It’s safe to say the Spiti Valley is a hidden treasure, not at all short of talented craftsmen and women! A fundamental craft within the Valley is the art of weaving, a cultural heritage that has since played a natural part in Valley’s life dating back years. The fine material used in weaving is obtained from goats which are highly valued for their pure pashmina wool. Weaving reflects adept craftsmanship through hand spinning wool on spools.
The Spiti Shawl, called Langzar to the people, is intricately woven in a geometric pattern using many colours – each woman with a discrete pattern she remembers. Weavers immerse themselves in the disciplined practice of weaving with hand precision and care. The Spiti Projects acknowledges how important it is to preserve the ancient art of shawl making and weaving, even more so providing women with the opportunity to earn money. Therefore, we decided to set up a Craft Centre in Kaza. The women of the Valley are delighted and gleeful with the venture they are embarking on to make a means to an end.
Observing the spinning of wool highlighted how time consuming this method is, as well as there not being a consistency of the thread. Surely there must be a more efficient way?! We wasted no time in putting our thinking caps on and investigated this method, leading us to an enlightening discovery that could hopefully bring about convenience for the people. We discovered the importation of spinning wheels from the UK to New Zealand that sits within our financial budget.
So, over the years we have successfully supported various villages by supplying Spiti Valley with 11 spinning wheels. Before introducing the spinning wheels, wool would’ve normally take 2 to 3 days to spin. That time used to spin wool can now be cut in half, allowing the women to pass the spinning wheel from house to house. In addition, the wheels yield a finer product. A win-win situation! During winter season women can work to produce great quality shawls to sell in the Craft Centre.
As part of Valley tradition, the ancient patterns are handed down from mother to daughter by word of mouth, with no written records of how exactly to achieve the detailed patterns. As the Valley inevitably changes along with the improvement of communication systems, the younger generation no longer possess the time to spend creating shawls. Therefore, a great danger lies within losing these intricate designs. Spiti Projects continues to do all possible to help sustain this incredible but vital tradition.