page contents
Everything that You Need to Know About Kashmiri Paper Mache Crafts

Everything that You Need to Know About Kashmiri Paper Mache Crafts

When we think of Kashmiri arts and crafts, the first few things that come to mind are shawls, carpets, rugs, and probably woodwork and embroidery. However, something that the world does not know is that Kashmir is also very well-known for its paper mache crafts. Today, the paper mache handicraft is as ingrained in Kashmir’s culture as any other handicraft. 

We know paper mache as the craft that we made for school projects or during vacations as kids. But, the Kashmiri paper mache craft is a true art that has been passed down from generation to generation for centuries.

It is hard to imagine that something made out of waste paper could look so beautiful and elegant.  The Kashmiri craftsmen are so amazingly skilled that they can turn even discarded paper into an attractive work of art.

Buy Authentic Kashmiri Handicrafts from Kashmirica

‘Paper mache’ is a French term which when translated literally means ‘chewed paper’. This art is said to have originated in China hundreds of years ago.

Paper Mache Eggs

In this article, we share with you everything that you need to know about the Kashmiri Paper Mache crafts. 

The History of Kashmiri Paper Mache Crafts

The origin of the paper mache crafts in Kashmir dates back to as early as the 15th century.  And the credit for bringing this art form to Kashmir is believed to go to the eighth ruler of Kashmir, Zain-ul-Abidin. He came across this art during his time as a Kashmiri prince in Samarkand, Central Asia. That was when he was intrigued by paper mache handicraft. 

When he returned to Kashmir, he brought many craftsmen along with him to the valley to train his subjects on the same. 

Yet another legend suggests that this art was introduced in Kashmir by a poet and Sufi saint called Mir Sayyid Ali Hamdani. He came to Kashmir from Iran in the mid 14th century. He brought along with him 700 artisans from Iran. These artisans are thought to have taught the local Kashmiris various art forms; and paper mache craft was one of them.

No matter what the story of its origin, this art was made highly popular during the Mughal rule. 

The art was originally known by its Iranian name Kar-i-Qalamdani in Kashmir. The word ‘Qalamdani’ is basically pen case. Initially, this art was only restricted to making pen cases.

But, through the years, the art of paper mache has tremendously grown in the valley with numerous items available these days.

Papier Mache Kashmir items

On your visit to Kashmir, you will find a host of paper mache items ranging in various sizes. You will find shops and shops lined across the street selling them. Paper mache items also make the perfect souvenirs to carry back home. Pick an item that resonates the most with you- as a fond memory of your trip to Kashmir, something to remember forever! 

You will find jewellery boxes, storage boxes, coasters, bowls, trays, pencil stands and a lot more. You will also find decor items such as vases, miniature hookah pots, photo frames, eggs, small elephants and an array of other decor items. 

Paper mache handicraft isn’t just used for utility items but for perking up living spaces too. If you are looking for something bigger, papier mache is also used for making furniture pieces like stools, small chests and cabinets, and lamps.

Each and every artifact is so beautifully painted that it is hard to not fall in love with every piece that you come across. 

Not just for making products, this art has also been used to decorate walls in historic places like the Shah-e-Hamdan mosque and the Naqshband shrine in Kashmir.

How are Kashmir Paper Mache Crafts Made?

The artisans involved in this profession are supremely skilled and practice the art for years and years. This art has also traditionally existed as a family profession in Kashmir. And like many other Kashmiri handicrafts, the trick and technique behind it gets passed on from one generation to another.

How is Paper Mache Made?

Even though the idea behind this handicraft might sound relatively simple, it is a very time-consuming process and requires a lot of precision. It basically involves two main steps- Sakthsazi (making of the actual item) and Naqashi (the painting and decoration part).

Now, let’s take a look at the making of paper mache handicrafts in detail.

Sakthsazi

The sakthsazi is the one involved with making the object with the pulp of paper. First of all, the waste paper is soaked in water for several days. Then, a mixture of the soaked waste paper, cloth and the straw of a rice plant is pounded manually in a stone mortar. This is pounded until the mixture becomes very fine and forms a pulp. Then, a rice based glue called ‘Atij’ is combined with this pulp mixture.

This complete mixture is then applied onto the desired mould and then left to dry for a few days. After it has dried out, the artwork is very carefully separated from the mould. The artwork is basically cut in two halves to separate it from the mould and the halves are carefully joined with the help of glue. The resultant object that is obtained is known as ‘Kalib’. 

