Kashmir Cashmere Scarves Part 2
So, following on from last time when we looked at how cashmere is collected, let’s turn to the next stage in this fascinating process:
The spinning and weaving of the pham are undertaken, again, by hand. This is done following time-honoured, century-old methods that are refined but lengthy and labour-intensive. Initially, the fibres are spun on a traditional hand spinning-wheel. This produces a yarn which is washed with a traditional herbal soap called reetha, left to dry in the sun and then immersed in rice water starch for two days. This strengthens the shawl and improves its longevity. Another period of sun-drying takes place and then two (male) artisans will weave the yarn on a traditional wooden loom before it is washed again and eventually dyed.
The pashmina fibre is delicate and fragile. This delicate fibre needs extremely careful handling – it would be damaged by the harsh vibrations of a power loom. So the weaving of the traditional cashmere scarves is always carried out on a hand-loom by artisans. The end result is a fabric that is extremely soft, supremely lightweight and very warm.
One of the most striking features of the Kashmir cashmere scarves is their colour. The very first Kashmir scarves were dyed with a very limited palette of just red and indigo blue. However, over time, colours such as vine, purple, olive, sky blue, ink and other colours have also been introduced. These jewel-like colours sing and add yet another layer of luxury.
Once dyed, and although they can be worn as a plain, block-coloured scarf, most Kashmir cashmere scarves are finished with embroidery. Again, this is done by hand and keeps true to the traditional designs associated with the area where they are made.
There are two principal ways of introducing designs into the shawls. The first is called kani, which involves the designs being tapestry-woven into the fabric of the shawl. The second method is called imli which is where the design is embroidered onto the fabric. It is this second method which has been used on the shawls in our beautiful number 37 collection. To introduce a design on a shawl, the manufacturers appoint a designer called a naqqash. Then it goes to a chaparral, who stamps the design on the shawl. Finally, the cashmere scarf is taken to an embroiderer.
The embroiderer will carry out the needlework, again, by hand as the pashmina fibres are too delicate to withstand machine stitching. The exquisite needlework is known as sozni kaem or suzni kaem in Kashmiri. It is very detailed and the work will normally be undertaken by a family working together. Dependent upon the complexity of the design, one shawl can take several days or even weeks to finish.
Sozni is done so skilfully that the shawl does not have a wrong side. I have seen this firsthand and it’s breathtaking! Each stitch is sewn in such a way that it lies as flat as possible. In this way, the embroidery looks as it were made on the loom itself. Just beautiful.
It is believed that the stunning motifs that you see on a traditional Kashmir shawl were introduced during the Mughal period. The earliest designs were based upon a single flowering plant. Some say this references the botanical European drawings of the 16th and 17th century. Other historians claim that this motif originated in Kashmir.
Furthermore, the names given to the shawls such as chaarbadaam and chasm-e bulbul refer to distinct features of the embroidery. For example, chaarbadaam indicates that there is a paisley design in the four corners of the shawl. Chasm-e bulbul indicates a lozenge-shaped design. Other designs and layouts include the jaalidar, the meemdor and the bootidar. They are all names which evoke a sense of history and mystery.
The Finished Product
You can see from our photographs what an exquisite item the finished product is. The colours do sing and the detailed embroidery makes every single cashmere scarf feel and look very special. In these days of throwaway fashion, they stand apart. You know this scarf is a keeper.
And from this little overview, we can begin to appreciate just how fortunate we are at Scarf Room to be able to bring these beautiful and unusual pieces to a wider audience. Their uniqueness lies in a combination of factors that have made it virtually impossible to duplicate anywhere else.
Unfortunately, in recent years, there has been an influx of mass-produced imitation cashmere pashminas flooding the market. This has both driven down the price and damaged the reputation of the real thing. But each of the Kashmir cashmere scarves we have selected for our number 37 collection truly is an authentic and premium product. We also believe we have set a fair price which reflects both its beauty and the craftsmanship that went into making it.
The number 37 Collection
In selecting items to add to this collection, we have chosen THE most stunning palette of colours – tourmaline pink, deep crimson red, turquoise green, jet black, as well as a range of designs. Each scarf has been spun to a beautifully dense fine knit so feels as light as a feather and deliciously soft against the skin. Each one is available in both the smaller stole as well as a shawl size.
And even though these scarves are extremely special, we believe they should be enjoyed as much as possible. So you could wear one as a beautiful accessory over simple tailored separates during the day or elegant evening wear at night. It would also be the perfect bridal or bridesmaid’s pashmina or a pashmina for a wedding guest. They are also a great holiday companion, just perfect for keeping you warm on cooler evenings or on an air-conditioned plane. As our photographs show, they can be worn loose or draped elegantly over one or both shoulders.
And finally …..
Remember if you need any further information about our Kashmir cashmere scarves for yourself or as a gift, please call our knowledgeable and friendly team at Scarf Room on 01253 733870. For further information about caring for your cashmere pashmina, please see our blog “How to Care for your Cashmere.”