An embroidered Kashmiri rug made by repurposing old woollen blankets and waste cloth, a gabba is used as a carpet, prayer rug, blanket and mattress and is usually reserved for weddings or as home furnishings.
Gabbas are traditionally made by Kashmiri women during the winter. To make the gabba, the used cloth is first washed thoroughly, then milled and dyed in various colours. Milling, similar to felting, involves carding and washing the wool sheets with warm soapy water, after which the matted fabric is dried and evened out such that the shrunk wool becomes dense, soft and warm.
The base of the gabba is typically several layers thick and made of recycled wool and cotton fabric, covered by an upper layer of cloth that is appliqued and embroidered. The embroidery is typically done using wool or silk threads, depending on available resources, and executed with an aari using a chain stitch, which helps hold the base layers and the outermost applique layer together. Each gabba usually takes two weeks to embroider, but this can vary depending on the design. The most common design is a central medallion framed by borders with floral, natural and geometric imagery, characterised by a vibrant and colourful palette.
Today, new fabric is used to make the rugs in the interest of making the textile more durable and commercially viable for markets outside Kashmir. Commercial mass-produced textiles also carry gabba-inspired designs, which are applied to machine-made embroidered cushion covers, curtains and upholstery.
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