Pashmina or Kashmiri Shawls are produced by two techniques: loom woven or Kani shawls, and the needle embroidered or Sozni shawls. The basic fabric is of the three types – Shah Tush, Pashmina and Raffal.
Shah Tush (King of wool) passes through a ring and is also known as Ring shawl. It comes from a rare Tibetan antelope living at a height of over 14000 ft in the wilds of the Himalayas. This type of shawl is no longer produced as the antelope is now protected and it is illegal to kill them for their ‘wool’ – existing shawls, which were known as ‘Peshmina’, are extremely valuable.
Pashmina is known world over as Cashmere wool. It comes from a special goat (Capra hircus) living at above 14,500 ft and reared by nomad shepherds around the famous Pongkong lake in close proximity to Western Tibet. Pashmina goats living above 14,500 ft produce the finest wool. The growth of the fine and warm pashm is related to the harsh winds and low temperatures that fall as low as minus 30 degrees Centigrade (-20° F). The goats are mustered each spring and the baby goats’ underbellies (kids’ tummies) are hand clipped to obtain Pashm the ‘wool’. Pashm has a special lustre due to its long, 12 microns fine fibers (Merino wool fibers 23 microns and Human hair up to 200 microns thickness). Pashmina is very light, soft and warm, and feels luxurious against the skin. Pashmina fleece colours range from winter white, grey, red, brown and black.
Raffal is spun out of merino wool fleeces and is a popular type of shawl. The shawls are embroidered with floral motifs. The various designs available include Neemdoor, Doordaar, Paladaar, Baildaar, Jaalis and Jammas. Embroidery is done with the help of a needle.
The two techniques used to produce the shawls are the Kani or Sozni shawls.
Kani shawls are woven on looms with the help of Kanis. Kanis are small eyeless bobbins used instead of the shuttle.
Sozni Embroidery Shawls are needle embroidered with staple yarn on raffle cloth, with an all-over flower design.