fine bits of mountain goat furs into delicate wraps that surpass all other
varieties of shawls and luxury fashion wear, the people of Kashmir weave
Pashmina. The process and technique of making these indulgent pieces of
traditional Indian wear are tedious and elaborate and require almost superhuman
levels of patience. Lucky for us, the Kaarigars- Kashmiri craftsmen have
mastered this craft along with the art of patience while dwelling in the
valley, where Mother Nature herself trains them to be persistent.
worn by the people of Kashmir are usually “homespun”- made by men and women
after collecting wool from the goats, at home. For the high quality,
artistically embellished shawls that are appreciated by the refined
international and national collectors of Indian luxury items, the production
happens in the workshop or “Karkhana” of the master weaver, known as “Ustaad”.
The value of the finished Pashmina is assessed by the time that went into the
process, the labor dedicated to the different steps of production, and the
intricacy of weaving and embroidery.
In Search For The Magic
Ingredient: Collecting Raw Wool
most important part of a Pashmina
shawl, the fiber that brings to the woven textile its world-famed
seamless silken feel, is collected from the skin of a domestic goat known as
Capra hircus, Changthangi, or Changpa. This fiber is known as Pashm, more
commonly as Cashmere, and grows naturally beneath the upper layer of the goat’s
furs. Besides Pashm, another more delicate fiber is derived from two wild
animals- the ibex and the chiru, who are found abundantly in the valley of
Kashmir. This is called “tus”, availing which is a challenging task for the
Magic Of A Woman’s Touch :
Processing The Raw Pashm
the hardworking collectors have the prized raw material, the coarse tuft needs
to be converted into soft yarns. Womenfolk in the Kashmiri household take time
from doing their everyday chores and masterfully complete this seemingly
artless task. Unprocessed Pashm yarn contains natural oil, which is removed
from the fiber by mixing it with rice flour. Each strand of Pashm is separated
and placed on a wooden comb, thus removing any dirt or fine impurity from it.
The strands are then spun into yarns, doubled, and twisted to give the gentle
threads some resistance. During this process, the weavers have to take special
care that they do not break too many tufts and yarns, a task which is extremely
difficult owing to the fragility of the material.
yarns are spun on spinning wheels or “yender”, done by women in the warmth of
their homes. To process 50 grams of Pashmina, around 20-25 hours are devoted by
the women which means that this procedure, much like any
other step that undergoes in making a Pashmina shawl, is doable only for those
who possess an abundance of skill and perseverance.
Colors from the Valley : Dying the
the yarns are obtained, natural colors are used by the makers to add seamless
vibrancy to the Pashmina threads. Adding color to the yarns allows the weavers
to have multiple colors on the same threads, which creates gorgeous patterns on
the finished products. For some Pashminas, the weavers approach dying once the shawls has
been woven, and dye the entire piece in one lovely shade.
Connecting the Threads : Weaving
weaving of Pashmina takes place in looms placed inside the house of the
weavers. Sitting on a bench attached to the loom, a male weaver operates the
loom with his feet. The weft yarn (horizontally placed) for the weave is put
inside a hollow cylinder, from which it slowly loosens without getting tangled.
Motifs Used In Pashmina
elaborate patterns on the body of Pashmina shawls are inspired by the
blossoming beauty of Kashmir valley- its colorful flowers, birds, animals, and
medieval art and architecture. Mughal motifs such as floral vines and paintings
of rare and exquisite plants and birds are found in plenty on the Kashmiri
shawls. Five petalled flowers or “Punjdar”, a bunch of flowers, “Poshkar”, an almond
motif or “Badamgar”, the flower of pomegranate or “gul-e-anar” are some of the
floral patterns used by Pashmina craftsmen. Shawls with embroidery visible only
on one side, are called “ekrukha”, and more intricately designed shawls on
which embroidery appears on both sides are known as “dorukha”.
on the technique of embroidery, Pashmina shawls are categorized into-
Kani shawls, in which the thread for
creating patterns is woven into the yarns of Pashmina.
Sozani or Sozni Shawl, where the
sozankar (artist) stitches patch or herringbone patterns using fine silk
threads on the body of the woolen shawls.
Ari or Aari Shawls, which use a
specific technique of chain stitch introduced by Akbar. A curved needle or ari
is used in creating vibrant motifs on the shawls in this method.
entire process of creating a single Pashmina shawl can take from a month to an
entire year, or even more, depending upon the intricacy of the technique. The
wool that is used for Pashmina is produced only once a year, which means the
Kashmiri craftsmen and women have to be completely in sync with the clock of
Nature. The people of Kashmir engaged in the meticulous craft of weaving
Pashminas use the woolen canvas of these shawls to display their love for their
region and it is because of the tireless labor of these artists that the beauty
of Pashmina continues to charm admirers in the modern world.
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