During her nearly three decades in India, Jenny Housego, textile historian, designer, and co-founder of the Kashmir Loom Company, has ventured across the country to sit with weavers and embroiderers to forge new ways of combining traditional craftsmanship with contemporary designs. In Srinagar, the scenic capital of the Indian province of Kashmir, master craftsmen at Kashmir Loom Company have injected modern soul into the famously beautiful woven and embroidered shawls from Kashmir Valley.
Pashmina, or cashmere, comes from the regional Chyangra goat, and is hand-combed to produce a luxuriously delicate gossamer. It is very time-consuming work, and one of Kashmir Loom Company’s shawls can take years to create. A graph pattern is first prepared by an artist, each knowledgeable not only of historical designs but also of contemporary motifs and techniques. This graph is then translated into a special weaver’s language called Talim, which describes the pattern and the colors to be used by each weaver. In the past, these instructions were chanted by a master weaver, however this practice is now very rare.
These days the design is drawn onto draft paper which shows where and when each color is required. Production takes place in small family workshops. Women sitting at the traditional hand ‘charkha’ wheel spin a pure gossamer pashmina yarn. Then, this yarn is hand-woven by men into a wonderfully supple fabric. Kashmir contains a myriad of influences, ranging from the valley’s unique location on several trade routes, as well as its centuries-spanning use in a range of worldwide fashion. Kashmir Loom Company’s heirloom-quality shawls and scarves showcase extraordinary beauty and workmanship, conveying an amalgamation of rich history, unprecedented quality, and artistic innovation.