Wool - The govt. has started sheep farms for breeding for this purpose. Pure Pashmina is rarely used in present times. It is mixed with Merino wool from Australia and called Top wool.
Rice water solution -
Colours - Dyes, vegetable and acid dyes- derived from Indigo, saffron, cochineal, English baises, iron fillings, beetroot, pomegranate, and Mazarin root
Tools & Technology
Treadle loom - made of deodar wood for its strength, fragrance and insect repellent properties.
Kungi or reed -
Kani - carved from Pastul wood
The wool has two kinds of fibers- hard and soft. The wool is washed using Reetha. A solution of rice soaked in water is prepared to help remove the impurities. The water is drained off after 2 days. The residue is left to ferment in a sealed container. This is later ground into fine powder and sifted. This powder, when sprinkled onto the wool, draws out moisture and the hard hair. These are then separated using a comb.
The pashmina wool is collected every spring and is basically spun by hand. The yarn is spun on a spinning wheel locally known as 'Charkha'. Hand spinning is an extremely painstaking task. It requires immense patience and dexterity.
The wool merchant for use as warp and weft separates the spun yarn. If at this stage the yarn has to be dyed for the warp, it is sent to the dyer or rangur. In earlier times vegetable dyes were used. Nowadays acid metal complex dyes are used. Pashmina dyers usually do not dye any other fibers. The pashmina yarn does not require any scouring. As alkalis destroy the fiber, it is only washed with a neutral soap before being immersed in dye baths of copper vats. The wool is then dried in sunlight and rinsed in cold water. The hanks of wool are converted into bobbins and are made ready for warping.
Owing to the fineness of the yarn, the warps are made for each shawl, one at a time. The Tani or warp is wound straight from a bobbin, which stands on the ground with the aid of a warping stick, which ends in a hook through which the thread passes. This passes through a ring attached to the ceiling, to keep the flow smooth. The warp winder goes around, winds the warp around the four pegs stuck into the ground. The finished warp is attached directly to the loom. A bamboo stick is inserted in the lease. The warps are then sized.
Wool is wound around the Kani from large bobbins, and form the different wefts required in the weaving.
It is a transformation of the design into a script or series of hieroglyphs done by a taalim writer, a task demanding time, patience and expertise. The taalim is read from right to left while the weaving is done from left to right. When the taalim is given to the master weaver, he begins chanting the taalim and the weavers follow his instructions. The Taalim consists of a set of symbols denoting various numbers of warp ends and a second set denoting the different colours the Kani has to go over.
The warp beam, healds and comb are suspended from the ceiling. The former is attached by a peg and cord to a fixed beam beneath it and this arrangement enables it to be turned as required to let off the warp. The cloth beam is also tightened manually with a wooden stick called taang, which ensures even tension at all times. The shafts are operated in the usual way with treadles. Pashmina fabric is hand woven gently and the weft is inserted through a shuttle in a 'throw and catch'™ motion. Sometimes the comb or reed is beaten down several times before inserting the weft into the next pick of the cloth, in order to produce a tighter and more compact weave. The weaver can take 8-15 days to make a good quality plain pashmina shawl. The Kani shawl is woven in twill tapestry weave. The patterned portions of cloth are inserted using the Kanis. Therefore, the weft threads form the pattern - woven back and forth only where that particular colour is required. This technique might take around 18 months for a single shawl to be completed.
After the pashmina is woven, it is sent for washing. It is washed in soap nut solution or a non-ionic detergent. The Purzgar or finisher tweezes, clips and brushes it to get rid of it's superfluous flaws. It is then washed with cold water, after which it is dried and calendared.