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How the Cashmere shawl was saved

  What: In 2000, textile historian and designer Jenny Housego (she migrated to India from England, 30 years ago) and her Kashmir-based friend Asaf Ali, along with his brothers, started Kashmir Loom to revive the age-old art of hand woven Lena (popularly known as Pashmina or Cashmere) and Kani shawls. Committed to sustaining the region’s vital handicraft industry, the Srinagar-based company will display its uniquely crafted shawls, scarves and wraps, ranging from `7,000 to `2 lakh, at a three-day exhibition-cum-sale titled, Off The Kashmir Loom: Textiles From The Kashmir Valley. This marks their first exhibit in Mumbai.

Kan or pointed sticks
Kan or pointed sticks, wrapped with yarn, are used for making Kani shawls (below)

Kani shawls

How: Worked on by local craftsmen in family-run workshops, the Lena shawls are made using hand-combed wool from Changra goats, reared in high altitude regions of Ladakh and Tibet. Handspun on the charkha and wound around another wheel, known as Pritz, the yarn is transferred into the hanks where it is dyed in natural colours. Later, embroiderers use traditional Kanikar and Soznikar techniques, with silk threads, to create jewel-like mosaics on the shawls. Another variety is the handwoven Kani shawl that features the ancient twill tapestry technique, which derives its name from Kan, a type of pointed stick wrapped with yarn. The patterns are handwoven.  It takes two weavers, over a year, to complete one shawl.

Printing blocks, hand cut from local walnut wood, are used for stamping embroidery patterns onto shawls
Printing blocks, hand cut from local walnut wood, are used for stamping embroidery patterns onto shawls

Where: Apart from checking out the exhibits, catch the screening of Pashmina Road, a 22-minute documentary by Errol Rainey. It chronicles the laborious process of making Lena shawls.  Later, Ali will give a talk, delving into the company and its process.

Different colour hanks used as dyes for shawls
Different colour hanks used as dyes for shawls

An embroiderer uses the Kanikar embroidery technique
An embroiderer uses the Kanikar embroidery technique

From: November 19 to 21, 11 am to 7 pm (film screening and talk on November 19, 6 pm onwards)
At: Artisans', 52-56 Dr VB Gandhi Marg, Kala Ghoda.
Call: 9820145397

Also read...

Shawls from the valley (Read more)

Cashmere shawl

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