Pashmina Weaving

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					                                  Pashmina Weaving

1.     Introduction
2.     Regions of Production
3.     Producer Communities
4.     Raw Materials
5.     Specification
6.     Pricing
7.     Availability
8.     Process
     8.1.   Warp Making (Varun)
     8.2.   Drafting
     8.3.   Weaving
     8.4.   Finishing
9.     Uses of the Product
10. Miscellaneous
     10.1. Market
     10.2. Technology
11. References
    1. Introduction
The weaving of pashmina yarn is a complex process just like the spinning of pashmina yarn.
Pashmina weaving is an exclusively male domain as opposed to spinning that is done exclusively by

    2. Regions of Production
Hand made Kashmir Pashmina is produced in Srinagar district of Kashmir. Located in the western
part of the Kashmir valley, this area is at an elevation of 5,206 ft. Srinagar city is the capital of the
state of Jammu and Kashmir, and is the major center for Pashmina.

    3. Producer Communities
While women are responsible for the spinning of pashmina yarn, its weaving is in the male domain.
The hand spinning, hand weaving and embroidery of pashmina are mainly concentrated in the old
city areas of Srinagar: Idgah, Chatabal, Safakadal, Nawakadal, Nowhatta, Nowshehra, Alamgari
Bazaar and Khanyaar. Families involved with the pashmina industry have been doing this work for
generations. Of late, the ban on shahtoosh has caused many former shahtoosh workers, especially
spinners, to shift to pashmina.

    4. Raw Materials
The source of all real pashmina fiber is the under-fleece of a particular species of goat - the Changra
or Capra hircus mountain goat. These goats are reared in herds at altitudes of 14,000 feet in the arid
plateaus of Ladakh, Tibet and Mongolia. The goat is never sheared. Goatherds remove the hair
gently with a special comb to ensure that the fiber length is at least 5 cm long. One kilo of the raw
wool (pashm) yields approximately 400 - 500 gm of clean fine pashmina, after removing the coarse
hair and dust.

    5. Specification
The finest pashmina wool generally has a diameter of 12.5 - 14 microns (1/6 the size of human hair
which is 75 microns) and an average fleece fiber length of 2.5 - 9 cm. The raw wool is white, beige or
dark fawn in its natural state, with white being the rarest and most expensive. Pashmina yarn is de-
haired and spun entirely by hand so it cannot be classified into any fixed counts. Like an individual s
handwriting it differs from person to person, the fineness depending on the skill and dexterity of the
spinner. It is said that the finest spinners can produce 30 inches of thread from just ½ kg of wool. The
yarn is delicate yet strong, has a high insulating value and does not shrink. It also has high moisture

    6. Pricing
Raw Pashmina has to be brought by the spinners. The Kashmir Handmade Pashmina Promotion
Trust (KHPPT) gives the spinners yarn at a discounted price, plus an incentive on the rate for using
traditional procedures as opposed to using machines. The normal market rate is Rs 1 for a ring
(guchi), comprising 9 threads of 9 inches, where as KHPTT gives Rs 1.20. It also pays Rs 70 per 50 gms
for cleaning and combing by hand.

Nine rounds of yarn tied together at each end, 9 inches long are unknown as a gand. Therefore one
gand has yarn around 162 inches long. The twisted two-ply yarn is wound in a figure of eight. This is
the basic unit of sale. Spinners are paid based on this unit, the finer the yam the higher the rate it
fetches. The usual practice is that the spun yarn is sold to the merchant who supplied the yarn
This was not the practice with shahtoosh. While raw pashmina is bought by the spinners and then
resold, in the case of shahtoosh, the wool was given out by the traders free of cost for spinning, and
wages were paid to the spinner. Therefore it was more profitable to spin shahtoosh as there was no
investment and the wages were higher in comparison to pashmina.

    7. Availability
Most of the good quality pashmina used in the Kashmir valley comes from the Changthang area in
Ladakh. The goat that gives the pashmina wool is known as Changthangi in Kashmir. The people who
supply the fleece in Ladakh are known as Changpas; they are nomads whose livelihoods depend on
herding. At present, the supply of pashm is not sufficient in quantity for weavers in Kashmir, which is
why they have to resort to Mongolian and Chinese wool that is not as fine as the Ladakhi one.

The Changthangi merchants begin to arrive in Leh around mid July up to around mid September. The
Kashmiri dealers buy the wool from them and in turn resell to the shawl manufacturers in Kashmir.

