Historically the valley between the Himalayas and the Pir Panjal mountain ranges of the north western Indian sub continent, it now refers to a region divided geographically and politically between India and Pakistan. It is an important religious and cultural centre renowned for its fine craftsmanship and textiles: wool and silk weaving, rugs, wood-carving, silversmithing, pottery, papier-mâché, and the internationally renowned pashmina and cashmere shawls–handwoven from the softest and warmest Kashmir mountain goats’ wool and embroidered with the boteh/paisley motifs, fashionable the world over since the 19thC.
Cashmere shawls are noted in European writings as early as from the 3rd C and 11th C, becoming well known in the 16th century. Whereas we are nowadays familiar with these all-over patterned shawls and table covers, the earliest examples are plain with a deep patterned border at each end designed with flower vases or pine cones–the forerunner to the boteh.
Among others, Jenny Housego at Kashmir Loom produces exquisite new shawls, inspired by old designs but carrying the personal touch of the current weavers, who are delighted to revive their inherited handiwork skills.
For further reading see Jenny Housego’s papers and Kashmir Loom