the difference between the top grade and the next best can account for a 25-35% difference in cost. The variation in pashmina wools has to do with the length, fineness, strength, and softness of the fibers; inferior grades are impure and/or poorly sorted, including an unacceptable proportion of rough guard hairs (as distinct from the downy undercoat), overly short fibers, and other impurities. A relatively minor cost factor is the dye. Many pashminas are colored with dyes produced in India; these chemicals are cheaper and less permanent than the Swiss dyes that we use.
My neighbor Harriet got a really fluffy pashmina in Nepal. How come I don't see pictures of shawls like hers?
Many first-time pashmina buyers (including quite a few tourists who see them being hawked in Asan Tole bazaar in Kathmandu) are attracted by the fuzzy look and feel of brushed wraps. Brushing, however, weakens the cloth, induces shedding, and turns your wrap into a dust mop for lint. True connoisseurs eschew both full-brushed and semi-brushed pashminas. If you really want one, just lend your shawl to your cat for an afternoon.
What's with the dimensions of the "full-size" shawls? I keep seeing different figures. What's up with that?
Conventionally, the full-size is supposed to measure 90 X 200 centimeters (cm), or 35.4 inches x 78.7 inches ("); some weavers go for 90 x 210cm, or 35.4 x 82.7". The natural undyed pashminas ("cream" or "champagne") may correspond to these values, but the cloth shrinks in length by about 4% (roughly 3") during the dying process. These days there has been some attempt to compensate for the shrinkage by increasing the measurements. At the same time, it is very hard to arrive at an objective measurement of such an elastic cloth. Remember that these are supposed to be hand-woven, with some variability in weaving style, loom tension, and so on: naturally there is inconsistency in the precise measurements. Some sellers prefer to advertise the maximum dimensions; others feel safer advertising minimum measurements. We state dimensions that are nearer the minimum -- generally the true measurements are a bit longer. But really, this is a silly question to get all wrapped up in, isn't it? The full-size pieces are HUGE -- who cares about a couple of inches one way or the other?
I read somewhere on your page that you guys are "fast"... that delivery is five days or something like that. Is that for real?
Okay, here's the thing... and we're not trying to weasel out of our claim... but you have to understand that we're shipping from Kathmandu. Except for selections from our new Pret-a-Porter collection (which ships from Ithaca, NY, USA) everything is made to order. For standard orders, that doesn't slow things down much: dying only takes a day ... normally. Embroidery and beading add at least a couple of days. If there is a big rush (before Christmas, Valentines, or Mother's Day, for instance), there can be a backlog of up to a week. Other pertinent factors include weekends (keep in mind that an order placed in the States on Thursday may not be processed for three days, since it is already Friday in Nepal); holidays (given our workforce, and the Nepali work ethic, there are MANY that can throw us off schedule); and, although the dust has pretty much settled since the Maoists kicked out His Majesty's Government, political instability remains a recurrent hazard.
On the other hand, we do ship by DHL, which we have found to be the fastest and most reliable international shipping service.
So... five days is possible (sometimes even three), but a week is average, and two weeks -- or more! -- is in the realm of possibility. Generally speaking, the more desperate you are to receive an order in five days, the more likely it is to take ten. Please do not place an order if you absolutely must have it in seven days or less: you know how the gods love to mess up our best-laid plans.
Do I have to buy a shawl with those frou-frou fringes? I'm afraid they'll get caught in the spokes of my boyfriend's motorcycle!
These days some shawls are being made without the traditional 3" knotted fringes. Ours have them. We can also make shorties -- about 1" long. If you don't like fringes, you can cut them off. Or tell us, and we'll do it for you.
My boyfriend says to get a "two-ply" shawl. I kind of like the "single-ply." What do you think?
To begin with, the term ply refers to a distinct thread that may or may not be twisted together with one or more similar threads to form a thicker thread. Single-ply is a fabric made with elemental threads ; double-ply or two-ply fabrics are made with double-twisted threads (at least in the weft, but presumably sometimes also in the warp).
To be clear, very very few (and perhaps none) of the current shawl producers in Kathmandu are using true double-ply yarn. In fact, multiple-ply yarn is now used almost exclusively for knitted goods.
[Okay, this is embarrassing!] We who manage Internet distribution for Sunrise Pashmina have been unaware, until recently, that shawl producers in Nepal have been using an adjustment of paddles in the loom to control fabric density rather than actual double-ply yarn. What we have been marketing as double-ply shawls are actually four-paddled shawls -- as opposed to two-paddled. By default, we sell four-paddled 70/30 and 50/50 shawls and mufflers, and two-paddled 100% pashmina shawls. A few clients have requested single-ply 70/30 or 50/50 shawls and we supplied them with two-paddle single-ply shawls. Even fewer have requested double-ply 100% pashmina shawls, and they got four-paddle single-ply shawls. As we have always had an iron-clad guarantee and never had a return for reasons related to fabric density, we must conclude that they got what they were looking for. (Anyone who feels she has been defrauded is welcome to request a refund.) In any case, the terminological confusion is apparently industry wide.
In view of the above, Sunrise no longer offers ply options. All of our pashmina-silk blend shawls and mufflers, as well as the baby blankets, are four-paddle. All of our 100% pashmina shawls are two-paddle.
One further remark: in pashmina shawls, more is not better. If it were, you guys would be wearing bed-spreads or horse-blankets, rather than shawls. The modern pashmina shawl has evolved to meet women's need for a warm AND light wrap. The paddle-adjusted shawl may be a shade less dense than a double-ply, but it has undoubtedly achieved its international success due to the fact that it so successfully achieves the desired balance of warmth and weight.
How can I clean a pashmina?
