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Handmade with love


THE PASHMINA SHAWL HAS TO PASS UP TO 36 STAGES TO REACH THE FINAL SHAPE WHERE IT BECOMES USEABLE. AS MANY AS 36 DIFFERENTLY SKILLED PROFESSIONALS ARE INVOLVED IN THE PROCESS OF MAKING A PASHMINA SHAWL.


COLLECTION OF RAW MATERIAL

THE FIRST STEP IN THE PROCESS CONSISTS IN COLLECTING THE RAW MATERIAL FROM HIGH ALTITUDE REGIONS OF THE HIMALAYA. AS SOON AS SUMMER SETS IN, THE TRIBAL PEOPLE OF KASHMIR & LADAKH, TIBET AND OTHER PARTS OF CHINA GO TO THE HIGHER REGIONS TO COLLECT THE RAW CASHMERE WOOL.

IT IS THEN PASSED ON TO THE TRADERS IN SRINAGAR/KASHMIR. WHILE A BIG QUANTITY OF THE RAW MATERIAL IS COLLECTED IN THE LADAKH REGION, THE BULK OF IT COMES FROM TIBET AND OTHER PARTS OF CHINA VIA THE MOUNTAIN PASSES.

THE TRADERS IN SRINAGAR SORT IT OUT ACCORDING TO GRADES AND SHADES BEFORE FIXING ITS PRICE STRAND-WISE.

CLEANING AND SPINNING

THE VERY BASIS OF THE TRADITIONAL PASHMINA HANDICRAFT IN KASHMIR IS HAND CLEANING AND HAND SPINNING.

WOMEN SPIN THE WOOL. THE PROCESS BEGINS WITH A SIFTING OF ROUGH HAIR FROM THE SOFT MATERIAL. THE SOFT RAW WOOL IS STRETCHED CAREFULLY, BIT BY BIT, TO COMPLETE THE PROCESS KNOWN AS "PUCH NAWUN". THE RAW MATERIAL IS THEN CLEANED OF DIRT AND DUST WITH THE HELP OF A WIDE COMB MOUNTED ON A FOOT WOODEN STAND.

WHEN THE RAW MATERIAL IS THOROUGHLY COMBED AND CLEANED, IT IS THEN SPRINKLED OVER WITH SOAKED RICE AND KEPT ASIDE FOR THREE TO FOUR DAYS. THIS PROCESS MAKES THE RAW CASHMERE WOOL WHITER AND SOFTER. THAT IS HOW IN ANCIENT TIMES THEY TREATED THE RAW MATERIAL AND THE PRACTICE IS STILL IN USE.

NOW IT IS TIME TO COMB THE WOOL AGAIN MORE VIGOROUSLY TO ENSURE THAT IT IS PERFECTLY CLEAN, SHEDDING EVERY BIT OF THE RICE POWDER IN THE PROCESS. THE MATERIAL IS NOW READY FOR SPINNING.

DURING THE HAND-SPINNING THE DELICATE YARN GETS CUT A NUMBER OF TIMES BUT THE LADY AT THE WHEEL RESTORES IT UNTIL THE SOFT, DELICATE YARN IS COMPLETED.

NORMALLY, A SPINNER CAN SPIN TEN TO FIFTEEN GRAMS OF PASHMINA IN A DAY.

THE YARN

THE YARN IS MOUNTED ON A PIECE OF STRAW CALLED A "PHAMB LEEAT". THREE OR FOUR OF SUCH MOUNTED STRAWS ARE KEPT IN A BOWL MARKING THE BEGINNING OF THE SECOND PHASE WHEN IT IS TURNED AND TWISTED ON THE WHEEL TO MAKE IT FIRM YET FINE. SO SPUN, THE YARN IS THEN MOUNTED ON A WOODEN SPOOL KNOWN A "PRECHH" WHEREFROM IT IS TRANSFERRED ON ITS EDGES. LOCALLY IT IS KNOWN AS "YAERAN DOUL". THE YARN IS CALLED "PUN" (THREAD).

PREPARATION FOR THE WEAVE

NOW ANOTHER PHASE OF THE PRODUCTION PROCESS BEGINS.

THE YARN IS PUT IN A HOME-MADE STARCH WHICH CONSISTS MAINLY BOILED RICE-WATER KNOWN AS "MAYA". IT STAYS LIKE THAT FOR A COUPLE OF DAYS IN A COPPER BOWL BEFORE IT IS SPREAD OUT IN SUNSHINE TO DRY. THE DRIED YARN IS THEN UNTIED AND MOUNTED ON A WOODEN SPOOL. THE PROCESS IS GENERALLY COMPLETED IN OPEN SPACES.

FOUR TO SIX IRON RODS ABOUT 4 FEET IN LENGTH ARE DRIVEN INTO THE GROUND. THIS IS THE BEGINNING OF THE PROCESS KNOWN AS "YERUN" WHICH IS COMPLETED BY TRANSFERRING THE YARN FROM THE WOODEN SPOOL WITH THE HELP OF SMOOTH STICKS. THIS IS HOW THE WRAP IS MADE READY FOR USE. ABOUT 1200 THREADS ARE ARRANGED IN A WAY WHICH SUFFICES FOR MAKING FOUR TO SIX SHAWLS. THE WRAP IS BRUSHED AND ITS BROKEN THREADS REJOINED BEFORE IT IS MOUNTED ON THE IRON RODS.

