Shawl of Paisley Design

After getting through six months of summer, Texans look forward to the cool weather of fall – even when it’s not really cool enough, I bring out my cozy textiles in the hopes of giving fall a little hint.

This is a shawl I bought at a Victorian fashion show about ten years ago.

Paisley shawl

There’s no telling exactly where it was made, but we call all these shawls by the name of the town best known for their manufacture – Paisley, Scotland.

These kinds of shawls were popular for about a hundred years, from about 1780 – 1870.  They started out as rare and expensive items, and went through a lot of variations and copies, becoming more economical and more available to the masses.  Eventually they got so cheap that they went out of style.

My shawl is 5 feet wide by 10 feet 9 inches long, but the fringe is long gone, so I imagine it was 11 feet long when it had fringe.  It weighs four pounds!


Missing fringe.

design detail

Where the colors meet the black field

It has four colors plus black and white.  On the wide borders, it was woven with the colors carried all the way across the warp, and then the floats were clipped where the colors mingle with the black field.  But on the narrow side borders (which would have been at top and bottom when it was worn), the colors are caught and turn back on themselves.  I’m guessing this would have been a clasped weft technique, with one shuttle at each side per color, and a shuttle in the middle for the black field.

clipped yarns

These colored yarns were woven all the way across, then clipped later for a clean-edged design.  If you click to enlarge, you can also see that the black background is a twill.

border comparison

This shows the front and back of the borders – the floats are very short, so you wouldn’t have to worry about snagging the shawl on anything.

red detail

Detail – if you click to enlarge you can see individual warps and wefts.  Look how the dots are made by only one thread!

border detail

A plethora of fine detail!

Based on the historical information I found here, I would date this shawl to the 1840s to 1860s.  The colors, from natural dyes, are still strong and gorgeous.  I find it inspirational.

Now I just hope we get a good blast of brisk weather so I can curl up with it and a stack of good books!