Then, for the next step, the kalib is handed over to the women. This process is referred to as ‘Pishlawun’. As the next step, the women smoothen out the surface of the artwork with either a stone, baked clay or a wooden file.

After the object is nicely smoothened out, it is coated with a light layer of paint/ lacquer. It is coated again with a second coat of lacquer mixed with some chalk powder and water. This is again left to dry out for some time.

After the sakthsazi’s work is done, the artwork/ object is handed over to the Naqash.

Naqashi

When the object reaches the Naqash, it is first covered with thin sheets of butter paper. The butter paper is pasted so that it acts as a barrier between the main object and the paintwork so that the object doesn’t crack. After covering with butter paper, a thin coat of paint is applied all over the artwork. 

This is actually the step where the object is transformed into the beautiful piece of paper mache handicraft that we know. This work is also very intricate and usually takes about 3 days to a week. The designs are first drawn free hand on the object and then they are painted. The designer uses various different motifs like flowers, fruits, birds, creepers etc.

Mostly metallic paints are used for an illuminated effect. After the motifs are painted, often gold or silver is used to highlight them. Mostly the colors that are used for painting are all organic and either nature or vegetable-based. When the whole painting procedure is completed, the final step involves covering the artwork with a layer of varnish for an added shine.

This is the whole procedure that goes into making paper mache crafts. It is an extensive process that requires a lot of patience and attention to detail. But, the whole process is worth it as the end result is absolutely stunning.

Even though these handicrafts are made using paper, the extensive process that goes into making them is what makes these handicrafts extremely durable. Each of these individually created items has a unique story to tell. The Kashmir paper mache crafts are largely pursued by the Shia sect of the Kashmiri Muslims.

Popular Papier Mache Kashmir Motifs

Some popular motifs that are used in paper mache Kashmir include:

  • Designs inspired by the Mughal era
  • Flowers within flowers
  • Numerous floral patterns
  • Hazara or thousand flowers pattern
  • Birds
  • Jungle and its scenes
  • The majestic Chinar tree of Kashmir
  • Almond designs
  • Geometrical designs
  • And many more..

Your trip to Kashmir is basically incomplete without buying a beautiful artifact made with paper mache. Even if you don’t visit Kashmir, this beautiful artifact is a must-have for every handicraft lover. 

Over to You

While Kashmir takes immense pride in its beautiful paper mache crafts, its demand and sale have seen a decline in the recent years. Although we all take a lot of pride in our centuries-old traditions and art forms, we often fail to sustain the artisans who toil hard to keep our traditions alive.

The paper mache handicraft isn’t just a source of livelihood for thousands of Kashmiri artisans but also an integral part of India’s cultural lineage. We hope that this beautiful art form continues to grace the rich culture of Kashmir and more and more generations to come. 

If you are looking to buy paper mache crafts, you can check out our extensive collection and buy a gorgeous piece online. As we at Kashmirica, have pledged to bring exclusive Kashmiri goods at the fingertips of the global audience.

Also Read:

What is a Pashmina? A Complete Overview

What is a Pashmina? A Complete Overview

People have various notions about Pashmina. Some think of it to be a goat, some a thread, some a form of embroidery. So ‘what is a pashmina’?

Well, Pashmina is a super fine quality of wool that comes from a particular species of goat. This wool is then used to make shawls and scarfs that go by the same name. Simply put, a Pashmina is a super soft and super warm luxury shawl that is indigenous to the beautiful valley of Kashmir.

While only a few have the eye for a true Pashmina, many believe that every shawl that comes from the Kashmir region qualifies as a Pashmina.

Interested in Buying Exclusive Products from Kashmir?

Now that we have a general idea, let’s dig deeper and know this shawl better.

What is a Pashmina?

The Pashmina is made from the wool of a particular kind of goat that is native to Kashmir. This goat is called the ‘Changthangi’ goat or Capra Hircus or it is also popularly referred to as the ‘Pashmina goat’. The word Pashmina comes from the word ‘pashm’, which itself means soft wool.

The temperatures in some areas in Kashmir often fall as low as -40 degrees celsius during the winters. The Changthangi goat develops a special kind of wool to resist against such low temperatures. Later, when the spring season sets in, these goats shed their wool; which is then used in the making of a Pashmina.

A Pashmina Shawl is the perfect epitome of luxury, comfort and class. It is much desired by women all across the globe. 

