Saturday, 2 August 2008
The beautiful valley of Kashmir is justly famed for its textiles, above all the Kashmir shawl. The manufacture of embroidered shawls was started by an Armenian named Khwaja Yusuf, who introduced the concept of amli, the needlework shawls.
The classical Kashmiri shawl was made of Pashmina wool whose main source was the fleece of a central Asian species of mountain goat. Now only a fraction of these shawls are woven out of Pashmina wool, a mjority of them are made out of a yarn called ruffal which is spun out of Merino wool.
The shawl ground cloth was prepared by being rubbed with a piece of polished agate or or cornelian on the flat surface of a plank until it was prerfectly smooth. The pattern to be embroidered was then made on the the cloth with coloured power or charcoal and then embroidered with a satin or stem stitch, each stitch made to lie as flat as possible by picking up warp threads.
Whilst shwals are embroidered with a needle, much of the embroidery done in Kashmir valley is ari work. As with the weaving, embroidery is a male profession. The ari work is used to decorate clothing, wall hanging rugs, curtain covers and whole rolls of furnishing fabrics, with varying complexity of designs.
Maps of Srinagar and human figures are a very popular motif.