How do I care for my shawl?
Hand-washing and dry cleaning are the most common ways to care for and clean shawls. In order to properly protect your shawl, follow the washing instructions specific to the fabric. For shawls made with the highest percentage of alpaca, commonly from the Andes, it is recommended to wash with cold water and on a low spin cycle. Shawls are delicate garments; therefore, using a garment bag is the safest way to avoid damage. Wash with similar colors to avoid dulling the vibrancy of the fabric. The safest option for drying hand-washed shawls is to hang them dry, though best to avoid direct sunlight.
How warm are shawls?
The great thing about shawls is that they are versatile. One can find a shawl for every season. Warmth is often based on the tightness of the weave and the type of material used. Alpaca fiber is known for its thermal capacity and provides an optimal degree of warmth. Sheep wool also acts as an insulator, absorbing moisture and creating a feeling of coziness for the wearer. Shawls made of cashmere and pashmina are light and thin, yet still provide a high degree of warmth. In Mexico, shawls made from San Juan Chamula sheep keep one warm and comfortable.
What shawls are most comfortable?
Comfort is always a question of preference, but certain fabrics lend themselves to softness and warmth. Shawls from the Andes are made from super soft alpaca fibers, and provide wearers a high level of comfort. Similarly, in Thailand and Bali, silk shawls are always favorites. Depending on one’s climate, particular shawls may be preferable. Central American shawls made from cotton and rayon keep wearers cool in warm climates, whereas bamboo and acrylic shawls are great for cold weather. During hot summers, Indian shawls made of modal, silk, and viscose are a perfect option, and merino wool and cashmere are ideal for winter. West Africa stands by the luxurious comfort of their 100% cotton shawls, and Mexico prioritizes comfort with their beautiful wool designs.
Are your shawls handmade?
Absolutely! We believe in supporting artisans who work in the ancient traditions of their ancestors, crafting items by hand, with patience and love. Although techniques vary among shawl makers--including the use of various looms, embroidery, hand-painting, stitching, and sewing--each piece is crafted by an individual artisan. While some may use sewing machines for portions of their shawls, there are no mega factories or mass production lines here. The beauty, creativity, and inspiration for each shawl comes from the artist’s own heart.
Are there any common motifs or designs used in traditional shawls?
The shawl is a wearable work of art, and as such, comes to us full of history, culture, and heritage. Each region invests its shawl art with different symbols, patterns, and designs. Some shawls, like those in West Africa and the Andes, feature linear and geometric shapes, clean lines and patterns that have been passed down through the centuries. In Bali, we find elaborate batik designs, a technique that makes use of alternating dye and wax to block color. In Central America, embroidered and woven shawls incorporate designs inspired by corn, butterflies, and birds. Floral patterns are very popular in Indian shawls, particularly in pashminas from Kashmir. Gujarati shawls often depict geometric shapes, and artisans increasingly incorporate contemporary designs through hand-painted fabric. Thailand also integrates floral patterning, often using the yok dok technique, a brocade style that leaves the fabric slightly raised. This emphasis on brocade is also evident in Mexican shawls, with lavish designs in the form of frets, flowers and geometric figures, all inspired by pre-Hispanic cultures.
What materials are used to make shawls?
Fibers, dyes, and fabrics come together in innovative, unique ways during the creation of a shawl. Different regions rely on resources that are readily available and have cultural significance. In West Africa, 100% cotton and rayon frequently make their appearances in shawls. In Bali and Thailand, soft silk lends a luxuriousness to the shawl. Central American artisans incorporate bamboo rayon, and India makes use of wool and silk with lurex. Mexico boasts an array of vibrant natural and cotton yarn dyes. And the Andes weaves shawls out of soft alpaca fiber.
What are the most popular methods for making traditional shawls?
Throughout the world, the shawl is considered a venerated garment, made by hand from techniques passed down through generations. The methods for making traditional shawls vary as widely as the regions that produce them. But most employ some method of hand knitting and weaving on a loom. In the Andes, for example, crocheting and flat weaving on a treadle loom are common techniques. In Central America, backstrap and foot looms are popular with artisans. In Bali, one finds intricate sewing, in addition to weaving. And in India and Thailand, practices of hand-painting fabric, batik, and the use of natural dyes are intimately tied to the creation of shawls.