Introduction To Shubinak

“Shubinak” is a word which has two different yet interlinked meanings. In “Khowar”, the ancient language of the high valleys of Chitral, Shubinak refers to the warping of a loom by women spinners and it is originally the word for ‘spider’, nature’s master weaver.

This is why the brand has borrowed the term “Shubinak” to describe an enterprise system that employs, involves and links together household women of the isolated mountain villages of Chitral. Life is hard yet fragile in this region and even a small amount of cash income can make an enormous difference to the lifestyle of a household. Shubinak provides for these women a connection to the outside world through which they can achieve economic sustainability, and exhibit their natural and unique skills and products.

 How Shubinak Is Managed

Shubinak is a brand jointly managed by LOOPTEX and Mogh Limited with the sole purpose of providing continuous work for the Chitrali artisans, ensuring fair labor and better skill development with increased access and exposure to the international market.

LOOPTEX is an apparel manufacturing, design and outsourcing company based in the city of Lahore with the experience of dealing with the world’s top apparel and accessories brands and exporting high value products from Pakistan. It is a core policy of LOOPTEX to develop supply chains and solutions with the main focus of manufacturing sustainable products in Pakistan for its customers around the world.

LOOPTEX has been manufacturing and exporting GOTS-certified organic cotton apparel and accessories products from Pakistan and servicing high quality, environment-conscious brands such as Econscious, Levi’s, Mission Playground, Life is Good, Sportex, Cotton Ginny, Diadora, Stoneage and etc. In a very short span of time, LOOPTEX has achieved a respectable level of credibility among its customers and suppliers mainly due to its ethical practices.

For the “Shubinak” brand, LOOPTEX is shouldering the immense responsibility of designing, marketing, product development, distribution, sales, and brand management for both the local and international markets. LOOPTEX has strong resolve, and is determined to make this project a success and develop an unbreakable supply chain for the future.

Mogh Limited is a company based in the scenic mountain region of Chitral.They are engaged in continuous skill development, managing job orders for the manufacturing, distribution and collection of different handicrafts, goods and other indigenous products from the region of Chitral for “Shubinak”. Mogh Limited has a unique incorporation in that all the artisans are also shareholders of the company and they directly profit from the sale of products they create, in addition to the fair labor they receive.

Mogh Ltd. is mainly responsible for development of skills, reviving of ancient techniques and methods such as handloom weaving, hand embroidery, hand-knitting, crochet, natural dyeing, organic agriculture, honey cultivation, and all other indigenous craft production. They are also responsible for the logistical infrastructure required for complete supply chain management which includes order-taking from LOOPTEX to final delivery to LOOPTEX for manufacturing and distribution to the final destination.

Mogh Limited’s team is highly committed and passionately resolved to perform these demanding tasks under very harsh and unpredictable weather conditions and treacherous geographical locations

Mission And Objective

It is the common objective of LOOPTEX and Mogh to revolve their strategies strictly around developing means to continuously enhance the workforce and sources of income for the highly skilled and committed Chitrali artisan. These artisans have extensive skills and dreams for a better future, but at the same time, they face immense obstacles such as extreme weather, the hardships of rugged mountain life, and difficult accessibility to the outside world by any means of communication.

Both companies realize the need to preserve cultural textiles and indigenous products in Pakistan, but at the same time, they want to introduce them to individuals and organizations around the world that understand and believe in the importance of preserving heritage and such unique manufacturing methods. Indigenous people of the land of Pakistan have to be taught how to retain the fabric of their respective cultures in today’s globalization; otherwise they will fall into obscurity. Alongside industrial products, Looptex is consciously working on identifying avenues which can appreciate the value, share the vision and generate global market access to such unique products and processes.

We believe we must get back to our roots and ensure that our cottage industry survives in this new era of competitive textile production. We would love to share with the world the excitement of seeing, using, and blending these beautiful and unparalleled products into their lives.

 A Brief History Of Chitral

Shubinak traces its beginnings to a place where the world ends and Paradise begins: Chitral, Pakistan. The Chitral region of the Hindu Kush mountain range in Pakistan is one of the most isolated areas of the western end of the Himalayas (elevation: 1128m, population: 318, 689), and is surrounded by high mountain passes, deep green valleys , and ageless mountain glaciers which play a significant role in shaping these valleys. Chitral is located at the base of the towering Tirich Mir, the highest peak of the Hindu Kush; it is the fifth largest peak in the world. This mystical area is the familiar abode of giants and fairies since times immemorial. Its majestic hills still preserve the huge caves inhabited by the ancient giants called KASH and GABBAR.

The historical evolution of Chitral is a direct result of its foreign influences which include the Iranians, Arabs, Chinese, and Hindus. The Tartars Genghis Khan and Tamerlane also have major

influences, as well as the armies of Alexander of Macedonia (Alexander the Great). Lawrence of Arabia also settled for a time near Chitral. The main language is “Khowar”, and the people are called “Khow”. Ninety percent of the people speak this language, and the other 10% speak Phalra, Gujari, Dameli, Gawar-Bati, Nuristani, Kalasha, Yidgha, Wakhi, Kirghiz, and Farsi.

The Chitral valley is one of the main arteries of the Silk Road (Baroghil Pass to China). The Lowari Pass (3,118m) is the southern and the Shandur Pass (3,734m – at the point where the road passes through) is the northern gateway to Chitral by road. The road journey from Peshawar takes 12 hours. Pakistan International Airline Fokker flights take 45 minutes from Peshawar and are dependent upon the weather.

