For the last 30 years, Abdul Majeed Dar has been working on a manual handloom to weave Pashmina shawls and stoles which look and feel absolutely magical. He is one of the few weavers in the valley who is the most experienced when it comes to Pashmina weaving. His handwoven pieces are airy light, delicate and absolute marvels, even when they are still in their solid forms. His hands do magic when sitting on a loom, and his workers say that Dar hardly speaks to anyone for 8-9 hours when he sits on the loom. The process of weaving is not an easy one. Warp yarns which are of a diameter of fewer than 16 microns are first set longitudinally on a handloom. Then a weft yarn is inserted horizontally at right angles to the warp threads according to the design. This alternative warp and weft combinations create a magical Pashmina shawl. Taking care of such gentle threads is a difficult task. The threads are easily breakable and then weaving them on a handloom seems quite a task. But with craft experts like Dar, the process creates the impression of being the easiest thing you can do. There was a time when Dar and other weavers of his age enjoyed this work as well as supported their families easily with the earnings. Weavers received spun thread from womenfolk and they started weaving the same till a shawl was complete. But in the early 1990s times changed. With the introduction of power looms, whose productivity is more than double what a handloom can produce, these weavers suffered a major blow. Now the spun thread went to owners of large factories who used power looms to spin 2-3 shawls a day as compared to handweavers who used to spend 4-5 days weaving one shawl. This proved really detrimental and handweavers lost jobs as well as relevance in society. Dar, with many of his weaver friends, never lost hope and kept their work continued, working on extremely low wages. They didn't want this prestigious craft of Pashmina to die and sacrificed their own luxuries to save the craft. With a small group of other craftsmen, Dar set up his loom in a dim-lit room of 10*12 and reached out to sellers who still dealt with handmade shawls. This helped quite a bit but not enough for a family to survive upon. Hence Dar lost all hope in bringing the good old days back.
Dar and Pashmina.com
When we were looking for handloom weavers, the first person we encountered was Dar. He worked with one of our embroidery artisans who introduced him to us. We found Dar to be as humble as he was skillful. Dar is one of our master weavers today. He takes lesser time to weave a shawl and the way he mounts such fine threads over the loom is worth watching for hours together.