What is the history of Pashmina?

There are various theories that suggest how the Pashmina originated. It is said that the 15th century ruler of Kashmir, Zain-ul-Abidin introduced pashmina to the world. Whereas, another theory suggests that a Persian Sufi named Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani who arrived in Kashmir with 700 Persian artisans sometime during the 14th century introduced the art of Pashmina. 

Even though the exact story of its origin can be a bit controversial, Kashmir has been an expert of the art for centuries and centuries.  

It is also said that the great French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte presented a Pashmina shawl to his wife Josephine. And the shawl impressed her so much that she is known to have owned many of them.

Before the 20th century, only royals would own a Pashmina. There are various royal families that are known to have spent fortunes on them. But, times eventually changed and industries evolved greatly. And his beautiful piece of art became accessible to everyone not just in India but in the rest of the world as well.

Through the years, the Pashmina has maintained its reputation as the most luxurious yet comfortable shawl that is known to man and yet somehow, it has evolved too. Centuries later, Pashmina is still known to be a status symbol and hasn’t lost its prestige at all. 

Pashmina and Cashmere: Same or Different?

The answer? Same, yet different! People often confuse between the two.

One thing that is different between these two is that- Pashmina is made from the wool that is obtained from the Changthangi goats. It is super fine and each of its fibres has a diameter of around 10 to 15 microns. Pashmina wool can only be spun by hand. Pashmina wool is also quite rare. 

Whereas, the wool for cashmere shawls can be obtained from any kind of goats and not just the Changthangi goats. It has a diameter of about 15 to 18 microns. This wool is super fine too but not as fine as the Pashmina wool. This is the major difference between Pashmina and Cashmere. Cashmere wool can be spun using machines. This means, cashmere wool can easily be found.

Although, nowadays, these two are often confused with each other. ‘Cashmere’ is, in fact, an Anglicised term for Pashmina. During the 18th century, various Europeans visited India and returned back to their countries with various Pashmina shawls as gifts. And instead of calling them ‘Pashmina’ they re-named them to ‘Cashmere’ (denoting the place where it belongs- Kashmir).

How is a Pashmina Shawl Made?

The way Pashmina shawls are woven hasn’t really changed since centuries. Till date, traditional methods are used in weaving a Pashmina. The process of weaving a Pashmina shawl is called ‘Wonun’ and the weaver weaving it is called ‘Wovur’.

This is how a Pashmina is Made: Process of Making Pashmina Shawl

First, the wool/ yarn is obtained.

Around 4 to 8 iron rods are already fixed on the ground. The wool yarn is first wound around these rods. The rods are usually spread across an area of 10 meters. A person has to walk across these rods multiple times while winding the yarn across them. This is how the warp gets made.

The yarn is then stretched and perfected.

It is then dried out in the sun and then wound again on wooden spindles.

Then, the yarn goes on the handloom where expert weavers weave it by hand.

Since the Pashmina wool is so fine that it cannot be spun using machines. Hence, each and every process that goes into making a Pashmina shawl is done using hands.

It takes a few days for a Pashmina shawl to be made.

After the wool is weaved into a beautiful shawl, an amazingly skilled embroiderer works his magic next. The shawl is then covered with beautiful, colorful embroidery. At the end of the embroidery process, the shawl is first washed and ironed before it reaches the stores to be sold.

What makes a Pashmina so expensive and special?

A Pashmina’s warmth is incomparable. Since the Changthangi goats need to survive extreme cold temperatures, they develop a thick fur which helps them in resisting the temperatures. This gives the Pashmina a warmth like no other! A Pashmina isn’t just known for its warmth but also for its softness and lightweightedness. Only someone who owns a Pashmina knows why all this craze surrounds it. 

Every time you step out wearing a Pashmina shawl, you don’t just have something that’ll keep you super warm but you’ll also make a style statement. A Pashmina can add oodles and oodles of grace to any outfit. 

Not to forget, with a Pashmina, you also own a beautiful piece of heritage and legacy that has been passed on from generations to generations. It is truly a timeless piece. 

What makes a Pashmina shawl or scarf so expensive is the process that goes behind it. Since everything is done using hands, it can take several days and in some cases months to craft a single shawl. Another factor that makes it expensive is the rarity of the wool. The artisans toiling hard to craft the perfect piece of Pashmina for their customers are also amazingly skilled and working in the industry for years. All of this makes a Pashmina shawl truly worth each penny! 