A major attraction of Chitral is the Kalash Valley. Home of the Kafir Kalash, or “weavers of the black robes”, a primitive pagan tribe which practices a culture and belief and a way of life which dates beyond history. They are believed to be descendents of the armies of Alexander the Great who called the Hindu Kush “parapamisus” meaning mountains over which eagles can fly. The history and origins of the Kalash are shrouded in mystery; Alexander’s armies said that they were the descendents of Dionysus since they were already there and practicing beliefs similar to the Greeks when his armies arrived. Others believe that Chitrali’s are the descendents of the Europeans and even vice versa.

Still others believe that they came from Afghanistan since there were Kalash valleys there as well and before Afghanistan the theory is that they came from Siam, the area known as Thailand today, but the Kalash in Afghanistan were forcibly converted to Islam, which leaves just 3000 Kalashi’s still living in Pakistan. The women of Kalash wear a black woolen home spun dress, called a “Cheo”, with numerous beaded necklaces and an exceptional headpiece covered in cowry shells, bells, beads, and trinkets. Unique to the Kalash people are their cone-shaped baskets woven from goat hair around a structure composed of mulberry and wild almond branches. The Kalash are a very simple and innocent people who love to sing and dance.

The history of Chitral is ancient, and the handicraft of “Shu”, otherwise known as “Patti” is a continuation of Central Asian customs passed on from generation to generation. Surprisingly, the process of development of the tools involved in it has continued with very little change. The production of “Shu” can be dated as far back as 1500 B.C. while the rich tradition of “Shu” is deep-rooted in the remarkable culture, mythology and folklore of Chitrali society.

“Shu” is created in a natural environment by both the men and women of Chitral, each of who play an equally important role in the production of this handicraft. The economic cycle in Chitral is wholly different from other parts of Pakistan because of its location in the Hindu Kush. Spinning, weaving, embroidery, and hand-knitting are done in the comfort of one’s home during the cold weather. The production of handicrafts is often the only source of income for Chitrali households. Items are made with the materials available for their production as well as the existing means for producing them. The skilled hand has always enjoyed a high status in Chitrali society. An old Chitrali saying “Khowistan a aurat abaad” means “The land of the Khow is prosperous due to the efforts of the women” shows the admiration for women in Chitral. Knowledge and production of natural, hand-made items in Pakistan is not only an economic necessity, but a tradition which establishes society and the patterns of its existence.

 History Of Shubinak

In January of 1999, with assistance from the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation (SDC), and AKRSP, The Shubinak Project was established with two sections closely working in conjunction with each other - the product development/women's development wing called "Hunermanhost" (Skillful Hands) and a business/marketing section called "Shubinak House". Hunermanhost's intentions were to improve the technology, refine the technical skills of people involved in Shu production, and to enhance the quality and variety of the Shu. The main purpose of Shubinak House was to manufacture and sell high quality fashionable Shu garments and products for the international and local markets.

The Hunermanhost wing of the project was successful and conducted much product research and development of skill which is useful to all involved in the weaving and promotion of Shu today. Shubinak House was unable to achieve its desired objectives, the reasons for which may be many. One may be because specialized people were not involved in the business development sector, but there was no flaw in the concept.

During a personal visit to an exhibition arranged by the Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry held in Lahore in 2004-2005, CEO LOOPTEX, Syed Moiz Farooq noticed the beautiful traditions of the people of Chitral through a preliminary display of distinctly attractive products; which were astonishingly beautiful but were mostly irrelevant to life outside of Chitral. As he talked to Abdul Hadi, who was representing "Shubinak" at the stall, he learned they were looking for a dedicated and reliable partner whom they could trust and partner them in bringing change to the widespread communities living in Chitral. Without any definite promises, he bought samples from the stall to help devise a plan to take the path forward. After a few months of enthusiastic collaboration, Abdul Hadi moved on to further his education and handed over the baton to Israr Saboor, who had the education, drive, vision and passion to attempt any task he believed in, irrespective of the chances of failure or success.

After an initial visit to Chitral; where LOOPTEX met the people working with "Shubinak"; LOOPTEX made an effort to understand Chitrali challenges and determine the existing structure of the project and create long term meaning in their partnership and add value to the world by bringing change to Pakistan in a logically sustainable manner. The foundation of this change had to be strong enough so that the results could be further enhanced by future generations. But it couldn't be a run-of-the-mill enterprise; we wanted to give back more than we were getting, and to do that, we had to establish emotional ties to the project.

As part of the strategy, the AKRSP/SDC project Shubinak transformed into Mogh Ltd. Mogh is a company in which the Chitrali artisans become shareholders of the company itself. Israr Saboor is the CEO of this company. The main responsibilities of Mogh are to ensure continuous skill development of artisans through enhanced communication, managing supply of raw materials to the artisans and collection of crafted items for delivery to LOOPTEX. Mogh is also responsible for the logistical infrastucture required in Chitral to complete supply chain management which includes order-taking from LOOPTEX to final delivery to LOOPTEX for manufacturing and sale.

LOOPTEX was responsible for all the forward integration of the supply chain, starting from concept and product development, designing and planning seasonal product ranges. Placing orders for the Chitrali craftspeople and manufacturing the crafted items into apparel and accessories, and other finished products for sale at the Shubinak stores. LOOPTEX was responsible for exclusively managing the shubinak brand in a way that the number of artisans engaged gradually increases. For this process, LOOPTEX established in-house apparel design, textile design, graphic design, communication design, environmental science, record and research, production, merchandising, brand managment, and sales, as well as platforms for social media.

