There are many qualities of wool in Sind [sic], black, brown and white. A good deal of it, especially of the black, is worked locally into blankets and saddle-bags.’ Thus notes a British civil servant in the year 1906. He goes on to observe that in Tharparkar this wool is put to good use producing ‘blankets’, locally termed khatha. Similar to the kambli of the Deccan, this white-coloured product is, we are told, ‘finer in texture, the wool of which it is made being superior.’
Produced on narrow width handlooms and used more as cold weather attire than as bedding, these are, properly, shawls. Woven in two feet width, two panels in length measuring nine feet each are sewn together to create a single piece. Intricately woven in brightly coloured patterns along the border, the shawls are masterpieces of craftsmanship of the finest order. Unlike some shawls woven with cotton warp, the khatha is still, weft and warp, entirely sheep wool.
The word farasi, sometimes pronounced farashi, is clearly a corruption of farsh, Persian cognate for floor covering. Baloch families of Badin claim they brought farasi weaving to Sindh some four to five hundred years ago. At home on the vast, wind-scoured desert plateau of western Balochistan, the dirt floor of their dark goats hair tents was adorned with these hardy, virtually wear-resistant rugs. In that khaki landscape of flying sand and dust, this was one flamboyant riot of colour.