What is a Pashmina scarf?

A scarf or a stole that is made using the wool from the Pashmina or Changthangi goats can be called a Pashmina scarf.

What is a Pashmina wrap?

A shawl or a scarf that you can use during the winters and is made from the Pashmina wool can be called a Pashmina wrap. A Pashmina can be wrapped around in various styles.

What is a Pashmina scarf made of?

A Pashmina scarf is made from the wool of a type of goat called the Changthangi goat. The wool gets weaved into a beautiful scarf.

How to identify Real Pashmina?

Now that you know what is a Pashmina scarf and what is a Pashmina shawl, it is important to know whether the shawl/ scarf you want to buy is real or not. Here is how you tell whether a Pashmina is real or not:

  1. The Burn test: Take a thread from your shawl/ scarf and burn it. If it smells like burnt hair, the Pashmina is most likely real.
  2. The weave: Test a pashmina shawl under natural light. If you see irregular weaves, the Pashmina is real. Since a real Pashmina is handwoven, its weave will have some irregularities as opposed to unauthentic Pashminas woven using machines.
  3. Rubbing test: Rub the shawl using your fingers. If it generates tiny sparks, the Pashmina isn’t genuine.
  4. The Price: A real Pashmina comes at a price. If you find a vendor selling it at unbelievably low prices, don’t fall for it as the Pashmina being sold in this case isn’t real.
  5. Shine: Unauthentic pashminas usually exhibit a lot of shine. If the Pashmina looks shiny, ditch it and look for better vendors selling genuine ones.

Over to You

We hope this article cleared your doubts on ‘What is a Pashmina?’.When you decide to buy a Pashmina, remember all the hard work that goes into making one. Buy only from authentic sellers as there is a whole market dedicated to selling fake Pashmina shawls.

You can check Kashmirica’s Shopping Page for Exclusive, Authentic Products from Kashmir

Also Read:

The Story of Shahtoosh: World’s Most Expensive Fabric

The Story of Shahtoosh: World’s Most Expensive Fabric

Shahtoosh or shahtush or simply toosh, is a type of luxury shawl made from the most expensive fabric in the world. It is a Persian word which literally translates to ‘king of fine wools’.

NOTE: Buying & Selling of Shahtoosh is illegal. We do not sell or buy this fabric. This post about Shahtoosh is purely for information purposes.

This super soft and super warm shawl is handwoven in the valley of Kashmir. To own a shahtoosh scarf or shawl is to lighten your pockets by several thousand dollars! And a few decades ago, people happily did so.

But, what is it that makes this shawl so exquisite? That at one point, the most elite of the elite class of not just India but also the US as well as other countries boasted to have owned at least one of these; before it became illegal to own one.

Right from supermodels and actresses to other celebrities- the shahtoosh scarf was a prized possession among them all.

Now that we have an idea about the world’s most expensive fabric, let’s delve deeper and see what all the fuss is that surrounds this type of shawl and what makes it so special.

What is Shahtoosh?

Shahtoosh is the finest quality of fabric that is known to man. Each of its fibres is only about 7 to 10 microns and it is considered to be one-sixth of that of a human hair. This fabric is used to make luxury shawls and scarves, popularly known as shahtoosh shawls. 

Interested in buying exclusive products from Kashmir?

The fabric is procured from the underfur of a species of an Antelope; locally called the ‘Chiru’. The antelope is native to the Tibetan plateau. Chiru is a migratory animal that lives at super-high altitudes of about 5,000 meters and develops the ‘underfur’ in order to survive the extremely cold and harsh weather conditions. 

Back in the day, when shahtoosh shawls were legal, poachers would hunt down the Tibetan antelope and slaughter it to obtain its fur. 

What is a Shahtoosh Shawl?

A shawl that is made using the shahtoosh fabric is a shahtoosh shawl. This shawl is super popular throughout the world for its warmth, comfort and softness. It was once an object of desire for people across the globe. People have claimed to be addicted to the impressive beauty that it has and have described it as ‘nothing else in the world’.

For decades, Kashmir has been the only place where this shawl is expertly manufactured. In fact, expert weavers had careers dedicated only to weaving these shawls.

The Origin of Shahtoosh

The origin of the shawl is believed to date back to the 16th century, during the reign of Mughal Emperor Akbar. It is believed that he had a great passion for these shawls and was the owner of quite a few of them. In fact, shawl factories flourished and became a major source of income in Kashmir during the Mughal rule. That is, interestingly, also when the wool received its name -‘Shahtoosh’.

