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The process of Kashmir Pashmina Shawl making starts with herding and rearing of Pashmina Goats at an altitude of 4500mts above sea level.
To survive the cold temperatures next only to Siberia, at these altitudes the goats develop a fine fleece under the thick outside fur.
It is this climate that makes Pashmina from Ladakh region of Kashmir the highest grade of Cashmere.
This wool is collected by the "Herders" during the spring season and it grows back till the time winter is sets in.Following are the process involved to get the wool readyfor spinning.
Combing: With the onset of spring the Goats start shedding the hair and during this time they are combed by the herders to gather the wool.
Dusting: The raw wool from the Pashmina Goats is separated from the extraneous material.
Dehairing: It involves separation of the underlying fine wool from the outer fur called the guard hair.
Treating with Rice: The fine wool obtained by dehairing is treated with Pounded Rice mixed with water. This is done to give strength to the delicate fibers. The reason rice water is used is its water soluble and can be easily removed by simple soaking in water. The wool obtained is called Thumb in Kashmiri.
KASHMIR PASHMINA is not just the wool obtained from the Pashmina Goat rather it is a unique prepration by 20 processes specific only to Kashmir to prepare the final Pashmina fabric. The wool obtained is converted into yarn by the following processes:
Spinning: The wool is now ready to be converted to yarn by spinning. Traditionally it is done manually on a spinning wheel.
Hand Reeling: The yarn obtained after spinning is very fine and has to be doubled or tripled depending on the requirement. This is done using a hand reeler.
Washing: The yarn is again washed in river water to make it ready for dyeing.
Dyeing: Depending on the requirement the yarn is dyed by specialist dyers called Ranger.Only natural ingredients are used in the dyes, which produce different colours depending on the concentration used.
ONLY TWO NATURALLY OCCURING COLORS OF PASHMINA ARE OBTAINED, WHITE WHICH IS THE MOST COMMON AND DIFFERENT SHADES OF BROWN.
Making bobbins: The yarn is rolled into small bobbins required by weavers to make the weft on a handloom.
Treating with Stratch: The yarn is once again dipped in rice water stratch to give it strength, this process is called maya.
Winding of Yarn: The stratchy yarn after drying in sun is again wound on wooden spindles called prech in Kashmiri. This process is called Tulun in Kashmiri.
Making of Warp: The warp is made by manually winding the pashmina yarn across 4 to 8 iron rods erected on the ground. This process is called Yarun in Kashmiri.
Dressing the Warp: Before the warp can be put on the handloom it has to be dressed by a person called Bharangur or Warp-Dresser. The process called Bharun in Kashmir involves stretching and fixing of yarn in the heddles of a loom called saaz in Kashmiri.
Weaving: Pashmina shawl is weaved by an artisan called Wovur in Kashmir and the process is called Wonun. The weaving is done using the 15 Century Handlooms.
Washing: Once again the fabric is washed in running river water to remove the starch.
Finishing: While weaving the Pashmina thread breaks many times. To join the threads the weaver rolls the threads together and it results in protruding threads all across the shawl. These threads are clipped by a process called Purz and the person called puruzgar.
Washing: The final washing of the fabic is done in running river water with mild detegents and striking the fabric repeatedly against a smooth stone by a specialist washer.
Finishing the Edges: The final process is the finishing of edges to make raw fringes by a process called Andkadun and the person called Andgour.
SOZNI is one of the most sophisticated forms of Needle Embroidery in the world. This extremely fine, delicate and artistic needle work is only practiced in Kashmir and has no parallels anywhere else. The steps involved in embroidery are:
Preparation of design: The Naqash or designer carefully draws the design to be embroidered on a graph paper using geometrical and mathematical techniques.
Carving of wooden block for stamping: Based on the design prepared by the Naqash a wooden blocked is carved by a wood carver specializing in shawl designs. He engraves the designs on a wooden block.
Stamping of Shawls: The embroidery design is transferred to the shawl by a specialist called chapangur. The block is dipped in washable ink and stamped on the shawl.
Sampling of Colors: The stamped shawl is passed on to a master artisan called tarah-guru who will do sample embroidery and determine what color are used in the embroidery.
Approving of Design: Another master craftsman called Voste approves or asks for the changes in the design. Once approved the shawl is passed on to the artisan for embroidery who completed the embroidery based on the approved colors.
Kani weaving is the pinnacle of Kashmir Shawl making. No other form of weaving can match Kani in its sophistication. Believed to be an art indigenous to Kashmir and traced back to 3000 BC, it used to be a must have for Kings from Mughals to Ceasers. Kani means a small wooden oblong spool in Kashmiri. Kani weaving involves the following steps:
Making of design pattern by Naqash: The Naqash or Pattern Drawer makes a pattern of Kani Design on a graph paper.
Prepration of Coded Script: The coded script is used by the Kani weavers to weave the shawl. This coded pattern is prepared by TalimGuru based on the design by Naqash. The talim guides the weaver in number of warp threads to be covered in a particular colored-weft.
Making of warp by warp-maker called nakatu in Kashmiri.
Dressing of Warp by the warp-dresser called pennakamgur.
Threading of warp and putting it on a loom.
Weaving of Shawl: Kani shawl is woven like a carpet based on the coded pattern called talim. Pashmina yarn wound on small wooden oblong spools are used to to weave the patterns into the shawl.