    8. Process
Preparing the yarn is divided into a number of sub-stages.

The spun yarn is separated by the wool merchant for use as warp and weft. If at this stage the yarn
has to be dyed for the warp, it is sent to the dyer or rangur. In earlier times vegetable dyes were
used. Nowadays acid metal complex dyes are used. Pashmina dyers usually do not dye any other
fibers. The pashmina yarn does not require any scouring. As alkalis destroy the fiber, it is only
washed with a neutral soap before being immersed in dye baths of copper vats.

After the weaver gets the yarn his first task is to strengthen it. He does this by washing it with a
soap-nut solution called reetha, and then applying a special starch. The starch can be rice starch
(anima) or saresh - a gum starch obtained from the acacia tree. Sometimes both are mixed together,
depending upon the strength required. After the yarn is soaked in this mixture, it is spread out in the
sun to dry. The hanks are then taken one by one and wound onto a prech and then rewound onto
another prech when half dry. This is done so that the starch and the gum do not from lumps or get
fixed into the yarn. This process is called tulun. The person who does this called perkumgor.

     8.1. Warp Making (Varun)
The warp is prepared by driving in four to six iron rods into the ground. This is called yarun, whereby
a long stick with a hook at its end called yarun wej is used to transfer the yarn from the prech and
wind it around the iron rods crossing it at each end. Two people do this, walking along the length of
the iron rods, carrying a prech in one hand and the yarun wej in the other. The twisting at each end
is very important as it keeps the yarn from tangling and facilitates the threading process.

The number of warp threads varies from 1,800 to 2,400 across the width of the fabric depending on
the quality required. The warp is then marked with a yardstick at intervals of one yard each for the
weaver to keep track of how much he has woven and any broken threads are rejoined in the process
called penkem. Wooden sticks are placed through the crosses made in the warp, and the threads are
spread and manipulated by hand to make sure there is no tangling. These sticks are later replaced
with threads, which will keep the cross formation in its place. Now the warp is ready to be rolled
onto a beam or wooden roll called nawardana or dolle.

    8.2. Drafting
After it has been wound onto a beam, the prepared warp has to be threaded through the saaz or
healds. This is the work of the barongar or thread guide.
The threads are inserted into the loop formed by two heddles made of thick cotton thread crossing
each other. For this two people are needed, one to pass the thread from behind and the other to
insert it through the loop. The threads are put according to a specific order depending on whether
the weave will be plain or a cheshme bul bul twill. Once the warp has been threaded through the
shafts or saaz it is put through the extremely fine teeth of a bamboo reed called kangyn. The warp is
now ready to be mounted on the loom and woven.

     8.3. Weaving
The looms for weaving pashmina are traditionally made of deodar wood, suitable not only because
of its strength and durability but particularly because it emanates a peculiar fragrance which serves
as an insect repellant, hence protecting the pashmina fabric on the loom. The warp beam, healds
and comb are suspended from the ceiling. The former is attached by a peg and cord to a fixed beam
beneath it and this arrangement enables it to be turned as required to let off the warp. The cloth
beam is also tightened manually with a wooden stick called taang, which ensures even tension at all
times. The shafts are operated in the usual way with treadles.

Pashmina fabric is hand woven gently and the weft is inserted through a shuttle in a throw and catch
motion. Given the delicacy of the yarn, it would be impossible to slide along or use a fly shuttle, as
normally used on traditional handlooms. It is a very quiet, unhurried and patient process, where the
only sound is the gentle beating of the comb as it is brought down on the cloth. Sometimes the
comb or reed is beaten down several times before inserting the weft into the next pick of the cloth,
in order to produce a tighter and more compact weave. The famous tafta pashmina shawl was made
thus. A weaver can take 8-15 days to make a good quality plain pashmina shawl.

    8.4. Finishing
After the pashmina fabric has been hand woven, it goes to the dhobi for washing. The fabric is first
washed with reetha or soap-nut, although these days a 100 percent non ionic detergent is also used.
The washed fabric is then sent to a purzgar or finisher, who tweezes, clips and brushes it to get rid of
its superfluous flaws. The fabric is mounted onto rollers named mound and held taut while it is
worked on with long handled tweezers called wouch to remove uneven threads. The cloth is also
rubbed with a dried wiry core of gourd or bitter gourd or a maize cob, known as kasher.

