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Why The Kullu and Kinnauri Shawls Are Popular in India?
Himachal Pradesh is widely known for its fine weaving which not only caters to its functional need but also carries a piece of rich culture and tradition of its land. Most of the designs that we see today on Himachali weaves are highly influenced by Tibet and Central Asia. Being an extremely cold region, pit looms or handlooms can be found almost in every house. Wool is considered to be extremely pure which often marks its presence in various rituals. Undoubtedly, one of the most celebrated cloth is the shawl that can range from the finest pashmina to somewhat coarse desar. While Kullu shawls are famous for their simple patterns and playful colours, Kinnauri shawls are known for their fine weaving.
During the pre-independence era, it became difficult for clothes to be transported to valleys. Because of the hilly and uneven terrain, localities were forced to make their own garments and that’s how Kullu shawls came into existence. Since the beautiful valley of Kullu falls in the temperate region of Himalayas, the climate is quite suitable for goat and sheep rearing for wool- hence making it easier to make woollen articles locally.
There was a time when almost every household had their own pit looms to make warm clothes for themselves. They used to weave pattu in their pit looms to cover and protect their bodies against extreme cold. The pattus were woven in natural colours i.e white, grey and black. Somewhere in the late 1930s, because of the British influence, handlooms were introduced to the common folk which soon became a popular choice. Some weavers from Shimla entered the valley in the early 1940’s and they began using their own geometrical designs on pattus, and later on the Kullu shawls.
Kullu shawls are known for their sharp geometrical patterns and vibrant colours. Apart from the neat geometric patterns, these shawls can also be seen with floral motifs that can be both in the centre or the corners. Colour range generally consists of 1 to 8 different colours of yarns. Traditionally, mostly natural shades of wool like black, brown, grey and white were used as the base which was often embroidered with bright shades of yellow, red, magenta and blue among others. Today, pastel colours can be also seen on these warm shawls. Wool yarns are commonly derived from sheep, angora, yak or pashmina and they are completely handspun. The yarns were dyed using vegetable dyes but today, chemical dyes have gained popularity as well. The prices of these handcrafted beauties depend on the type of yarn used.
Known for its intricacies and finesse, Kinnauri shawls are truly a fine work of perfection. Its geometric designs are heavily influenced by the Central Asian culture and consists of motifs that usually symbolise religions and cultures. Just like Kullu shawls, the base colours are natural i.e. grey, black, brown and white and are embellished with orange, blue, green, etc. The five elements are often represented in the form of Kinnauri shawls- white represents water, yellow stand for earth, red signifies fire, green is for air and blue denotes ether. What makes these shawls more expensive than Kullu is their heavily patterned borders that are deftly handcrafted, thus increasing the labour cost. These shawls are mostly woven in 2 parts and then joined together from the centre with extensive hand-stitching. An average Kinnauri shawl can take up to 45 days to complete.
Primarily, the sheep wool is used as a raw material to make Himachali shawls. Other sources can be Pashmina goats, angora rabbits and Himalayan goats. The underbelly of a sheep is shaved to obtain their wool owing to its finer texture as compared to the outer body hair. Pashmina goats naturally shed their fleece in summers. The popularity of yak and rabbit wool has also increased because of their comparatively softer texture. Both chemical and vegetable dyes can be used to colour the wool in desired colours.
Once the yarns are in place, the weaving process begins. Since most of the localities are involved in weaving and are well acquainted with the process, both men and women play an equal role in making Kullu shawls, Kinnauri shawls and other woolen garments.
The first step is, of course, setting up a warp or the vertical length of the weave. The obtained yarns are unwinded from their cones and threaded through a wire and rolled around a warping drum (also known as ‘tana’) which is followed by winding around a warp beam. The length of the warp is totally dependent on the size of the warping drum- bigger the drum, bigger would be the warp.
Yarns are rolled around the drum as per the design and size. After the warp is long enough, it is wounded on the beam which is later mounted on the back of frame loom. After this, the warp is wound tightly around the drum and it is taken care that all the yarns are in place. Once the beam is fixed at the back of the loom, warp yarns are threaded one thread at a time, following the desired pattern. Following this. The yarns are passed through the reed and pulled towards the front of the loom before finally being wound around the front beam.
Now the warp is set and the process of weaving takes off. The weaver fixes a shuttle with the required weft yarn (also known as ‘bana’), which would make up for the horizontal width of the shawl. The shuttle then passes through the warp yarns, building the shawl one thread at a time. An old style frame loom requires the movement of hand above while the feet work on the pedals situated at the bottom of the loom. This is how shafts move up and down- taking the warp yarns along.
To add some detailing, extra weft threads can be inserted into the pattern only after most of the shawl is ready and the main pattern is completed. As a final step, the ends are tassled together so that the threads don’t open up. However, the machine looms do not require tasseling, hence making it a big distinguishing feature.
Care of Kullu and Kinnauri Shawls
Himachali shawls if maintained properly, can adorn your wardrobe for years to come. Do not bleach or machine wash, these are to be dry cleaned only.
Kullu Shawls at Craft Maestros
Being ardent collectors of fine and exquisite handicrafts ourselves, we strive to provide our customers with the best and authentic handicraft and handloom products of India, procured from distinguished corners.
You can buy Kullu Shawls online with us at Craft Maestros. Our entire range is beautifully curated from our nationally awarded master artisan and carries a piece of their hard work and dedication. Shop now from our carefully curated collection and add some colours of heritage to your treasured collection.
Kinnauri Shawls at Craft Maestros
Fine shawls are something that is passed from one generation to the next. To add a touch of Indian heritage to your family rituals, shop for some beautiful Kinnauri Shawls online at Craft Maestros. Each and every piece goes through levels of careful quality checks to ensure that only the best one product(s) is safely delivered to your doorstep.