It sounds as if it was a simple journey, but practically it was a challenging one. Yet the voyage itself was wondrous and awe-inspiring. What made it demanding was our uncompromising commitment to adhere to the values we have set for ourselves. We uphold product originality in its conception. Our brand has to be flexible in its design and delivery process as it does not follow the timelines dictated by the fashion world; instead, it follows the natural schedule of the temperamental weather of the region of Chitral, which is often difficult to access during the winter season. Trying to establish a working supply chain in a region such as this was an immense task as the market needs fast and predictable delivery of a product. We counter problems by stocking raw material in great quantities for product manufacture.

As it maintains the supply chain, Shubinak adheres to the principles of non-invasiveness it has set for itself. Shubinak provides the artisans with regular work, and pays them fair wages for that work, but at the same time strives to maintain the social balance of the artisans' family life without disrupting their regular social patterns. On the same note, the brand does its utmost to protect the environment and does not desire to create havoc within the Chitrali villages due to the demand of raw material and labor. Most Chitrali artisans are also farmers, homemakers, and teachers, as well as many other professions which contribute to the well-being of the land, its flora and fauna, and its people. Shubinak believes in balancing life in all aspects, as disrupting the flow of nature will harm everyone in the long run. Making Chitrali artisans shareholders of Mogh Ltd. has enabled Shubinak to empower them by giving them an opportunity to 'own' and be a part of something that is larger than any individual and will collectively bring change.

Process And Skill Gallery

The designs of Shu, embroidery, and crochet in Chitral are conceived naturally; products of conscious creation. Their successful completion is possible only in the hands of artisans trained in these special crafts. The human designer transforms nature into new forms and materials according to vision or necessity and with specially designed tools. The product is in mind before the process of creation is begun and the process takes place as a result of unique skills and or basic needs. In Chitral, most products are created to fulfill basic human requirement, and fully utilize the scarce resources. Shu, knitting and crochet items are intended to keep Chitrali’s warm in the severe winter months. Embroidery is one of the crafts that falls into both categories of art and necessity as it is used for decorative purposes, but a necessary hobby in the winter season to pass the time. Inspiration in Chitral is easily available in the form of intense natural beauty, which is abundant in the place where the world ends and "Paradise" begins.

SHU (Hand Loom Woolen Fabric)

Shu is a hand-spun, hand-woven, hand-loom fabric made of sheep’s wool, and is a product of the cottage industry. Shu has a rich background of indigenous knowledge and skill in every stage of its production. It is a multi-purpose handicraft which is immensely popular in many areas of Pakistan. The wool used to make Shu can be knitted, woven into a fabric or used for embroidery and embellishment. Knitted items include hats, gloves, socks, shawls, stoles, sweaters, vests, and ponchos. Woven fabric is traditionally used for hats, coats, vests, bags, blankets, shawls, and gowns. Because of its purely natural and organic origins, Shu has a rugged texture, and a unique look and feel; there will always be a difference in the shade of each individual item. Due to the tremendous amount of hand-crafting involved in the process of making Shu, this fabric and products made from it are far from perfect as per conventional standards. This so-called imperfection gives us products that are one-of-a-kind creations that reflect the inherent diversity of the Chitrali landscape where they are made, and reveals human nature such as it is. 


There are more than 4000 women involved from all over Chitral in the Shu sector and MOGH Limited is directly connected with almost seventy percent of them. Almost all of these women artisans are indirect beneficiaries of MOGH Limited which plays a role in increasing the prices of Shu in the market by creating positive competition.

Hand Embroidery

Embroidery patterns reflect the decorative elements of a society and its surroundings. The embroidery styles and motifs used in Chitrali handicrafts evolved from the complex history of this mountainous area. Distinct decorative elements still prevail as this region is inhabited by people with very specific cultural traits. The unique motifs of Chitral reflect the Greek influence in that region. Their particular way of breaking space into geometric patterns is unique among other motifs used in Pakistan. The technique of needle-point used in Chitral can also be attributed to the Greeks. The Central Asian Turks contributed more angular geometric patterns, as well as the motif of the cypress tree. Braided embroidery is also used on “Choghas”, a long overcoat made of Shu. The bright and vibrant colors used in the embroideries of Chitral are a traditional stylistic characteristic of this area. The ability of the women to make the intensely intricate and time-consuming embroidery styles is directly due to the extreme weather patterns of Chitral. The long winter months force them to stay indoors and work on hand-made items to sustain themselves economically. Because of the weather conditions, they have practiced patience and finely tuned their skills to make the best product with as much output as possible.

Traditionally, carrying out embroidery work for women has been very much linked with their femininity determined by the local maxim of “Har chamuto har hunar” which means “Every finger bearing a different skill”. Highly skilled artisans are called “Hunarmand Hoost” which means “Skilled hands”. The understanding of what it means to be a woman in Chitral then draws on the skills in various household activities including crafts. Such aspiration for skills among women, however, goes beyond the simple economic needs of individuals and families, and bears on social relations at family and community level. One of the strengths of a young woman in regards to her adoptability after marriage is her skill in various crafts including knitting and embroidery.

Embroidered clothes and other products have traditionally been an important part of wedding ceremonies in Chitral. The wedding clothes of the bride groom would include an embroidered band bound around the head of the bridegroom (surband), a skull cap (khoi), a muffler (golband), a small bag to put eye kohl (khaltha), shirt borders (bazurio lai), a jacket (vaskat), a long thin belt (azarband), embroidered sleeves (takband), a wallet (batva), a cover for a comb (kangidan), a cover for needles (suidan), and a tea cozy (tikuzi), amongst others; and the family would discuss the nature of their value and quantity.