Until about Shah Jahan’s rule (1666), the toosh shawls were reserved for use only by the royals. Later, with changing times, the shawls became accessible to the commoners as well. The shawls soon gained popularity and became a status symbol for the elite class around the world.

Thus, the trade of the shahtoosh began and influenced the market for a long, long time. These were also traditionally gifted at weddings back in the day.

Types of Toosh Shawls

Basically, there are three types of this shawl. The types are categorized by the fabric used. They are:

  • 16 Dani or Shurah Dani: This is the 100% pure toosh shawl; made only with the toosh fabric
  • 12 Dani or Bah Dani: This type comprises of 75% toosh mixed with 25% pashmina
  • 8 Dani or Aeth Dani: This type is a combination of 50% toosh and 50% pashmina

How Long Does it Take to Make a Shahtoosh?

The shahtoosh shawls are only handwoven by the master artisans of Kashmir. The weaving of this shawl is a traditional art and many weavers are only dedicated only to exclusively weaving these shawls. The shawls are traditionally woven making the use of handlooms.

Since the fabric is super fine, machines cannot be used and everything needs to be done using hands. As a result of the extensive process, it takes a weaver anywhere from a month to a year to craft a single toosh shawl.

What makes the Shahtoosh so Expensive?

For manufacturing a shawl/ scarf, the process that goes behind it is quite labor-some and lengthy. First, the fur is obtained from the antelopes. The antelopes are hunted for this purpose. After the fur is obtained, weavers in Kashmir make use of handlooms to weave the fabric.

Every process right from obtaining the wool to manufacturing a shawl is done using hands by amazingly skilled craftsmen. 

To manufacture just one shawl, around 350 grams of wool/ fur is needed. One Tibetan antelope gives about 125 grams of wool. Hence, to make just one shawl, wool from 3 antelopes is required! This is one of the major reasons that makes it expensive.

But, this isn’t the only reason why the shahtoosh is so expensive. Another factor is its majestic feel. The fabric is so super soft that it is incomparable with any other kind of fabric. It is known to give its owner a taste and feel of royalty.

The shawl is extremely lightweight that it can be passed through a wedding ring! It is so light that you can hardly feel anything around your shoulders. Not just its lightness but its warmth is incomparable too. Legend has it that the shawl is so warm that it can be used to hatch pigeon eggs. 

The majestic appeal, feel and warmth of the shawl has made celebrities and other rich people around the world pay thousands of dollars to own this beautiful garment. Some celebrities became so addicted to these shawls that they have been reported to have owned multiple pieces.

Some even claim that the shawls became so dear to them that they would never leave the house without their favorite shawl. 

Shahtoosh Scarf Price in India

The scarf costs lakhs of rupees. It would be generally around 3-10 lakhs in cost. Saying that it is banned and illegal to buy and sell shahtoosh. While a toosh shawl combined with pashmina costs less than a pure toosh shawl, it is still quite expensive.

When these shawls were legal, shahtoosh scarf price in India for an aeth dani (50% pashmina with 50% toosh)  or bah dani (25% pashmina with 75% toosh) began somewhere around 1 lakh and for a 100% toosh shawl, it went up to at least 2-3 lakh rupees! 

The price went almost double for buying a toosh shawl at places like the US and Europe.

Why is Shahtoosh Wool Banned?

The UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) banned the trade of the Chiru wool products in 1975. It was banned globally in 1975.

The Indian government put a ban on trade of Shahtoosha in 1991. Then, the J&K government announced a ban on the manufacture and trade of the Shahtoosh wool in the early 2000s. After several court hearings and many years later, the law was finally enforced.  

Around 20,000 Tibetan antelopes or Chirus needed to be killed every year for the production of the toosh shawls. As a result, their population declined significantly. From around a million antelopes, the number came down to approx 75,000 by the end of the 20th century. The Chiru became an endangered species. All these reasons contributed to the ban of the Shahtoosh trade.

The sale and possession of a shahtoosh shawl is now illegal in most of the countries and is a punishable offence. 

The Chiru population has now stabilized and is thought to be increasing. Almost 15,000 people had been employed in the trade when the shahtoosh wool was legal.

The livelihood of thousands of families depended on the Shahtoosh wool trade in Kashmir. The weavers were later provided with other alternative ways of earning. But they are rather insignificant.

