Skip to content



3 Secrets of Sozni Embroidery

3 Secrets of SozniEmbroidery: Your Definitive Guide to the Breathtaking Handmade Wonder from the Valleys of Kashmir

In a sense, sozni embroidery is like wine. The longer it sits in production, the more irresistible the wearable art becomes. And yes, with all the out-of-this-world craftsmanship involved, don’t be surprised if the price tag climbs sharply. But no worries. Everyone who sees you wearing a sozni hand-embroidered pashmina shawl is bound to be astounded. Left largely in awe as Empress Josephine, who ended eventually collecting hundreds of them, was.

That’s the thing about art. After all, a thing of beauty is a joy to last forever,. Art at its finest such as the most iconic paintings in the world should attest.

You might encounter pashmina laden with a few fine sozni stitches on the edges. Or at the middle. Such needlework may take a month or two. But if you’re looking for truly stunning wearable art that sweeps you off your feet, you’d have to gun for those more intricate sozni embroideries that fill the whole shawl. Jaw-dropping needlework that takes not months — but years.

Indeed, it’s hard to imagine how passion and discipline can turn a thread, a needle, and a fine cloth made out of the underbelly of mountain goats into such remarkable work of art. And to think, most of these artisans are men, not women. In one fell swoop, these farmers-turned-artisans put the little-known garden paradise of Kashmir on the map, immortalized via these needleworks.

Certainly, such world-class art deserves more than just a casual look. And you’re in luck. Detailed below is a treasure trove of knowledge about Kashmiri embroidery you’ll never get anywhere. In the process, you’ll learn 3 powerful secrets about how sozni embroidery from a lowkey nature-rich faraway valley in India became a wearable art sought by the richest and the most powerful on the planet. Read on.

Secret #1: It’s All About the Base

It’s easy to be stuck in your brain when somebody mentions Kashmir. For anyone in the Western world, the place would most probably sound unfamiliar. Not only is the place on the other side of the planet but also, it’s deep in the heart of Asia.

Cold Weather Magic

Yes, Kashmir is in the northernmost part of India bound by the mighty range of mountains, the Himalayas on the north side and the Karakoram mountain ranges on the other. Every now and then, you might stumble on the news about the region. After all, Kashmir, along with Ladakh, part of its territory that became a separate administrative unit in 2019, is hotly contested by three neighboring countries: India, China, and Pakistan.

Weather-wise, you may not expect anything good will come out of Kashmir. Ladakh, alone, has been dubbed a ‘cold desert’. As the region is at high altitudes in snow-capped mountains, its climate is extremely cold yet dry. The days, however, are hot — as the air is so thin that you can feel the heat of the sun prick your skin. Don’t be fooled by all the heat. At night, temperatures drop to well below 30°C.

But as challenging as its weather is, Kashmir became the breeding ground of prize mountain goats that became a valuable source of the finest wool on earth. Turned into cloth that came to be known by the Western world as pashmina shawls, a much-in-demand wrap that’s bristling all over with sozni embroidery.

● Why does the cold weather matter? It’s simple actually. Those high-altitude goats develop fine hair that’s especially suited to combat the freezing weather.

That’s at an altitude of sometimes over 4,000 meters in the Himalayas. The hair provided a coping mechanism for the ruminants. Small wonder local artisans say: The colder the weather, the better the quality of wool from these mountain goats. Unfortunately, global warming could adversely affect it all.

Not Just Any Wool

Pashmina became the canvas upon which sozni embroidery flourished. And if you’re wondering how the craftsmanship became legendary, you’ll have to turn back the clock about 500 years ago.

It all started with Babur (1483 - 1530), founder of the Mughal Empire in India. He established the royal tradition of giving khil'at or ‘robes of honor’ made of the finest fabric as a way to reward great achievement or as one royal favor. As prized as pashmina shawls are, they became a standard of gift-giving for royal blood.

Over time, King Akbar (1555 - 1605), the grandson of Babur, became the patron of the finest Kashmiri shawls. He commissioned the best artisans of Kashmir to make more and more of these fine shawls thereby fuelling an industry. It was also Babur who made it a requirement that pashmina shawls be woven longer to wrap the full length of the body.