A young bride, a day before departure to her husband’s house, would go around the whole village with her friends to receive blessings from the village mothers and elders and to say good-bye (khodayar). Moving around the village from house to house, the village mothers would bless her for a long lasting wedding and happiness in the new house, and would provide her with gifts (chighech) of embroidered products including khoi, surband, vaskat and other embroidered items. The gifts would be collected by the friends of the bride accompanying her, and boxed carefully to give to her as dowry. In modern day Chitral, most of the above products have disappeared from bridal collections, but the skull cap (khoi), bridegroom band (surband), table cloth (mazpush), mantle cover (panpush), and embroidered bed sheet (chadar) still make an important part of the dowry of a young woman but are managed by the mother of the bride or her relatives.

People would also send embroidered products to their relatives and friends living outside of Chitral, and guests coming from outside were presented with embroidered gifts. During the weddings of relatives, neighbors and friends would present the embroidered gifts. The royal women would wear embroidered clothes on special occasions, and hired women with expertise in embroidery to be paid with money and kind. Famous horse riders and warriors of Chitral would be gifted with embroidered covers of swords (zenpush) and of guns (ayalpush) for their best performances. In marriage disputes resulting in divorce, embroidered gifts would have a very high value.

Silk production and embroidery in Chitral also enjoyed royal patronage not simply because the women of royal family would take special training in embroidery but because they hired local women for silk production. It is partly because of this royal patronage and encouragement of embroidery that women are valued for their capability in the craft of embroidery today. Local women were also encouraged to exchange their best embroidered articles for presents from the royal women.

Research on the Hand Embroidery background has been done by Ali Sher from Chitral and Sumaira Moiz Farooq from Lahore.

Embroided Items In Chitral


Akhlinihanu is an embroidered cover to keep a comb in. A coveted asset, Akhlinihanu was not very common, and was only used by the women of a royal family. Traditionally, the combs in Chitral would be made of shamshad (local) wood in the shape of a half moon.


An embroidered long band (patti) is made to decorate the handle of the horsewhip (chaghiz) during a polo match. The patti is wrapped around the handle of the chaghiz and sewn with silk thread, which is used so that the handle does not slip from the hand.


To keep tea in a tea pot hot, Chitrali people prepare a half-oval shaped or half-round style of tea cozy embroidered with unique patterns. Traditional chainakpush have been found amongst the royal families of Chitral.The cover for a knife (chaquhanu) was important for men to keep their knives safe. Women would also keep small knives hanging from a silver chama which determined the social status of women. Men would keep a knife in its cover in the pocket of a jacket attached to a broad thread. Chaquhanu also had its own special embroidery design. 


In the old days, both the bride and the groom would be decorated with embroidered necklaces (har) of different geometrical shapes including triangles, squares and ovals. They would be attached to two longer threads to tie around the neck. The threads are decorated with embroidered flowers and leaves. 


Jalpush is comparable to chalpush as the hair on the neck of a horse is called chal. This was the way of decorating horses for special occasions such as wedding ceremonies by putting an embroidered cloth over the necks of the horses.


Small and beautifully embroidered earrings (karineyni) were common amongst Chitrali women as style fundamentals.


There are two kinds of embroidered skull caps (khoi). The first is called zrup khoi (fully embroidered cap), while the other is called phuri suyiro khoi (cap with embroidery on the corner). In zrup khoi, both the phreshu (the band) and the top round cover (phlak) are fully embroidered with specific embroidery patterns and designs. The zrup khoi are very expensive while the phuri soyiru khoi, in which the top round cloth is simple one without embroidery, is cheaper. This distinction was also one of the ways of differentiating the social status of women and the importance of different occasions. 

Miana or Batva

Traditionally men and women in Chitral would keep an embroidered purse or wallet (batva) with its own particular design. But the tradition was popular mostly amongst men and women from higher status families.


The pazband was also meant to decorate horses. An embroidered triangle shape would be tightened around the chest of horse and used on special occasions. This was of course a tradition amongst royal families and some of the courtiers as common people could not afford to keep horses. Royal families would present gifts of decorated horses to local and foreign guests.

Quab Bazuri and Girvan

Embroidered ribbon at the corner of shirts and sleeves was common on women’s dress in the past, and this would have a particular design. Such dresses were specially designed for the bridal dowry, but women from families of higher status groups would also use it in their everyday lives. 

Radio and watch push

With the introduction of radio, cassette players and watches, people in Chitral started making covers for the new technologies. 

Sandal push

>Sandal push is a contemporary creation introduced by young women by adding embroidery to their sandals. 


The needle was an important part of a woman’s possessions in the past as it was the needle which was used for embroidery. The needle was kept in a delicate needle cover. It consisted of a broader 6 inch long thread of silk on the one side of which would be needled with a broad cloth. The needles would then be pricked into the thread and kept in a nalki made of wood or metal to keep the body safe from being pricked. The nalki was then put into a beautifully embroidered cover to be hung on the round silver chama of women.


The word surband has come from sar band (head cover). Embroidering surband (a band around the head) is a tough job. It is like the band bound around the head of a bride groom, and is normally three to four inches in width. On either end of the surband there are embroidered dori (lines), and small embroidered flowers. The price of the surband is determined by the delicacy of the embroidery, width, duris and jalers. A normal surband is prepared in a two month period, but is only used in a wedding to wrap around the head of the bride. Under the veil, no one can see the bride but her beauty is determined by the width and delicacy of the surband. The Surband also determines the status of a family.