Please see our How to Wash Pashmina page.
What's with the #?$#@!! discounts?@#!??!#@&? I can't get the #!!@($*@! shopping cart to give me right prices!!
Annoying, isn't it? Our shopping cart simply isn't sophisticated enough to compute all the discounts, specials, customization options, etc. etc. etc. There are two solutions: you can use the "ordering instructions" textbox in the shopping cart to specify exactly what you want (and to remind us of applicable discounts); or you can send us a separate email. In any case, the shopping cart does not have the final say as to the price you are charged: everything has to be computed manually. We send you an order confirmation, so that you can check the details and prices and send us any necessary corrections. Finally, when the dust settles, we process your payment.
It's a clunky system, but if you have the patience, it does work.
Can I order a color that isn't on the order menus?
Yes. Just write it in -- or email us. If you know the standard name, or find it on one of the color charts linked to our site, we can get it. If it's not in stock, it will take one or two days longer to ship it out.
Uhh... is your shopping cart "secure"?
Yes. You can tell that the site is secure when you go to the order form where credit card information is taken: a little image of a lock appears in the lower-right hand corner of a browser, which indicates that secure socket layering is being used at that time.
Holy Moly! My anniversary is tomorrow!!! Any suggestions?
Bad bad dog! Lucky for you, we have a solution that just may get you off the hook. You can let your giftee know that you tried your best, and that the best of all possible presents is... on the way. We will email the evidence with a printable Certificate of Belated Delivery.
Do you guys do Gift Certificates?
Yes! Funny you should ask... Here's a letter we just received:
I just received my pashmina, and I am absolutely thrilled with the quality and beauty of the craftsmenship. The pashmina will be a Christmas gift for my mother, and I had to guess at the color she is looking for. If it is not the shade of green that she desires, is it possible to exchange it for a shade of her choice? She may love the color, but if she does not I would appreciate directions on how to exchange it.
Thank you again for your professional and prompt service. It has been a pleasure to order through your company.
Okay, what's wrong with this picture? Sure, we'll exchange the shawl if Mom wants... but we will lose enough on this transaction to obliterate the profit on three sales. Yikes!
Solution? A scrumptious Gift Certificate! Same deal as the CBD (above): we'll email you the printable document file free. No charge. Your gift is on time, and Mom (or whoever) chooses exactly the pash she's dreamed of. And... get this... it doesn't have to be for Christmas: you can buy a Gift Certificate now for delivery anytime 2008 ... and lock in current specials... or any pertinent discounts that happen to pop up between now and the time of delivery. The perfect win-win scenario!
Your stuff is GREAT! In fact, I think I'd like to go into competition with you and sell it myself. What's the story on wholesale?
No problem! Just see our Wholesale page. Good luck!
So what's the small print on your guarantee?
Okay, here's the thing: We know our products are tops, and we want you to be happy. Ordering over the Internet is always a bit dicey, so we try to assume most of the risk for ourselves. If you aren't happy with your piece, we will exchange it or refund the purchase price (including shipping costs from us to you, but not return shipping costs). No re-stocking fees. No quibbles. No whining.
However, we are basically guaranteeing the wrap itself, not the other imponderables that may influence your happiness in connection with it. Here are some examples of what our guarantee doesn't cover:
I bought the ultra-chic hot pink ring shawl and still can't get a date for the Sadie Hawkins dance. Should I have bought handcuffs instead?
Blast! I dragged my champagne extra brut shawl through the subway, and now look at it!
I got a black pashmina right after my mother died, but now my daughter wants to borrow it for her wedding, only she thinks we need eggshell or dove gray.
I gave it to my dry-cleaner, who NEVER screws up ANYTHING, and it came back all frazzled and knotsy.
I honestly can't deal with all the insipid compliments from strange guys, not to mention the anguished expressions and muttered imprecations from my girlfriends who already bought pashminas at twice the price.
My new boyfriend says my single-ply 100% pashmina shawl is girly-girl. He says to get rid of it and buy a Vanson leather motorcycle jacket.
Buying the pashmina was a selfish thing to do. Really, I should have bought the three-story Hamster Habitat for my son's hamster Habib the Horrible.
You get the point: the guarantee covers the possibility that the product might not be what you had it mind, or that it was somehow defective.
How long is the guarantee good for? Well, we'd like to say "for life," but we really do not want to hear about tangled fringes twenty years from now. Let's just say three months from date of receipt -- unless you can make a very good case why that period should not apply in your case.
And what am I supposed to do if I'm not "absolutely satisfied"?
First, contact us about the problem. You can return your purchase for refund or exchange. If you do want to return something, send it to us at
511 W. Green St.
Ithaca, NY 14850 USA
Even if your order was shipped from Kathmandu, please don't return it to Nepal. Carefully pack it up so it doesn't get wrinkled, and send it to us by first class mail. And insure it: if something happens and it gets lost or damaged en route to us, we can't cover that cost.
International returns should be sent as small-parcels without letters. Do not send it by courier or Express Mail. On the Customs slip, just write "Merchandise Sample" and for value please write "NCV" (no commercial value); otherwise we'll have to pay import duty on it again, and it may get hung up at a customs office somewhere.
Okay, tell the truth! You guys write all those ridiculous "fan letters," don't you?
Does "No" mean "No, we don't write them" or "No, we won't tell the truth"?
"No" means we don't write them. But we do write [most of] these questions.
Anything else? E-mail us: firstname.lastname@example.org
Internet distribution office:
511 W. Green St., Ithaca, NY 14850 USA
Call us at (607) 256-0102. Night or day.
If we can't answer immediately, we'll get back to you. Soon.
Or email us at email@example.com