Kashmir shawls are praised for their delicate texture, quality wool, and excellent weaving and stitching. Antique shawls were luxury items frequently worn by royalty or aristocrats and passed down to the generations. Kashmir shawls were also sold to England and France in the nineteenth century, with Napoleon Bonaparte reportedly gifting Kashmir shawls to both of his wives.
"Of all Indian textiles, none exceeds in beauty, color, texture, and design as the famed Kashmir Shawl," according to a statement on Kashmir Shawls.
Below some important points are discussed which will throw light on the Kashmiri shawl being famous and unique worldwide:
1. Fabric used for making Kashmiri shawls
Kashmiri shawls are made from three types of fabric that are native to Kashmir. These fabrics are soft, light, and more luxurious than any other fabric in the world.
Pashmina, also known as cashmere wool, comes from a particular goat (Capra hircus) raised by shepherd nomads near the famed Pongkong Lake in western Tibet at a height of 12000 to 14000 feet. The Kashmiri Pashmina shawl is one of the state's most popular purchasing goods. The shawls are exceptionally soft and have wonderful stitching. Sozni, papier-mache, and Aari are the most common types of needlework used on Pashmina shawls. Abstract designs or stylized paisleys and flowers are used as motifs in Sozni, which is needlework in a panel on the sides of the shawl. Papier-mache and needlework are applied in broad panels on either side of a shawl's width or all over the shawl's surface. Flowers and leaves are outlined in black as motifs. Aari is a type of hook embroidery that uses flower designs as motifs.
Shah Tush (King of Wool) comes from the hair of the Tibetan antelope (Pantholops Hodgson). It can be found at altitudes of over 5,000 meters on the Tibetan plateau and in the eastern section of Ladakh. Shahtoosh shawls are ultra-light, ultra-soft, and ultra-warm. Because of the rarity of the raw material, these shawls are quite expensive. Shawls can be fashioned entirely with shahtoosh yarn or blended with pashmina. There are various features in pure shahtoosh shawls as well. Shahtoosh shawls are infrequently colored and contain a minimal amount of needlework.
Raffal is a popular form of shawl made from Marino wool tops. Beautiful embroidery work may be found on Raffal shawls. The cost of woolen shawls is determined by the type of wool used and the quality of the needlework. Raffel, or Kashmiri wool, is 100 percent pure, and the needlework is distinctive to the valley.
2. Making of a Kashmiri Shawl
Two techniques are used to produce Kashmiri shawls: Kani and Loom woven. Just like the unique fiber weaving pattern of Kashmiri shawls is unique
The remarkable Kani pashmina shawl is the best pashmina that you can ever buy. Made from wooden needles on a traditional handloom, it has a distinguishable, Mughal pattern that is woven into the fabric. Every shawl has knots. These are made as per a set design and only the trained craftsmen are knowledgeable enough to do it the right way. For this reason, Kani shawl got registration under GI (Geographical Indication) by The Craft Development Institute.
Kani shawls are made in Kanihama, a small village 20 kilometers outside of Kashmir. Kani shawls were previously exclusively produced by Kanihama. Later, artisans from neighboring communities learned how to make Kani shawls. Kanihama is made up of two words: 'Kani,' which means wooden sticks, and 'Hama,' which means village. Kani weaving is done using little sticks of wood called 'Kanis.' The colorful weft thread is looped around Kanis to produce stunning designs on a shawl. Kanis is fashioned from a type of forest wood known as 'poos tul.’
When woven of pure Cashmere, these shawls appear more ethereal. While cashmere makes up 80 percent of Kani shawls, some designs also use silk and other fine wool for added strength and luster.
The most talented and diligent craftspeople are Kani artisans It's simply incredible how much focus these artisans devote to their laborious work. A weaver can only weave one inch each day at the most. However, it depends on how intricate and wavy the intended design is to be weaved. Some Kani shawls take between three and thirty-six months to make.
Process of making Kani shawl
The Kani shawl is weaved like a carpet. Wefts must be inserted into a warp thread veil in front of the weaver. These wefts are bobbins filled with vibrant threads. A Kani shawl with an overall pattern is woven using around 75 to 100 bobbins at once.
The design phase is the most difficult part of the process. On a graph paper, however, is a code called "Talim," as opposed to other shawls where the design is embossed or stamped directly onto the fabric.
The Talimguru creates the programmed pattern. He is a master at translating designs into codes that weavers can understand
Next wrap maker makes wrap and a number of colorful bobbins are arranged as per the design requirement. Weaving starts with the help of Talim. As soon as a different color is required in the design, two bobbins are joined together and the process is continued till the shawl is complete
It is difficult to make a vintage Pashmina shawl. Years are needed to complete the procedure, in addition to the artisan's labor and the customer's endurance. Cleaning the Pashm, which was obtained from the goat, is the first step in the procedure. The second step is spinning, which turns unprocessed Pashm wool into fine, long yarn. To create Pashmina shawls, the third step is weaving o yarn.
The process begins with the SPINNING of the fleece into the finest yarn, as has been done for centuries in Srinagar, the city of Kashmir.
Before the PASHMINA strings are placed into a hand loom for weaving, the gluing process is one of the crucial steps. Strings cannot be strong enough for weaving without glue. The natural adhesive, which is removed after the shawl is finished yet contains no chemicals, is used.
The strings are shaped with metallic sticks in the following step, after which they are stretched out to the required size.
Finally, after all of these steps, weaving occurs in this step, and each craftsman is skilled in producing a variety of designs, sizes, and colors.
One to six shawls can be made simultaneously and then separated because weaving just one shawl takes up to ten days.