Surmadani is a kind of makeup box for women, in which they keep surma, black eye kohl used specially by women for eye makeup. Men also use it as a cure for eye diseases as it has known and proven medicinal value. It is comprised of two covers. The inner cover is called bokhchakai in which they keep the makeup needle and surma. The outer cover is an embroidered bag (suyiru khaltha) in which the bokhchakai is kept. The inner bag is delicately embroidered and wrapped by silk thread after putting the surma and needle in it. The outer bag is more beautifully embroidered with round stitches on both sides which are then tied by two threads on each side. The threads are tied with chama, a round metal tucked on the shirt of women, on which they also attach the keys of the house and various locked household boxes. Though the surmadani is an important part of bridal costumes, every woman keeps a surmadani with her at all times. With it, they not only take care of themselves but the entire family. For surmadani, a special pattern of embroidery is used and it takes almost a week to make a surmadani. 



Making and using amulets (tawiz) was very common amongst the Chitrali’s especially to keep children safe from the evil eye. The tawiz are revered in Chitral and are kept hidden wrapped around the upper arms under one’s clothing, or hanging around the neck of the wearer. They were created by wrapping an embroidered cloth around the tawiz and attaching a silk thread to it from which it could hang around the neck, or be tied around the upper arm. 


An embroidered jacket called a vaskat is also an important part of the wedding attire of the bridegroom in Chitral; and counts as a rare gift given to the daughter of the village during her see-off (khodayar) visit of the village. Various kinds of embroidery motifs are used on a red background, and the edge is decorated with hanging colored threads. 


An embroidered zenpush was tied around the back of a horse. It would enhance the beauty of the horse as well as the rider. Using the zenpush was tradition only amongst the royal families and some of the courtiers.

Embroidery In Folk lore And Poetry 

In Khowar folk lore, poetry, and love songs, embroidery designs are used as a symbol of beauty to offer praise, or one’s beloved is considered worthy to wear embroidered costumes. Most embroidered items such as skull caps and dresses are used by women themselves, and embroidered clothes symbolize the delicacy of women. Traditionally, if a woman presented a gift of an embroidered handkerchief to a man, this was considered a declaration of love. In traditional songs, women’s wavy hair is reminiscent of embroidery silk (iskim); and the embroidered silk sleeves (kach bazuri) of one’s beloved had the symbolic importance of soothing the burning heart of a lover. 

Embroidered items and the skill of embroidery are important parts of the folk stories of Chitral. In most of cases, the stories start with the character of a poor boy that falls in love with a princess. The princess; impressed by the purity of the love of the poor boy; decides to marry him. In the face of opposition from the king, queen and the rest of the family, she leaves the peaceful and luxurious life of the court, and starts living with the boy in a hut. In order to meet the everyday expenses of life, she begins embroidery work and expands it to the extent that they not only meet their expenses but become well off within a few years. The king and the queen are sorry about their behavior, and invite back the princess and her husband, and everyone lives happily ever after. 


Tha ishqa kamar boti tha ghama girifthar 
Ma ashru mukhodoko kishtian alif tar 

The day I have fallen in your love I am bounded by sorrows and grief; 
My tears run down my cheeks like the lines of alif tar (embroidery in lines). 

Hamisha ishqu muhabatho bachen hajath ishqo phurdili 
Harush royosum muhabatho bachen awa suyiman mushkili 

Love constantly demands sacrifices and big heartedness; 
I have been embroidering mushkali (most difficult embroidery technique) for the love of a person. 

Ma zhan nazukio bachen thanthay lai piran arer 
Parchaman qadro nokori cholanthay arman arer 

My friend made an embroidered shirt for delicacy; 
In non appreciation of open hair (symbol of virginity) she chose to braid them (got married). 

Yara no nishimai mazhan ava bim suvatothay 
Dira bi iskim anzeman droso khoi suvakothay 

I won’t stay here, I will go to Swat; 
On the way, I will parcel silk to a cap embroiderer of Drosh. 

Och kovore gherigom dusto duro soro 
Sui khoi ki besam iskim phuro suro 

I will fly over the house of my friend like a wild pigeon; 
I wish I could be an embroidered cap over the silk hair of my friend.



This is a simple and celebrated design which seems to have taken its name from the Persian word, abi bahar meaning water of the spring season. The design gives the image of a water channel in spring which moves in a zigzag way. Parallel lines of similar or different colors are embroidered in zigzags.

Alif Tar

Is the name of an embroidery design in which parallel yet angled (thirchi) lines of about 70 degrees in twos, threes or fours are drawn, and their various colors make eyes swim. Alif tar is mainly used for the lines in sleeves and collar of the chugha, and in this case they are called polthai instead of chaghezi. The outer lines are parallel in shape.

Beheshto Khar

Beheshto khar literally means the garden of heaven characterized by a big flower in the center accompanied with a bunch of three flowers on each side, which point in opposite directions. Bordered on each side the embroidery is mainly used in women’s skull caps and is embroidered in cross stitch. Beheshto khar is mainly used in caps and surband using natural colors.

Bilogho Lai

Bilogh in traditional houses are the small holes on either side of the sheroton (main pillar in the front), and are mainly used to put traditional lamps which are lit by a small piece of cotton dipped in oil placed in a cup. e

Boyik Lai

This motif has a clear picture of a bird sitting on a branch next to a flower and is very popular amongst Chitrali women when embroidering skull caps. It is also created using cross stitch on cotton fabric with broad patterns. The borders are simpler than other patterns

Brano srung

Resembles the horn of a sheep as srung in Khowar is used for horns and bran means sheep. The motif is mainly used in embroidering the phlak (upper round cover of a cap).