After the purzgars remove all the knots from the surface, the cloth is sent to the dhobi for washing.
It is washed in running cold water, and struck repeatedly against a hard smooth surface or stone, to
help in milling the fabric and making it more smooth and supple. The milling process helps the fibers
to cohere better and lends a certain softness and uniformity to the cloth. The fabric is dried in a
hand operated spinner that rids it of the excess water, after which it is either spread out or hung to
dry. It is later sent for calendaring, where it is rolled and stretched and then finally steam-ironed.

    9. Uses of the Product
Hand woven pashmina fabric can be classified into three categories:
   · Soodi - a simple, non-patterned hand woven fabric employing a four-shaft twill weave

    ·   Koni - a highly decorative brocade textile, employing a double interlock slit tapestry twill,
        woven on the same loom as the one used for plain pashmina but with woven patterns made
        using small wooden sticks called tujies.

    ·   Amlikor - plain pashmina embroidered upon with very fine Kashmir silk thread or cotton
        thread because it is hand spun, a genuine pashmina shawl is always one of a kind, identified
        easily by a certain irregularity of weave. Also, because the hand spun yarn varies in thickness
        the weaver uses his judgment while weaving it into fabric.
·    The saadi or seud pashmina is hand woven pashmina fabric, beautiful in its simplicity. There
     are various styles of saadi pashmina:

·    Zooti - fabric made from mixing all the natural colors of pashmina, which gives it an uneven,
     shaded look

·    Busso    woven from thick pashmina yarn, spun in villages by weavers who are still

·    Tilitouso - made from double ply yarn (dogun) in the warp and single ply yarn (ogun) in the
     weft. It is made to resemble a shahtoosh shawl.

·    Alwon - made from naturally white yarn, with high warp count and tightly woven. Also called

·    Various innovations in designs have been introduced by the weavers themselves: such as the
     striped design, the dorukha (two faced), etc. But the basic method used remains the same.

10. Miscellaneous

    10.1. Market
    Apart from being marketed to various parts of the country as well as abroad, a large
    percentage of the shawls produced are retailed locally.

    Amongst the middle and upper classes pashmina shawls form an essential part of a bride s
    trousseau. Within the country wearing a pashmina shawl is considered a mark of being from a
    higher class. Northern India is a big market for pashmina shawls.

    The shawls are also exported to various countries across the globe. A lot of pashmina scarves
    are exported to the Middle-East for use as head scarves.

    10.2. Technology
    There have been many attempts and a great amount of money has been spent in many parts
    of the world, on technology and skill development to replicate the look of hand made
    pashmina and increase its production through mechanization of the various production
    stages, including the use of machine spun yarn as well as power looms. However it is not
    possible to get a genuine pashmina product through the usage of these methods. Apart from
    the fact that a machine-made piece will be uniform and lose its unique character, pashmina
    yarn cannot be woven on a power loom due to its delicate and fragile nature.

    Machine-carding of pashmina cuts the fiber length resulting in a coarser yarn. Pashmina fiber
    is also sensitive to high temperatures which cause a loss in the moisture content in the wool.
    Power looms generate a lot of heat and friction which is not suited to the delicate pashmina
    yarn. Where mechanized spinning procedures have been used, the fiber has had to be
    blended with silk, wool or synthetic yarn to make it suitable for machine weaving, hence
    diluting its original character. This affects its drape and warmth.
    Traditionally only raw wool from Ladakh is used due to its unparalleled quality and its
    suitability to the hand processes used to spin and weave it. Cheaper varieties from China and
    Mongolia are also used but the end product is not as fine and has a shorter life, besides being
    prone to pilling. The mark of a genuine hand made pashmina is that the fabric improves with
    age acquiring a jewel-like sheen, that is why the older a shawl the greater its value. It will not
    be out of place to mention that these heirlooms passed on down the generations are
    considered as good an investment as any other piece of art.

11. References

·     A Tract on the Art of Shawl Weaving in Kashmir Prof. B.A.Dar, 1999

·     The Kashmiri Shawl, from Jamawar to Paisley Sherry Rehman and Nahid Jafri, Mapin, 2006

·     The Kashmir Gazetteer Charles Ellison Bates, Gulshan Books, 2005

·     The Unique and Eloquent Legacy of Kashmir Handmade Pashmina Bonita Ahuja

·     Beyond the Ban A report by the Wildlife Trust of India

·    www.all.fibre

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