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The Snowflake Shawl – Hazara Embroidery from the past

November 11, 2014 2 min read

Some textiles awe you with their art. Others with their craft. And still others strike a resonating chord with your soul.

The textile below from the Hazara region is in the third category for me. I chased it for nearly a year before being able to acquire it.


I love the rustic nature of the base cloth. I love the old silk that must have been so beautiful once but now through usage has become frayed. I love even the frayed spots because they speak of a life lived wholeheartedly rather than in protective covers in wardrobes. I love the simple choices – the colors are basic and the stitch is simple. But with these simple tools the picture created is complex. So so complex that it took me an hour to find all the motifs within. Maybe I still haven’t seen everything yet.

The contrast of complexity and simplicity reminds me of Ramanujan the mathematician.

Makes me think that maybe the artist of this work may have had a thousand mathematical ideas and this is but one of her expressions. Maybe. Or maybe it was just some art she produced copying some crystals she saw in nature. Or maybe it is just a manifestation of game theory playing out through her choice of direction in perpendicular stitches. We will never know.

But we can still marvel at the creation:



Some detailed images of the geometrical motifs:

1 2 3 7 11 b 21 27

A few dozen more are seen on this shawl.


ANTIQUE HAZARA TEXTILE SHAWLClick to view more images of this shawl on wovensouls.com

The ‘whole’ textile  is elusive to my camera and am unable to replicate what I see with my eyes. But I have not tried with my better equipment. These are just initial attempts with a phone camera.

An excerpt from a table classifying snow crystals published by meteorologists C. Magono and W. Lee in 1966. There is some similarity …..

Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 12.23.50 pm

If only I knew enough mathematics to understand whether this cluster of textile motifs means anything deeper!

Until I am able to learn the math, the joy in beholding the art will have to suffice!





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