Chadaro Lai

A Chadar or bed sheet makes an important part of a bride’s dowry which she takes with her to her husband’s house, and it decorates the wedding bed of the couple. It is made up of different motifs.


Chaghezi are the straight lines of embroidery on the outside edges which separate the main embroidery from the border embroidery (hashia). Chaghezi are parallel lines of the same color, mainly green. In the skull caps band strip there are two parallel lines on each side of the strip, while in surband the number of chaghezi are eight with separate hashia inside the lines.

Chakan Lai

Chan and Chut

Chan and chut are generally the way of differentiating a motif in Chitral as most of the motifs consist of flowers and leaves. Most of the women normally do not know the names of the motifs and refer to them simply as chut lai and chan lai. Chan and chut are normally linked with either kishthi or stem (band). In the middle of chan lai we have small flower-like shapes which are called chut. These small flowers are then colored in various colors including red and yellow.

Chaquhanu Lai

Chaquhanu means knife cover. It is a small and delicate design consisting of flowers (chut) and leaves (chan) on either side in continuation. There are motifs of other designs used in embroidering chaquhanu.


Dangar is the name of place situated in the Gilgit area. The name of the design seems to have been imported from Dangar which took the name of dangarikan. It is more or less like abibahar except that the edges in abibahar are sharp, while in dangarikan the edges are smooth. The line giving the image of waves is the same as that in abi bahar.

Dori Lai

Four big spoon-like motifs stemming out of a centre are called dori lai. The motif is mainly used in the plahk of skull caps and other materials.

Duk Lai

Duk lai takes its name from an image of an embroidery tool used for spinning kach (silk). The motif is used on the round top of the skull cap (khoi) as well as other embroidered items including women’s shirt collars.

Girvani Lai

Girvani lai are specifically used for embroidering the collar of a ladies shirt as the name girvani (collar) suggests. The embroidered shirts are mainly used by women during wedding ceremonies. The embroidery pieces are fashioned separately and are then attached to the shirt.


This is a design normally fashioned on the sides of other designs. It is a completely different design running on the side of the main design but presents a superior combination to make the embroidery beautiful. Hashia lai are also used in other materials such as watch strips


The word jenjera has probably been taken from Urdu word for chain (zanjir). Any color can be used in chaghezi which looks like an intricate chain, and enhances the beauty of an embroidery by giving the impression that various colors of thread have been delicately wrapped around a rod. Jenjera chaghezi is much more complicated than a simple chaghezi.


This is a motif used in the midst of other designs to enhance the beauty of the composition and to make the overall design more prominent. It is drawn in different shapes such as the circle, oval and triangle which are complete design in themselves.

Kahak Pongi

Feet of a hen-like motif gives the design name of kahak pongi. Some women name the motif as boyik pongi (feet of a bird), and the name varies from area to area within Chitral. This motif is also used in skull caps and other embroidered items.

Kalbuki Lai

The motif of kalbuki (doll) looks like a cauliflower. However, a careful gaze gives an image of a doll on all four sides. Kalbuki in the local language is also used for eye ball, and that may be the reason a round ball-like shape is expressed in the pattern.

Kambokhi Lai

This motif takes its name from the word kambokh in Khowar used for the stem of a plant or tree. The motif gives an image of a continuation of flowers on either side of the stem, and is mainly used in ladies shirts and on the corner of a bed sheet (chadar). The color of flowers varies from red to yellow and pink, and the leaves are normally green.

Kashtek lai

Kishti lai

The kishti motif is either of oval or triangular shape and is used mostly in the outer empty space of a design helping to connect the flowers (chuts). A pattern with lines shrinking inward line after line forming the image of a boat is called kishthi lai.


Kohngora in Khowar is used for sword; therefore, a design with the shape of a sword is called kohngora. However, there are other patterns of kohngora used in Chitral. Kohngora lai is mainly used in caps to separate the horizontal band (patti) from the round top of the women skull cap. In this design, small curved lines are drawn outside the hashia in a proportionate way.


This pattern is traditionally used in skull caps using cross stitch on a plain fabric with clear patterns. With borders on either side madakhel is a combination of three geometrical patterns.

Mushti Lai

>This motif consists of fist-like images pointing out on four sides of the floral pattern in the centre. For this style, the motif continues in a horizontal line bordered by geometrical patterns. This motif is also cross stitched.

Ot lai

The camel-like motif is called ot lai. The motif of a camel is drawn in a way that looks as if the camel is eating the leaves of a flower plant.

Panpusho Lai

Pan is piece of plain wood or mantle paced above the fireplace (normally situated in the corner of the wall) of the guest room (anguti) where guests put their belongings while seated for rest. Panpush is a piece of embroidered cloth put over the pan for decorative purposes.

Phan La

The hand-like motif (four hands joined at the centre and facing outward) mostly used in the plahk of skull caps is called phan lai.

Pushi pongi

In the Khowar language pushi means cat and pongi means foot. So this design which resembles cat feet is called pushi pongi, which gives a epeated, continuous line.

Qaf Lai

Qaf Lai (curved hand motif) takes its name after the pictures of 4 curved hands stemming out of a flower. The hands lie two on each side facing each other. Embroidered in the cross stitch method, the qaf lai pattern is mainly used in women caps and for decorating the borders of women’s clothes.

Raag Nut

The name Raag Nut (dancing) is taken from the image of a Kalasha woman which looks like it is dancing.