Since so many people depended on the trade, a parliamentary panel requested that the ban on the Shahtoosh wool trade be lifted to revive the industry as well as the employment opportunities. The traders welcomed this proposal with open arms. However, the request was not accepted and the trade of Shahtoosh shawls still remains illegal.

Any person who infringes the law can be subjected to a hefty fine and may also be sentenced to several years in jail.

Over to You

‘Shahtoosh’ is now a word that is talked about with much hush hush. But despite the ban, the demand for the toosh shawls and scarves still remains high in various western countries. 

Although we don’t know what the future holds for the Shahtoosh Shawl, a great alternative to the Shahtoosh is the Pashmina Shawl – one of the softest, warmest and lightest shawls in the world which is legal as well.

Also Read:

A-Z Guide on Kashmiri Embroidery

A-Z Guide on Kashmiri Embroidery

Just as its beauty, Kashmir’s history is unique. The handicrafts of Kashmir are as breathtaking as the lush green valleys it hosts. The beautiful art of Kashmiri embroidery is as old as the modern Muslim culture of the place.

The first thing that comes to our minds when we think of Kashmiri garments is the intricate embroidery that adorns them. Whether it is pashmina shawls, dress materials, kaftans, kurtas/ kurtis, sarees or even bags, the signature Kashmiri embroidery is what sets all Kashmiri apparel apart.

It is also popularly known as ‘Kashida’ embroidery, kashidkari in full. That’s for the Kashmiris though. The embroidery seeks inspiration from nature all around. Popular designs include flowers, leaves, trees, blossoms, creepers etc.

Interested in buying exclusives from Kashmir?

If this ancient art intrigues you as well, then read on. In this article, I will give you deeper insights into the Kashidakari, or Kashmiri embroidery and answer all your questions related to it.

History of Kashmiri Embroidery

The Kashida is one of the oldest forms of embroidery in India. It is a centuries’ old art. The history of embroidery in Kashmir can be traced back to as early as the 15th century. However, it was during the Mughal rule (around 16th century) that the textile industry in Kashmir saw a major surge. 

The Mughal emperors are known to have patronized it. It was during this time that Kashmiri shawls and other Kashmiri garments started becoming popular around the world. Similarly, the Kashmiri embroidery too started shaping up and became an important part of various Kashmiri textiles. And since then, its demand has grown multifolds.

Types of Kashmiri Embroidery

History tells us that Art came to Kashmir from Central Asia. It traveled with Muslim traders who entered the valley through the Silk route. It evolved with time and artisans were able to mix and match various art forms they had learned from the traders from abroad. 

So, today there are many types of embroidery in Kashmir. But, the most popular ones include: 

The Aari or Crewel Embroidery

Even though its origin is unknown, it can be traced back to as early as the medieval period. This kind of embroidery is locally known as Zalakdozi. It is a very old technique but also very popular. The crewel embroidery makes use of a pointed crochet or an ‘aari’ as the needle. 

This form of embroidery can be done on cotton, wool, silk, velvet as well as other fabrics. This embroidery can be commonly seen on curtains, drapes and other upholstery, bedding, dress materials etc. Woolen or art silk thread is used for this particular embroidery. Mostly, the chain stitch is used for the crewel embroidery. 

Popular designs for this embroidery include flowers, blossoms, leaves, creepers etc. It has two types:

  • 1-ply embroidery: It makes use of 1-ply woolen thread. It is cheaper but less durable.
  • 2-ply embroidery: It makes use of 2-ply woolen thread. This is more expensive than 1-ply but is more durable.

The 2-ply woolen thread is more commonly used.

The Process: First, the design is drawn on a perforated sheet by an expert tracer. Then, this sheet is laid on the fabric and either chalk or charcoal powder is applied to it to trace the design. After that, in order to make the tracing more visible, some oil is added to it. After the design gets traced onto the fabric, the outlines of the design are drawn with the use of a wooden pen. 

The skilled embroiderer, also known as zalakdoz in Kashmir then proceeds to embroider the fabric. The time taken to finish the product depends upon the fabric and the size of embroidery to be done. It usually takes a few days. This is how the crewel or Aari Kashmiri embroidery is done.

The Sozni Embroidery 

This form of embroidery is quite different from the aari embroidery. A needle is used in sozni embroidery. The Sozni embroidery can commonly be found on shawls, jackets, dress materials etc. The work that goes into this embroidery is very intricate. 