FIXING OF THREADS IN SAAZ

THE YARN IS THEN TAKEN TO ANOTHER EXPERT WHICH TAKES APPROXIMATELY A WEEK TO FIX EACH THREAD OF THE WARP IN THE “SAAZ”. THEREAFTER THE SAAZ IS TAKEN TO THE WEAVERS HOME WHERE HE MOUNTS IT ON THE LOOM WITH THE HELP OF OTHER ARTISANS.

THE LOOM IS A TINY FRAME MADE OF OLD UNPOLISHED WOOD WITH FOUR TO EIGHT SLINGS BELOW THE WEAVERS FEET. THE WEFT IS MADE INTO CONES MOUNTED ON THE STRAWS BY USING THE ANCIENT PRACTICES OF TRANSFERRING THE YARN FROM THE WOODEN SPOOL TO THE SPINNING WHEEL. THE CONE OF THE YARN IS KNOWN AS "MOAKH".

WEAVING

NOW STARTS THE WEAVERS JOB. WORKING ON THE LOOM KEEPS BOTH HIS HAND AND FEET BUSY. A COMPETENT WEAVER CAN WEAVE THREE TO FOUR INCH OF CLOTH IN A DAY OF 8 HOURS. PHYSICAL FITNESS AND MENTAL ALERTNESS ARE THE ESSENTIAL ATTRIBUTES OF A GOOD WEAVER.

IN THE PROCESS OF WEAVING, THE SHUTTLE IS CAREFULLY THROWN FROM LEFT TO RIGHT. DUE TO THE DELICACY OF THE THREAD IT OFTEN SNAPS AND HAS TO BE FIXED WITH EXTRA THREADS THAT HANG ABOUT IN THE FRONT OF THE LOOM. THE WOVEN CLOTH IS CALLED “THAN”.

AFTER DISMOUNTING FROM THE LOOM, THE FABRIC IS IMMEDIATELY WASHED IN HERBAL SOAP. AFTER THIS THE CLOTH IS PASSED OVER TO THE PERSON CALLED "PURZHHAR" FOR CLIPPING. THIS IS A RATHER DELICATE JOB. THE UNEVEN AND LOOSE THREADS ARE REMOVED CAREFULLY. THEN THE CLOTH IS BRUSHED BY A SPECIAL NATURAL BRUSH OBTAINED FROM A MAIZE PLANT CALLED “KASHER” OR COB.

WASHING

NOW THE CLOTH GOES FOR THE FINAL WASHING. THE PROFESSIONAL WASHERMAN CALLED "DHOBI" WASHES THE CLOTH IN RUNNING WATER WITH NATURAL SOAP. THE WASHED CLOTH GOES FOR FINAL FINISH CALLED "CHARAK" WHICH IS A WOODEN FRAME ABOUT 2 X 4 FEET. THE CLOTH IS ROLLED ON THE FRAME KEPT FOR FEW DAYS AND FINALLY IRONED.

DYEING

THE PASHMINA SHAWL IS MANUFACTURED IN DIFFERENT VERITIES, SUCH AS PLAIN, DOUBLE COLOUR, STRIPES ETC. TO MAKE THE COLOURS, THE THREAD IS DYED FIRST AND THEN WOVEN. WHILE THE PLAIN CLOTH CAN ALSO BE DYED LATER.

EMBROIDERY

THE EMBROIDERY ON THE PASHMINA IS AN ART ON ITS OWN. USUALLY SENIOR CRAFTSMAN PAST THE AGE OF FORTY ARE ENGAGED AFTER BEING SCREENED AND TESTED FOR THE PURPOSE. WORKERS WITH GOOD HAND WRITING ARE PREFERRED. THE SHAWL IS TAKEN TO A SPECIAL DRAWING MASTER FOR DESIGNS. HE IS CALLED “NAQASH”. AFTER THE DESIGNS ARE SKETCHED ON THE FABRIC, THE FABRIC GOES TO THE MASTER CRAFTSMAN, WHO CREATES THE COLOUR SCHEMES WHILE SEVERAL MORE CRAFTSMAN APPROVE THE SAME. THE TIME TAKEN BY A SINGLE SHAWL TO GET EMBROIDERED RANGES FROM 1 TO 5 YEARS DEPENDING UPON THE DENSITY OF EMBROIDERY DEMANDED BY THE DESIGN.

DURING THE PROCESS, A CRAFTSMAN'S FINGERS GET SWOLLEN IF HE WORKS CONTINUOUSLY FOR A LONG TIME. HE HAS TO WORK ON DIFFERENT MATERIALS FOR A CHANGE TO AVOID FINGERS FROM GETTING DAMAGED.

SILK THREAD IS USED FOR EMBROIDERY. THE CRAFTSMAN HAS TO TWIST THE RAW/SILK AS PER THE REQUIREMENT AND SIZE OF NEEDLE HOLE. INTERESTINGLY THE THREAD IS PUT IN THE NEEDLE BY TWISTING IT WITH THE LEFTOVER THREAD TO AVOID THE KNOTS ON EITHER SIDE OF FABRIC. THE EMBROIDERY WORKER IS LEAST PAID IN THE SHAWL INDUSTRY. THOUGH MANY CRAFTSMAN HAVE EARNED HONORS FOR THEIR CRAFTS.

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