Monday, May 18, 2009

The Paisley Shawl, Part 1

Pictured above is a 19th century handwoven shawl from the North India region of Kashmir. In my 16 years working with antique fabrics we bought and sold many of these shawls. Because they were woven with wool, many unfortunately had moth holes. These, however, I was able to put to great use as will be described more in the next post. Many incorporated the design element of what was called the "boteh" which was a teardrop shaped design that itself had ancient origins. Because the original shawls were originally intricately handwoven, they were worn by people of very high ranks.

The story goes that Napoleon brought back one for his Empress Josephine, and they became highly regarded possessions for women of high status. Below is an oil painting of a woman wearing a shawl.

Because of increased trade between Kashmir and Europe in the 19th century, these shawls had also found their way to England where they were highly regarded as well. An inventor in the Scottish town of Paisley devised a loom that could effectively weave different colors at the same time, thus allowing the manufacture of a machine version of the handwoven shawl.

*Sources: J.H. Terry Gallery,

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