Popular motifs for this embroidery are abstract geometric designs, paisley patterns. The Sozni embroidery is exclusive only to Kashmir and cannot be found anywhere else. The satin-stitch is used for making this type of embroidery.

The Process: The designer (or Naqash) first begins by drawing a design on a paper. The second step involved in the procedure is a very important step. A specialist wood carver then carves the design out of a wooden block. 

With the use of the wood that has been carved, the design is then stamped onto the shawl. After this, an expert embroiderer embroiders the design. This is how the Sozni Kashmiri embroidery is made. 

The Tilla Embroidery

Another type of Kashmiri embroidery is the ‘Tilla embroidery’. This kind of embroidery is done with golden or silver threads. It is mostly done on the Kashmiri traditional garment called Phiran. But now, it can also be commonly seen on shawls and sarees. The beautiful tilla embroidery adorns ethnic wear and gives it a royal touch. 

This classic type of embroidery is a true epitome of grace and class. Initially, real gold and silver were used for the embroidery. Only the rich could afford this luxury back in the day; making it super popular among the royals. However, now, just gold and silver-colored threads are used. 

The Process: First, the designer makes a design on a tracing paper. After the design is made, the trace paper is carefully kept on the fabric. A duster is then dipped in either blue or white ink (blue ink for lighter fabrics and white ink for darker fabrics) is moved all over the fabric. The design, thus, gets transferred to the fabric. 

An expert Tilla artist then works his magic on the fabric. The tilla thread is used to make the embroidery and then a cotton thread is used to fasten it. All of this is done with a special needle. This is how the Tilla Kashmiri embroidery is made. 

The Amli Embroidery

The Amli embroidery makes use of multicolored threads. It is relatively a new type of embroidery. This embroidery is mostly seen on the kani and jamevar shawls.

The Process: First, the design is drawn on a paper. Before the design is transferred, the shawl is first nicely smoothened out. Then it is transferred onto the shawl with the help of charcoal or other colored powder. The design is then embroidered using multicolored threads.

Now that we know about the types of embroidery commonly used in Kashmir, let us get into more specifics.

Which stitches are used in Kashmiri embroidery?

Many different stitches are used in the Kashmiri embroidery. The Kashmiri embroidery stitches are as follows:

  • The Chain Stitch: This technique involves creating a loop of stitches which ends up looking like a chain and hence the name, chain stitch.
  • The Satin Stitch: Another one of the Kashmiri embroidery stitches is the Satin Stitch. This kind of stitch is usually used to cover large surfaces.
  • The Stem Stitch: This type of stitch is mostly used to embroider the boundaries of a design/ motif.
  • The Darning Stitch: This method involves making rows of straight stitches which are placed next to each other.
  • The buttonhole or vata chikan stitch: This form of stitching is used to cover or fill larger areas.
  • The Herringbone Stitch: This stitch is used for making borders.

What are the different Kashmiri embroidery motifs?

Mostly, nature forms the basis for Kashmiri embroidery motifs. Since Kashmir is so beautifully blessed with abundant natural beauty, the embroidery artists need not look anywhere else for inspiration. 

Popular motifs include flowers like lilies, tulips, saffron and lotuses, leaves, twigs, fruits like grapes, apples, mangoes, almonds and cherries and various birds like parrots, woodpeckers and kingfishers. Geometric designs and paisley patterns are also quite common. These elements together form the base for Kashmiri embroidery designs. 

What are the different Kashmiri embroidery designs?

Various Kashmiri embroidery designs include floral designs, animal designs, hunting designs etc.

Some interesting facts on Kashmiri Embroidery:

  • All embroiderers use ‘nyath’ which acts as protection to their fingers. They are leather finger caps or thimbles. Without the use of these, the artists can develop holes in their fingers.
  • Men in Kashmir are known to do the finest embroidery.
  • Every piece after its embroidered gets washed.

Over to You 

Thus, it can be said that Kashmiri embroidery is an art that requires utmost dedication, patience and precision. Initially, only men are involved in the embroidery process in Kashmir. A son inherited this art from his father. But now, since the last few years, women have started participating too. 

It takes years and years’ worth of practice to master this art. Most men who are involved in this profession usually begin practising early, around the age of 9 or 10 and then work up their way to expertise. It is due to their hard work that this traditional art form is still so well-preserved and recognized all around the world.

Also Read:

× I'm here to help! Message me :)