Kani Ballads of Kashmir

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Perhaps nothing speaks of the glorious Arts and Crafts of Kashmir, as does a sumptuous Kani Pashmina. Intricate designs that catch your eyes in an unwavering attention, there is a color array of Kani Pashminas that causes a little flutter in every woman’s heart. As I run down my fingers across the softness of the shawl, subtle warmth spreads across me. Kani Pashmina-the epitome of Kashmiri Hand Craft, a must have in the Bridal Trousseau, more than a shawl, a masterpiece that stays with you lifelong!

History of Kani Shawls

Pashmina is a derived from the Persian language meaning soft and shiny. Known for its profound softness, the shawl is spun from a special type of yarn derived from an Ibex goat, indigenous to Kashmir and the highlands of Ladakh. The popular belief pertaining to the history of Pashmina as is with the other handicrafts of Kashmir, is the influence of Persian art that was introduced into Kashmir by the Muslim Scholar Shah-e-Hamdan who came to Kashmir in the 14th century with some of his followers that included shawl makers, carpet weavers, artists and calligraphers. Kani Shawls were first made in Kashmir some 600 years ago and the popularity grew in the era of Mughal Emperor Akbar. He is said to have gifted a handmade Kani Jamawar to the Queen of England.

Making of Kani Pashmina

Kani in Kashmiri means small wooden sticks or bobbins. Kani Pashmina shawl is woven with these kani sticks, also known as tujlis and requires a high degree of skill and concentration. A fully Jamawar Kani Pashmina takes about 12 to 24 months to complete.

Preliminary Steps

The harvested Pashm threads are washed, combed and spun before handing it out to the weaver. As easy as it may seem, the actual process is manifold and laborious.

Setting up the Loom

Next, the handloom is set up and the design of the kani, taleem (the coded design pattern) is handed over to the weaver. The twill Kashmiri Shawl, with its two fundamental components warp (the foundation thread) and weft (the pattern used to create the design) need to have enough strength to render the shawl as a usable fabric. The twill weaving includes the technique known as double-interlocking. This refers to the interlocking or joining of every weft thread each time it meets one of a different color. The weft threads in shawl weaving do not proceed in a side-to-side linear fashion to create the pattern but rather builds color areas by moving from the bottom of the weaving to the top. Lengths of each weft thread are first wound around a kani or bobbins as they are known in the West. The weaving work is done by inserting the prepared kani’s over and then under pairs of adjacent warp threads.

Kani Ballads

The various colored kani’s are arranged as per the design of the shawl in the making. Each kani stick is inserted one at a time and when the pattern calls for another color to define the design, the two kani’s need to be interlocked and joined together. For a width of three feet, 300-400 kani sticks are used which multiplies to 30 to 40 times when making a historic kani design. This labor intensive kani ballad is what creates the exemplary Kani Pashmina Shawl!

Types of Kani Pattern

Kani Pashmina shawls are woven mostly keeping in mind two weave patterns. These are the full embroidery Jamawar and the border pattern known as Palldar.

Jamawar is the full length design pattern done in the articulate designs of traditional paisleys, flowers in an array of both lively and pastel hues. On an average a Kani Jamawar takes 1-2 years of making.

Palldar on the other hand is the kani pattern of paisleys and flowers woven only on the border area of the pashmina shawl. A Kani Palldar shawl takes about 2-3 months to make.

Grandeur of Kani Pashmina

As a symbol of Kashmiri craftsmanship, Kani Pashmina Shawl is housed in the world’s finest museums, such as the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris and the department of Islamic art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. The Musée du Louvre in Paris has portraits of 19th century French empress Joséphine draped in a Kani.

Kani Pashmina is not just a shawl; it is much more than that. It is a piece of art! Kani is a classy pashmina shawl for those who love colors, sophistication and art. When you drape yourself in a kani pashmina, you are not just draping in a wrap, it is the story behind that will embrace you in its warmth. The color duet of kani tujlis that will speak of your style!

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