Shawls cannot be wider than 150 cm or longer than 10 meters since the maximum width of the regular HAND LOOM is limited to 150 cm.
A Pashmina shawl's construction resembles that of a carpet in appearance. Similar to how warp threads are arranged vertically in front of a weaver working on a wooden handloom. The fabric is created when the weft threads are inserted into the warp threads and the shuttle is moved gradually. Three different weaves are produced by the way the weft and warp threads cross. Here's a brief explanation of those:
When the shawl is solid, without prints or patterns, the weaves are always evident. Solid shawls make it simple to see weaving patterns.
The twill weave used in Pashmina shawls has the simplest pattern, yet is incredibly lovely and appealing. This can be identified by the diagonal ribs that run parallel to one another. Given that this is the most fundamental and widely used pattern, Kashmiri weavers refer to twill weave as a plain weave.
The diamond weave is a very sophisticated and attractive pattern. The diamond pattern is thought to reflect light in an enticing way, making it particularly charming for spectators. woven Diamond-shaped weaves can be found in pashmina shawls. The diamond weave pattern is known as Chashm e Bulbul (eye of the nightingale) in Kashmir because the diamonds actually resemble a bird's eyes. Only the most skilled artisans are able to create diamond weave shawls, which are thought to be the most intricate.
Warps and wefts in a basket weave are arranged to create a simple and elegant criss-cross pattern. Weft threads simply cross over the first warp thread before moving on to the next, next, and so on.
3. Embroidery on Kashmiri Shawl
A distinctive kind of art that honors the beauty of the paradise state is Kashmiri embroidery, also known as Kashida embroidery. One of the most elegant and attractive types of embroidery is the fine needlework and thread work that uses a single, lengthy stitch to create the design. The stunningly detailed handcrafted Kashida needlework, which needed an eagle eye and immense patience, was only accomplished by a select few skilled artists and craftsmen.
The most intriguing aspect of this stitching is how it may create elaborate, one-of-a-kind motifs with just two or three stitches. It comes in a variety of styles, including the stem stitch, herringbone stitch, chain stitch, satin stitch, and slanted darn stitch. The fabric basis that is typically used is either silk, wool, or cotton, although wool is preferred because it is more prevalent in this area. Kashmir exports a significant amount of pashmina, the world's finest, lightest, and most expensive wool. Because Pashmina uses the unique Kashida embroidery technique, it is among the most sought-after goods in this area.
The popular designs in Kashmiri embroidery, such as maple leaves, twigs, branches, trees, lotus blossoms, etc., are inspired by nature. For example, Kashir Jaal, a delicate network of needlework typically woven on the neckline of clothes, and Jaama, a heavily embroidered design entwining trees, branches, and flowers, are two different characteristic types of Kashmiri handmade embroidery. Jaal is a beautiful, delicate network of tree and vine motifs. Other well-known Kashmiri designs that are embroidered and well-liked by people throughout are Sozni, Papier Mache, Shaldaar, and others.
certainly, Kashmiri shawls are among the items of clothing with this kind of precise and artistic stitching that are most frequently seen. Shawls have grown in popularity worldwide and are now the essential ethnic winter item as a result of the lengthy cold weather.
Depending on the primary fabric, many hand embroidery techniques are applied to Kashmiri shawls. Pashmina shawls are delicate so lighter types of embroidery are used on them. Thicker varieties of Kashmiri embroidery can be seen on more substantial bases, such as those found on merino wool shawls. Let's examine the many needlework styles used in Kashmir.
Pashmina is handwoven, so it is thin and delicate enough to tear easily. Sozni Kari embroidery is therefore the finest choice for these lovely pieces. A Naqash uses block prints to create the outline of the design, which is typically a traditional design after the shawl is weaved.
Although silk is occasionally used, cotton threads are typically utilized in Sozni. The gossamer base is embellished with designs using fine needles. The quantity of needlework that needs to be done over the shawl will determine when it is finished. Compared to Tuki Jama, jaali shawls are lighter. Tuki Jama has more embroidery motifs. Even years are required to prepare a Tuki Jama shawl.
Paper Mache Embroidery
A more daring variation of Sozni in the embroidery style is known as Papier Mache or Paper Mache embroidery. It consists of stunning patterns that are stitched in the satin thread in vibrant hues. Black lines around patterns create the appearance of protrusion. For a more pleasing visual effect, paper mache uses a thicker needle and thread.
Tilla embroidery is a type of embroidery that makes shawls relatively costly. Tilla Dozi uses a needle to precisely tie metallic threads that have been coated in gold and silver to the fabric in order to create stunning patterns. Like other hand needlework, this one requires a great deal of patience and talent.
Due to the delicate nature of the base, less tilla is done on the pashmina. It can be done liberally on Raffal shawls made of sheep wool.
Kalamkari is not embroidery as such. Kalam Kari is hand-painted motifs over shawls. Kalamkari is made from the terms "kalam," which means "pen," and "Kari," which means "labor." Kalamkari, then, refers to writing. Bamboo is used to make the pens used in kalamkari. Natural dyes are utilized for the colors. Painting over shawls is a fairly challenging art form that can take up to 20 steps to complete. The end effect is breathtakingly gorgeous and richly detailed.
On Raffal shawls or sheep wool shawls, aari embroidery is done. Fine Pashmina shawls cant withstand thick woolen threads used in aari work.
Instead of using a needle, aari embroidery employs a specific crooked head hook called an "aari". Using a hook saves time since it draws the thread through multiple loops. The needle, on the other hand, repeats the action one by one. Modern Aari job is done by machines