Shawl Weaving in the later part of the 20th Century

In 1981 when these photos were made there was only one shawl weaving atelier left in Kashmir. It was located about 20 miles outside Srinigar, the main city of the Kashmir territory, in a small village called Kanihama. I visited there while I was in India and Kashmir collecting information on Kashmir Shawls and made the photographs that accompany this section then. This workshop was a government-sponsored project founded as part of an effort to stimulate native craft industries.

It was run by Mr. Kanihama (fig.K1), who supervised the work done by the two resident master weavers, five or six journeyman and about ten apprentice weavers. They all worked in one large room, the master weavers acting as teachers for the others. These master weavers produced the most accomplished pieces but in comparison to those accompanying this exhibition their work could only be called amateur (fig.K2).

The best pieces produced in Kanihama had warp counts - the number of foundation threads per inch - of only 60 to 70 while the shawls illustrated in the Plates section and the text average over 200 per inch.

The dyes were mostly modern European chemical ones but the patterns they were producing in Kanihama were traditional as was
the equipment the weavers were using. From the looms to the spinning devices everything was antique and appeared to date from the early 19th century. A miniature painting of a weaver from that time (fig.K3) shows almost exactly the same scene, compare the loom(fig.K4) with the one in the miniature.

Click figs for larger view