In a previous article (Pashmina: art made by weaving) we explained about Pashmina, that garment originating in the Kashmir region, which is obtained by manually spinning, washing, dyeing and weaving the wool of a goat that lives more than 4,000 meters above sea level, a fiber so unique that it has been coveted over time by emperors and queens to occupy a privileged place in our wardrobe today.
To make a single shawl can take up to three weeks, in a process that begins by combing the goats when spring comes, to remove the renewed internal hair. With the combs the thickest hair (to be used for Kashmir products) is separated from the thinner and whiter ones with which the pashminas are made.
The wool is washed, spun and passed to the dye master. Wool is dyed in large pots that are continuously stirred to ensure uniform color. Then they are washed again and dried.
Pashmina is classified according to quality, the most luxurious being the coveted Grade A-Diamond quality.
Ninety percent of the world's handwoven Pashmina shawls are spun from silk. However, the pure (silk-free) Pashmina shawls are so fine that they can be passed through a wedding ring.
Embroidery is a man's work, done in the winter when the fields are at rest. Depending on the embroidery surface and the complexity of the pattern, embroidery of a pashmina can take from 2 weeks to several months of work.
Some more intricate embroidery can take years of work, becoming exceptional pieces with a value that only a lucky few can afford, usually as wedding gifts from heirs of India and the Gulf countries.
Some embroidery is fully reversible, to the point that the place and the reverse become almost indistinguishable.
The most recognized motif is the Paisley, complemented by floral motifs.
The Paisley is an ornamental textile design of Persian origin, it represents the bud of the date palm, which is considered sacred as a "tree of life", because provides food, drink, fibers for clothing and other basic needs. Gradually the symbol began to be related to fertility. This figure known as "Boteh" is the symbol of life and eternity in Zoroastrianism. Then it evolved, adding additional flowers and tendrils.
To start embroidering, it is prepared a design with perforated lines which is contrasted with colored powder. Another way is by printing with a carved block that is coated with a colored powder, which can then be easily washed to remove all traces of the pattern
Aari hand embroidery is the specialty of Kashmiri artisans. This fine art has existed in India since the 16th century, brought in by Mughals to create elaborate and highly refined floral motifs for royal garments.
Kani or woven to loom
Making a kani shawl takes a craftsman approximately from several weeks to a year, depending on the complexity of the embroidery. The shawl is woven with special wool needles (called kanis) with the help of a traditional handloom.
It has a very distinguishable Mughal pattern that is woven into the fabric. Only the most experienced craftsmen have enough knowledge to do it the right way.
Sozni embroidery is the heart of Kashmir. A single shawl can take up to two or three years in full, with a master craftsman working on it for six hours every day, using fine needles and silk threads to create elaborate floral or paisley designs. The motifs are generically designer and so meticulously embroidered that the pashmina base is barely visible.
It is a very exclusive type of art, involving a combination of embroidered, hand-painted designs. Kalamkari, in Urdu language, means "to paint with the hands."
Wouldn't you know which one choose? If one day you decide to go to India you will already have a lot of knowledge about the pashminas. At the time of acquiring one of these garments you will be evaluating not only the quality of the material but the enormous love and craftsmanship behind each one.