A square of woven or knitted cloth draped around the shoulders and sometimes pulled over the head for warmth and protection from the elements, and as a fashion accessory. This concept of keeping warm and snuggled up puts shawls very much have a place in interior furnishings, as fireside and bed throws, garden knee warmers and recycled into infinite variations on cushion covers…as a rule of thumb, the finer the wool, the lighter and warmer the materials–pashmina, cashmere, mohair, alpaca, etc.
Kashmir in particular has long been famed for its extraordinary shawls, owned by local royalty and as from the 18thC exported for the European elite–Empress Josephine, wife of Napoleon of France, famously had a large collection and is depicted in many portraits draped in a shawl, in dresses made up of cut-up shawls. This fashion grew to the extent that by the 1870’s no lady of taste would dream of going out without one covering her shoulders. Designs also evolved from the Kashmiri borders of elegant Mughali -type floral motifs to a more European style, with ornate, elaborate patterns and thicker textures.
“ Now, more than a century later, the Kashmir Loom Company is having a small hand in reviving this extraordinary technique, and kani shawls are once again being woven. Even if the weavers are not willing to undertake the production of shawls as fine as the best of the past, the achievement is considerable. Such shawls are extremely expensive; it takes two weavers over a year to complete one shawl, each pattern detail painstakingly worked by hand. Yet there is a market, both within India and outside. There are wealthy customers who want the very best, the most beautiful, who have the means and, more, are ready to spend it on items of great beauty and rarity.” Jenny Housego Kashmir Loom