Hand knitted shawls made from the fibre of the giant Himalayan nettle.
In the Himalayas of northern India, on the border between Tibet and Nepal, is Kumaon, one of the most beautiful and untouched areas of India. From there you can see the five snow-covered peaks of the Panchachuli mountain range. Panchachuli means “the five brothers” and is one of the highest mountain ranges in India. At the foot of the Panchachuli range is a cooperative of village women who use their traditional skills to produce beautiful products from high-quality raw materials. Panchachuli Women Weavers is a development program, which facilitates economic and social independence for women in the Indian Himalayas using the traditional arts of weaving and knitting. The project has given the women an alternative way of earning their living and has contributed significantly to the structural development of the Kumaon region.
Over 800 women from a total of 32 villages in the region are involved in the processing of raw materials and the production of high-quality woven and knitted products. The women are all shareholders in the cooperative as well as receiving regular wages. A specialty of the Panchachuli women weavers is the treatment and processing of the giant nettles which grow in the Himalayan plateaus. The plant grows in large quantities in the region each year and is collected by the women in spring in the woods and fields using sustainable harvesting practices. The nettle, known locally as allo, boasts the longest fibres in the plant kingdom producing exceptionally strong, hard-wearing but soft products. The processing of the nettle bark into yarn is a complicated process: the fibres are boiled, beaten to a pulp, bleached with chalk and then soaked. Then they have to be washed before they can be further processed to make the fine thread which is then knitted into these beautiful shawls.
Pashmina fibre was originally designed to keep baby cashmere goats warm in the Himalayas.
The Changthangi or Pashmina goat is a breed of goat from Tibet or neighbouring areas in the Ladakhi Changthang, usually raised for meat or cashmere wool – known as pashmina once woven.
These goats grow a thick, warm fleece. They survive on grass in Ladakh, where temperatures plunge to as low as −20 °C . These goats provide the wool for Kashmir’s famous Pashmina shawls.
Note: the word ‘pashmina’ has been purloined by some manufacturers to describe any long scarf or shawl in any fibre including synthetics. This can be very confusing to buyers. True pashmina is the fibre from the young Changthangi or Pashmina goat.
Wash your precious pashmina product the same way you would your own hair: a gentle handwash in warm water and shampoo. To dry, squeeze dry inside a towel and dry flat in shade.
Winter has arrived in the southern hemisphere and we have some gorgeous warmth generating devices from one of the coldest places on the planet.
It gets so cold in the Himalayas that even the goats have developed clever ways of keeping warm. The Changthangi or pashmina goats have developed exceptionally warm and light fiber that not only insulates them from the sub-zero temperatures, but also makes some of the softest, warmest textiles you would ever want next to your skin.
All these winter warmers are made from hand-spun fibre which has been dyed from natural sources* and hand-woven into the most beautiful cloth.
The long flight from Australia arrived in Delhi mid-morning local time. After transferring to the domestic terminal and a short but sleepy wait, it was time to board a Spicejet flight to Dehradun in the foothills of the Himalayas in India’s newest state, Uttarakhand.
I had now been awake for nearly 30 hours and harboring a viral intruder. The bed was the typically Indian and hard as a board, yet strangely comfortable to my exhausted body. The virus was developing nicely, and the night was a series of fitful wakes and sleeps.
Hand spun and naturally dyed wool ready to be woven into shawls
Feeling a little better by morning, I made plans to visit the weaving co-op that was my main reason for coming to Dehradun to buy stock for KASU EMPORIUM. Continue reading →