The most famous handicrafts of Kashmir include wood carving, papier mâché, copper crafts, stone crafting, embroidery, and textiles. The textiles of Jammu and Kashmir are world-famous for their fine weaving and embroidery. Since several centuries ago, Kashmiri artisans have been practicing needlework to create exquisite carpets, rugs and garments like shawls, scarves, and pherans. Wool is used in carpets, rugs and shawls, as also in traditional and modern clothing of the Kashmiris.
The designs on these woollen artefacts depict nature through floral patterns and chinar trees or represent the culture and heritage of the region. The embroidery designs on Kashmiri woollen garments range from court scenes and lives of kings to the depiction of the scenic beauty of Kashmir. Today, woollen shawls, carpets and rugs of Kashmir are sold in other parts of India as well as exported to several other countries. Kashmiri woollen handicrafts are sought-after by art collectors across the globe and well-known for being warm and comfortable for use. Here we tell you about the famous woollen handicrafts of Kashmir.
Pashmina Shawls: Pashmina is derived from Pashm which is the name given to the fleece of the Changthangi goat, an exotic cashmere goat found in Ladakh. Pashm is an Urdu word with a Farsi origin and Pashmina wool is considered as one of the finest types of wools and known for its warmth. This wool is used in weaving shawls by the same name and known for their fine weaving and beautiful embroidery. Initially used only by the royals, they soon started to be used by commoners, and today, they are popular around the world.
Kani Shawls: These shawls are woven from pashmina yarn. This shawl originated in the Kanihama region of Kashmir and the art of kani shawl weaving flourished during the Mughal rule. This is one of the oldest woollen handicrafts of the Kashmir Valley.
Shahtoosh Shawls: Shahtoosh (or shahtush) means ‘king of wools’. It is a fine wool obtained from the Tibetan antelope. Shahtoosh is the world’s finest wool with the lowest micron count. These shawls are so fine that they can pass through a ring and hence, are also called ring shawls.
Kashmiri Carpets: The carpets of Kashmir are woven using wool, silk, or a blend of wool and silk. They come in different sizes and have intricate designs. Oriental or floral designs in bright colours are commonly seen on Kashmiri rugs. Carpet weaving was introduced in Kashmir around 400 years ago by the Mughals. Today, these carpets or rugs are a part of every Kashmiri household and are popular across the globe.
Namda: It is a traditional Kashmiri floor covering in which wool is felted not woven. Multiple layers of wool are put together and the chain stitch aari embroidery is used for beautifying this carpet. Namda technique was introduced to Kashmir in the 11th century during the reign of Emperor Akbar.
Qaleen: This is a hand-knotted piled carpet in which wool or silk is used. Bod Shah, the eighth sultan of Kashmir brought the art of hand-knotting, from Persia to Kashmir during the 15th century.
Pherans are an important part of Kashmir’s traditional clothing. The pherans used in winter are woollen and they provide excellent protection from the cold. Woollen scarves, sweaters, suits and jackets are also popular. Apart from floor coverings (carpets), wool is also used in mats, bedspreads, cushion covers, and pillow cases. Owing to the wool which is of superior quality, fineness in the weaving, and the embroidery and designing skills of Kashmiri craftsmen, woollen handicrafts of Kashmir have earned wide popularity.