During the pre-independence era clothes from industrialized regions couldn’t reach the valley due to lack of transportation facilities. As Kullu Valley falls under temperate Himalayan region, the cold climate prevalent is suitable for sheep and goat rearing, which also fulfills the necessity for woolens.
Initially the people of Kullu used to weave Patti which is 18”, 20” or 22” wide, and having an appropriate length. They wove it to fulfill the bare necessity of covering their body and protecting themselves of severe cold. Menfolk wove Patti for coats and suthan (pyjamas) and women used it as Pattus for themselves. Men also made caps out of Patti, which was originally, woven in natural colors of wool i.e. black, white and grey.
Until 1936 pattus were made on the pitloom, but after that handloom came into way, this probably happened because of British influence. When weavers from Bushehar (Shimla) came to the valley in early 1940’s their craft influenced the people of Kullu Valley. The weavers of Bushehar were acquainted with the geometrical designs, which they successfully used on Pattus.
In 1942 when Indian film star Devika Rani, daughter-in-law of famous Russian painter Nicholas Roerich , came to Kullu. She took a zealous interest in the looms and it was at her request that Sh. Sheru Ram of Banontar village fashioned the earliest urban size shawl (72″ x 36″). On being inspired from Mr. Sheru Ram, Pt. Urvi Dhar started manufacturing shawls commercially.
The advent of synthetic threads in Kullu too dates back to 1940’s when Busheheras came to the valley. As there weren’t any spinning mills in the valley, weavers started importing yarn from Ludhiana (Punjab) and used them in pattus and shawls. Most of these are being imported even today.
In 1957 Kullu Shawl Improvement Center opened up in the valley and Mr. Devi Prakash Sharma joined there as a technician. He developed diverse designs, visited the various co-operative societies and individual weavers and gave them new designs.
With time shawls are now being manufactured in a wide variety of patterns and the use of vegetable dyes, which augment an exotic array of subdued colors in apricots, ochre, rusts, browns, olives and many more, is in vogue.
Processing of Kullu Shawls
The process of shawl weaving consists of making of reels from Ruffle, Pashmina and Angora wool yarn first.
In case of the pitloom, the warp is made manually by winding it around peg- stands separated by a definite amount of distance. The drafting and denting of the ends is done by pulling them through the thread healds and the reed with the help of fingers. The warp is then set onto the loom, its ends are tied and its tension adjusted as per the requirement.
The warp for the fly shuttle flame loom is wound on the warping machine. It is transferred to the warp beam under tension, which is then put on the loom for drafting and denting. The warp ends are drafted and dented with a reed hook, the loom tie-ups and tension are re- adjusted and the loom is geared up for weaving.
The basic structure for the shawl is 2/2 twill woven on a straight or pointed drafting order. The surface texture could be as follows:
- Straight lifting plan woven on a straight drafting plan to give diagonal lines.
- Pointed lifting plan woven on a straight drafting plan to give vertical zigzag.
- Straight lifting plan woven on a pointed drafting plan to give a horizontal wavy pattern.
- Pointed lifting plan woven on a pointed drafting plan to give a diamond shaped structure.
The decorative border of the shawls is always woven in a basket weave with the dove- tailing or slit- tapestry techniques. The colored graph of the design to be woven is used as a reference and the number of ends per design is considered.
Cut lengths of the colored acrylic wool threads are placed in the warp in 2- 3 plys. The technique used to produce the pattern is intertwining or the ‘dove- tailing’ technique also referred as the tapestry weave.