Shunjhano Lai

Shunjhano is a small cover to keep needles in so that they are not lost, and the motif used for this cover is called shunjhano lai. This article also accompanies the luggage taken away by the bridegroom on the occasion of his wedding


The button (tukma) like motif of the embroidery gives it the name of tukmai. However, the shape of the button changes from a triangle to a square to a circle, etc.

Yurjo ghech

In Khowar, yurj is the word for falcon and ghech means eye. The motif looks like the eye of a falcon. This is a very simple and delicate design.


The majority of local women in Chitral identify embroidery motifs by the components of leaves (chan) and flowers (chut). However, motifs consist of other shapes such as birds and sheep reflecting the significance of embroidery in the local life of all Chitrali’s. Motifs comprised of nature and geometrical shapes are locally understood to have come from Central Asia; however, the names by which the motifs are identified are local. 

Designs created in Chitral are inspired by Islamic, Indian, Irani and Chitrali motifs. Motifs inspired from wildlife, flowers, trees, leaves, vines, paisleys, etc. are also used in abundance. 

Some of the stitches and motifs identified locally are follows: 

Outline of a motif using black thread by cross stitching is called shathahi. It provides a base for the embroidery. Shathahi is recognized by prominent black lining separating various parts of the motif once an embroidered item is filled in. 

Most of the stitches in Chitrali embroidery are in Iraqi in which the needle is drawn close together. It is a direct way of embroidering a motif without making an outline such as shathahi. In this way, there remain no lines between different parts of a motif such as leaves (chan) and flowers (chut). In Iraqi, every motif is carefully constructed and filled with a very particular selection of colors as specified by nature. Flowers were colored in red and leaves in green, and this color selection was followed as closely as possible. 

Less experienced women find it difficult to embroider Iraqi (the direct way of filling a motif). Instead, they choose to draw an outline to make it easier to fill the motif. However, instead of using cross stitches, running stitches are used so that the lining does not remain prominent once a motif is filled. Nowadays, the Sindhi stitch is becoming more prominent as it is easier than the Iraqi stitch. 

Mushkali is literally translated as “difficult”. The reason being that the entire width and length of a given piece is completely covered in intricate stitches. Mushkali is time consuming task and is endeavored by the most skilled of artisans. 

Depending on the pattern of the cloth and size of the article, single (ishuthri), double (jushuthri) and four (churshuthri) threads of the cloth are covered in a single stitch. The greater the number of the threads and the broader the cloth pattern the larger the motif and vice versa.

Crochet and Hand Knitting

Crochet is a process of creating fabric from yarn, thread, or other material strands using a crochet hook. The word is derived from the French word "crochet", meaning hook. Hooks can be made of materials such as metals, woods or plastic and are commercially manufactured as well as produced by artisans. Crocheting consists of pulling loops through other loops, and incorporates wrapping the working material around the hook one or more times. In crochet, only one stitch is active at one time, as a single crochet hook is used. (Wikipedia) 

Knitting is a method by which thread or yarn may be turned into cloth or other fine crafts. Knitted fabric consists of consecutive rows of loops, called stitches. As each row progresses, a new loop is pulled through an existing loop. The active stitches are held on a needle until another loop can be passed through them. This process eventually results in a final product, often a garment. There exist numerous styles and methods of hand knitting. Different yarns and knitting needles may be used to achieve different end products by giving the final piece a different color, texture, weight, and/or integrity. Using needles of varying shape and thickness as well as different varieties of yarn can also change the effect. (Wikipedia) 

Crochet and hand-knitting are done in the cold, winter months in Chitral, when other work is at a minimum. Chitrali women crochet and knit complex patterns which have been passed down for centuries, repeating and creating the rhythm of their lives. Both arts of crochet and hand-knitting have an inherent association with peace and tranquility in Chitral. Entire households relate to times spent around a warm fire or stove, or to groups of women under cosy blankets, crocheting or knitting; telling stories, singing songs, reciting poems, or just partaking in idle chitchat. 

Women in Chitral crochet and/or hand-knit hats, gloves, socks, slippers, shawls, stoles, scarves, sweaters in all shapes and sizes, as well as tablecloths, napkins, bedspreads and much more. They can replicate any design they are given. Their skills are extensive and the desire to improve is inherent in all the artisans. 

For the Crochet and Hand-Knitting sector, Mogh Limited is currently working with 300 women on a regular basis, but the potential for more is great.

Skill Development Centers

Mogh Limited has established 20 Skill Development Centers to revive the ancient arts of Chitral and provide sustenance to the artisans. Sixteen of these Centers are completely functional while four have been tested, but are currently not engaged for production. Out of these 20 Centers, 14 are specifically for embroidery work while 6 are for crochet and hand-knitting. 

Looptex has helped Mogh by designing products around these activities so that Mogh Limited can continue to operate profitably and maintain its foundation simultaneously. A steadily increasing quantity of embroidery products provided by Looptex will keep the artisans occupied, as well as supplement their incomes. The Skill Development Centers have been established for those who want to come and work there. The Centers give the women a place to interact with each other, discuss designs and patterns, initiate new ideas, and learn new skills which enrich their learned traditions. Women can also come to get raw material from the supervisor and return with finished product for quality checks, or delivery if they so desire. The minimum distance between the Mogh Limited office and any given Center is 1 km while there are some Centers which are more than 20 km away from the office. 