It’s no accident that the emperors of Iran from the 16th century to the earlier part of the 20th century wore Kashmiri shawls and gifted them as khil'at. We’re talking about the empires under Safavid, Qajar, and Zand.

As majestic as pashmina, it wouldn’t take long before Europe would be all aflame with the desire of owning one. No less than England’s Queen Victoria (1819 - 1901), the great-great-grandmother of the recently-passed Queen Elizabeth, became one of the first to be delighted by the wonders of the Kashmiri shawl. And akin to Mughal rulers, she practiced gifting Kashmiri shawls to visiting foreign dignitaries.

Take note that a little definition of terms should help you in understanding pashmina shawls. And inch you closer to becoming a connoisseur of the craft.

Raffal - Kashmiri shawl that is spun out of Merino wool. Merino is natural wool from the Merino sheep, a kind of sheep numbering in the millions and found in many places in the world (e.g., Australia, Argentina, South Africa, Uruguay). Merino wool is thinner and softer compared to your regular wool but it isn’t as soft and as fine as cashmere. Raffal is a popular alternative to cashmere as it’s cheaper. Though not as outstanding, others refer to it as pashmina.

Cashmere - is the Westernized version of Kashmir. Initially, the word refers to the fine fabric from the land. However, today, cashmere refers to quality wool from select goats from all over the planet. So, cashmere can come from Australia and even the U.S. However, the best quality and the priciest cashmere fabrics are still from the original source of the cloth: no other than the Kashmir region.

Pashmina - cashmere that comes from the mountain goats of the Kashmir region. Specifically, we’re talking about the Changthangi goats that live in 14,000 feet high mountains of Ladakh. So, while all pashmina is cashmere, not all cashmere is pashmina. By default, pashmina is finer than the more generic cashmere wool.

Shahtoosh - banned wool that comes from an ibex (Pantholops hodgsonii), also dubbed as chiru, a wild antelope from the mountains of Himalaya. The name itself is Persian for ‘king of fine wools’. While pashmina comes from domesticated Changtangi goats, shahtoosh is a product of a wild animal. Shahtoosh is much finer than pashmina and is considered the finest hair on the planet.

However, shahtoosh is banned worldwide by CITES, a global agreement to protect species under threat. As craftsmen will have to kill the antelope to get to the wool, the animal has become an endangered species. From what used to be millions of species, there are only less than 100,000 chiru antelopes roaming the planet. Shahtoosh is considered the most expensive fabric (could cost as much as $15,000), and it’s illegal to own.

On the other hand, pashmina comes from domesticated mountain goats. Thus, there is no need to slaughter the animal in order to derive the wool. Usually, craftsmen comb the wool off the goat’s body and release it afterward.

Still, the fabric is so soft and fine, an entire shahtoosh shawl can be squeezed through a wedding ring without any effort. Reason enough why a shahtoosh shawl is called a ‘ring shawl’.

In summary:

Secret #2: The Sozni Embroidery Tools Matter

Just like any artisan, the Kashmiri embroiderer has different tools of the trade. While each of these tools helps create unique, beautiful designs, they define the artwork of the finished product. Here are the major type of embroideries from the craftsmen of Kashmir and the tools they use to make each one happen.

IMPORTANT: Take note that the embroidery itself is all done by hand.

Secret #3: Do Mind the Art

Sozni embroideries vary from one pashmina to another. The design pattern can be condensed and concentrated making the fabric base seem unidentifiable. Or it can be rather spread creating a pattern that breathes. Indeed, the embroidery design defines the pashmina shawl. Here are the different types of pashmina according to the sozni embroidery design:

To Wrap Things Up

Sozni embroidery is as heavenly as the valleys of Kashmir. Knowing the different types of such impressive wearable art allows us to appreciate fine craftsmanship even more. Truly, it’s the unparalleled dedication to excellence that has transformed the farmers of Kashmir into artists that would rival the great masters who ever walked the planet.

Truth be told, a person wearing a pashmina can walk with his head high. Not only because of the super-fine quality of the shawl but also, and perhaps, more importantly, because of the supreme artwork that’s exhibited in the sozni embroidery.

Close (esc)


Use this popup to embed a mailing list sign up form. Alternatively use it as a simple call to action with a link to a product or a page.

Age verification

By clicking enter you are verifying that you are old enough to consume alcohol.


Added to cart