A traditional Kashmiri hand weaving technique which has produced some of the very finest and most elaborate cashmere shawls, now mainly produced in the Srinagar locality, in Kanihama, Batpora, Kashmir. Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte famously presented his wife Empress Josephine with a Kani shawl, in 1776.
In Kashmiri, Kani means ‘small sticks’, essentially wooden spools, or BOBBINS, which are used to weave each colour in separately, thereby creating the famously meticulous patterns; it is a technique also known as interlocking twill tapestry, because the warps and wefts are set in a diagonal structure on the loom. As they work, the weavers follow an artistic sketch of the finished design along with the precise, coded instructions set out on a grid. The level of detail and craftsmanship that goes into kani weaving is incredibly time consuming, a single shawl can take over a year to make.
Above all, Kani shawls are prized for the quality and beauty of the finished cloth. As Rosie Thomas describes so well in her book The Kashmir Shawl,
“The design – a pattern of peacock feathers within lush borders of floral and paisley shapes… it was the colours that took her breath away. They captured all the shades of a Kashmiri summer’s afternoon, from aquamarine to silver, from the sky’s blue to the deep green depths of lake water.”
Such shawls were great resources in the home, a significant part of a dowry that could be used for clothing, bed linen, sold for income, cut up and made into something else and passed down through the generations.