Apart from these Centers, there are more than 10 skilled artisan groups which have applied to Mogh for help in establishing embroidery centers for them. These types of centers are normally based at the house of the supervisor. This experienced supervisor holds some stock of the raw material and allocates a separate room for the women who come there to understand the work, and to learn some new skills. There are around 40-70 women in average attached with these centers. Mogh Limited also distributes work to those women who cannot come to either kind of centers, thus providing as many women as possible with the opportunity to support themselves and their families. 

In the Embroidery sector, there are approximately 2000 skilled artisans known to Mogh Limited. Mogh has been able to engage around 1000 of them with occasional orders from clients. Mogh is continuously seeking out more women to join their rapidly growing company, and expand their trade and industry, develop their skills and enrich their culture and traditions at the same time.


Lapis Lazuli

Chitral is renowned for its natural stones which are mined in the area. Semi-precious stones found in Chitral are the deep blue lapis lazuli; this ancient rock was mined during the Indus period and traded throughout the Indus Valley and out of the subcontinent. Lapis can be polished beautifully and it is easily made into many varieties of jewelry, boxes, ornaments, and vases. Lapis can be seen in the beautiful architecture of the Mughals such as Lahore Fort, Wazir Khan Mosque in Lahore and hundreds of other buildings all over Pakistan. Alexander the Great was known to take ornaments made of this legendary stone back to Europe.


Chitral yields Aquamarine with some of the deepest blues available. Aquamarine is a variety of beryl, so it belongs to the same family as emerald. Its color varies from an almost white pale blue to a slightly darker sky blue, which is the most coveted. There are different mines at different altitudes in Chitral, and the highest ones produce the deepest blues. The mines are still in a relatively unknown location, they are so high up in the mountains, adding to the mystery and legend of this ancient gemstone.


Garnets are the most common gemstone which are mined in Chitral. Garnet comes in many colors like orange, yellow, pink, purple, green, red, brown, black and many more. The most traditional color is the reddish brown in garnet. Garnet is one of the largest families in gemstone. Garnets are found in a large variety regarding colors, and clarities. It is common to find tangerine to fist-size garnets in Chitral.


Tourmaline is mined in sky blue and black. Tourmaline is classified as a stone and the gem comes in a wide variety of colors. Iron-rich tourmalines are black to bluish-black to deep brown, while magnesium-rich varieties are to , and lithium-rich tourmalines are almost any color: blue, green, red, yellow, pink etc. Tourmaline is found in , such as and granite and in rocks such as and .

Green Jade

Green jade, which is the most common type of jade, is mined in Chitral. Green jade comes in an array of shades such as emerald, spinach and lime green, this green stone is not only the most common, but is also the most reputable category of jade. Iron rich varieties of jade are darker in color ranging from dark green to grey-green, to red to orange and all the way to black. Black is the other color of jade mined in Chitral, and is a beautiful and mysterious dark version of the multi-colored stone. The black comes from high amounts of iron and/or graphite. Those varieties that have less iron include colors such as white, light green and lavender.


The moonstones from Chitral come in a variety of colors, ranging from colorless to white, gray, brown, yellow, orange, green, or pink. The clarity of moonstones ranges from transparent to translucent.


Marble, which is a metamorphic rock formed by alteration of limestone or dolomite, and is often irregularly colored by impurities, is available in abundance in the mountainous region of Chitral. Chitral boasts a multiple color variety which is greater than that of other areas on Pakistan. Marble is most commonly used in architecture and small gift ornaments in Pakistan, marble tiles being the most conventionally used.


Granite is a common, coarse-grained, light-colored, hard igneous rock consisting chiefly of quartz, orthoclase or microcline, and mica, used in monuments and for building. Chitral is currently making intense efforts to expand their granite industry.


There are many different varieties of quartz in Chitral, a few of which are semi-precious. Varieties of quartz have been the most commonly used minerals in the making of and since ancient times. Quartz is an essential constituent of igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks and all varieties of quartz are found in abundance in Chitral. Although Chitral is most recognized for Smoky Quartz, which is a gray, translucent version of quartz. It ranges in clarity from almost complete transparency to a brownish-gray crystal that is almost opaque. Some can also be black. Chitral also has a great quantity of Milky Quartz which may be the most common variety of crystalline quartz and can be found almost anywhere.


Pure honey contains the natural sweet substance produced by honey bees from the nectar of plants or secretions of living parts of plants. Elements found in this multi-functional product of nature, are a complex of naturally flavored sugars as well as trace enzymes, minerals, vitamins, and amino acids. In Chitral, bee flora includes the blossoms of the Russian olive, Rubinia, Peach, Apple, Apricot, Lokot, Sunflower, Carulla, and Baseem/Shaftal. But the Russian olive and the Rubinia are renowned for the quality of the honey produced. The color and flavor of honey differ depending on the bees’ nectar source (the blossoms). Generally, light-colored honeys are mild, while darker honeys are stronger in flavor. 

In addition to being the perfect natural sweetener, honey has a large number of benefits that the entire subcontinent has been aware of for centuries. Honey is a natural throat soother, and is used all over Pakistan for this purpose. A dash of black pepper on a spoonful of honey is believed to calm a cough. Honey’s distinctive blend of natural sweeteners enables it to provide quick energy after being consumed. Honey is given to children in Pakistan on a daily basis for good health and natural energy. Some Pakistani doctors have adopted the Western practice of not giving honey to children under one year of age. But in the subcontinent, the first thing given to a newborn infant is something called “Gutti”, or a tiny suckle of honey from an adult finger which is believed to clear the throat of a newborn. Honey is also used in beauty products as well as many more medicinal remedies in Pakistan.