Shawl Weaving & Embroidery of Jammu & Kashmir

The Kashmiri shawl is the most cherished acquisition of a lady and is believed to be indigenous to Kashmir. By way of technique, it can be categorised into two main types --- the loom-woven kani shawl and the needle embroidered sozini shawl. These shawls are much in demand during winter owing to their warmth, colour(s), texture(s), design(s) and softness. Kashmiri artisans depict the natural bounty of the valley on the shawl through embroidered floral motifs. The raw materials mainly used are raffal and pashmina fabrics.

The kani shawl is a length of intricately woven material used as a wrap around the body. It is widely known as a jamawar. Kings and courtiers are supposed to have bought this by the yard (war) and wore it as a gown or robe (jama ). Such a shawl is in a class by itself, and possesses an extremely fine texture. Kani is the little wooden stick used as a spoon to weave this wonder, known colloquially as a kani shawl. Sometimes as many as 50 kanis are used with different coloured threads for single weft reflecting the intricacy of design. The fine texture and the complex designs mean that artisans can seldom weave more than an inch a day. Kanihama, a village in the western part of Kashmir, has a monopoly over the weave and the trade in kani shawls.

The pashmina is made from the wool obtained from the pashmina goat, known locally as Lena Rama, and found mostly found in the Changthang area of Ladakh. Pashmina wool is available in a colours like white, brown, gray, and black. The average height of a pashmina goat ranges from 18-224 inches and it yields 250- 300 grams of pashmina per season, comprising 60 per cent fibre and 40 per cent hair. Pashminas are famous for their lustre, texture, softness, and warmth. The colours are richly blended in beautiful varied patterns.

Shahtoosh wool is obtained from Tibetan antelopes found in Tibet and Ladakh. The animal also called chiru measures 4 feet in length and 31 inches on the shoulders, and weighs between 41 and 45 kg. The shastoosh is fine enough to pass through a finger ring and is thus also known as the ring shawl. Presently the production of shahtoosh shawls has been banned by the Central Government owing to the needs of wildlife protection.