India, Kashmir Loom, Weaving
Kashmir Loom was created by Housego and Asaf Ali, together with Ali’s brothers in Srinagar, the lake capital of the Indian province of Kashmir. Housego and the brothers, with their team of master craftsmen have added modern design to the woven and embroidered shawls from Kashmir Valley. Their mission is to preserve the textile heritage of shawl making in the region while fostering its progress. Asaf is the third generation of his family working in textiles and his passion for fabric started when he was 15 years old, as an apprentice to his uncle, who collected antique carpets.
Kashmir Loom creates shawls from pashmina, locally known as lena. The pashmina fibre comes from a particular type of goat called Changra that lives in the high altitude regions of Ladakh in northern India and in neighbouring Tibet at a height of over 5000 metres. The goats have a thick undercoat to protect them from the extreme cold of winter. They are raised in herds by caring shepherds who comb the fleece out by hand in the spring. The heavy coarse outer hair is then separated from the soft undercoat. The goats graze on the sparse vegetation of the region where no chemicals have ever been used and their water is provided by mineral-enriched streams coming down from the high mountains.
Production in Kashmir takes place in small family workshops; women sitting at the traditional hand ‘charka’ wheel spin a pure gossamer yarn - the pashmina. The dyes used are Azo-free and the weaving process is environmentally friendly. Yarn is hand-woven by men into a wonderfully supple, soft, yet warm fabric. One of the techniques that Kashmir Loom artisans use is Kani weaving, found only in the Kashmir Valley. The famous Kashmir shawls that were the height of fashion in the late 18th and 19th centuries were woven in this way. The pattern is woven as part of the shawl in a very fine twill tapestry technique known as kani from the kan, which is a kind of a stick pointed at each end around which is wrapped the yarn. The end product is a piece of extraordinary workmanship, a distinct impression of the human hand.
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