Shawl Weaving in the later part of the 20th Century

The process of weaving in 2x2 tapestry-twill requires a high degree of skill and concentration, as the following description and the accompanying photos demonstrate. But before the weaver began to work on the loom, the fibers of goat hair and sheep wool had to be harvested, washed, combed and spun. The raw material, especially for a shawl made of goat hair or from the highest quality of sheep wool, was very expensive and it is said wild goat hair was more valuable than its weight in gold! The various steps necessary to transform the fibers into spun thread were laborious and time consuming and the spinning, like tapestry-twill weaving, was also a job that required a high degree of skill.

The exceptionally fine diameter of the two components used to weave each tapestry-twill Kashmir shawl - the warp ( the foundation thread) and the weft (the pattern thread used to create the design) - had to have enough strength to render the fabric useable as an article of dress. Imagine two hundred threads, each one nine feet long, placed side to side in each inch and you can visualize what the weavers of the historic shawl period were working with. Then multiply that by 36, as the average man's wearing shawl was three feet wide.

This seems to be almost impossible work, doesn't it? But the complications of tapestry-twill shawl weaving didn't stop there.

The true technical name for 2x2 tapestry-twill weaving includes the phrase double-interlocked. This refers to the interlocking or joining of every weft thread each time it met one of a different color. The weft or pattern threads in tapestry 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. Figure K5 shows the foundation or warp threads, which in this photo are black. Figure K5a shows a small area of finished weaving, the colored pattern threads(weft) done on white foundation threads(warp).

Lengths of each weft or pattern thread were first wound around a wooden spool, called tojlis in Kashmir or bobbins as they are known in the West. The weaving work was done by inserting the prepared tojlis over and then under pairs of adjacent warp threads. This was done from the backside of the shawl and that is what is shown here(fig.5a).

Click figs for larger view