Friday, April 20, 2007

In Praise of Paisley

I hadn't planned on presenting my paisleys so soon. However, yesterday, I walked down the hill to the Square and this time made sure I visited the shop owned and operated by fellow blogger, Foolsewoode, on Montezuma just across the street from the Sal. Snap Snap it's called, specializing in consignment and other resales. Jam packed with cool clothing.

Plus. It's the plus that gives the shop its flavor -- and me the subject for this blog. Celtic stickers. A frog on the cash register. And up on the wall, next to the Pillsbury Doughboy, a framed swatch of paisley fabric.

Yes, I took pictures (later, another post, guys.) And we spent some time, comparing notes; this was the first time we had met off-line. As I was heading out the door to look for adolescent ravens, this pink paisley shirt suddenly popped out of nowhere, shouting "Me! Me! Buy me. Now!" What could I do but get out my checkbook.

Have I mentioned that I have been fascinated with paisley style designs since I was very young? I thought not. I love the design intricacy and the colors; when I doodle, I find myself trying to turn whatever I've drawn into a paisley.

Modern paisleys like my new shirt, and the fabrics that I found over at WalMart (above and below) are prints. Apparently the form is currently enjoying a small vogue if samples are to be found on the floor at the great emporium of America.

However, in its classic form, the paisley design is woven. After a consultation with The Google, I found a fascinating article at Victoriana, which pointed out that:

Shawls of Paisley design were in fashion for nearly 100 years, from 1790-1870, during which time millions were woven and embroidered in Kashmir, Persia, India, Russia, USA and Europe - in France (Paris and Lyon), Austria (Vienna), in England at Norwich and in Scotland at Edinburgh, Glasgow and Paisley. It was the woven Kashmir shawls which first caught women's imagination, and European manufacturers were quick to copy them by weaving or printing. Paisley's output of shawls was the most prolific, and continued for the longest period, so the name 'Paisley' has become a generic term.

My aunt the artist had this red paisley throw (sample above) for many years; whether it was a family heirloom or a fancy that she bought for herself, I've no idea. However, it's about 8x8, woven on a Jaquard loom with a wool weft -- and it's now mine. I love the dang thing (and, ksquest, I have no mercy for any clothes moth critters I find anywhere near it.)

The blue and white paisley is a fragment I found at a resale shop many years ago. It, too, is a woven design of fine wool on a cotton or silk warp.

Here are a couple of close-ups of design details.

And here is a close look at the back side, showing the various threads being carried over on the back when not
in use in the design, jaquard-style. (I actually saw huge jaquard looms in action in a big, dark factory in the People's Republic of China, back in aught '80, well before prosperity ruined the Maoist dream.) But let's hear more from Victoriana:

The European manufacturers were not slow to realise the potential of the shawl market, with Britain taking the lead. Edinburgh in 1790 and Norwich in 1792, both started imitating Kashmir shawls on hand looms; Paisley followed in 1805. Paisley introduced an attachment to the handloom, in 1812, which enabled five different colours of yarn to be used, thus better imitating the Kashmir shawls. Agents were sent from Paisley to London to copy the latest Kashmir shawls as they arrived by sea and, in eight days, imitations were being sold in London for £12 whilst the originals cost £70-100.

The article also discusses introduction of the Jaquard loom and the sources design details. I learned a lot!

Mighty pretty, huh?

Afternote: ktcosmos at Loosely Speaking has nominated me for a Blogger's Choice Award & I discovered that the dotter ( has also been nominated. We each have one vote; look for the dotter under both parenting and hottest mammas; I'm listed under stuff. BTW, do go over to Loosely Speaking and scroll down for a lovely post about her visit to the heronry at Willow Lake.


k said...


And yet another connection: I've loved paisley since forever as well. My very first pair of bellbottoms, in 7th grade, were a paisley print with a navy blue background.

And as for killing those wool-eating clothesmoths? That is self-defense.

Death, and killing too, that's all part of life. There are times when certain critters of all ilk Need Killing.

Something that's eating your beautiful paisleys? That certainly qualifies!

Mosquitoes too. Fleas. Ticks. Lice. Certain species of cockroach. And of germs. Non-beneficial nematodes. and...and...and...


Granny J said...

I'm glad to get your permission, of all my friends. Folks ou there should understand that k loves critters of all kinds, including all sorts of wonderful creepy-crawlies!

Karen of Scottsdale said...

oh -- I am such a big fan of Paisley myself! I bet you look smashing in that pink Paisley shirt.

Thanks for your well wishes -- I'm doing so much better.

Chickenbells said...

Oh...paisley is one of my very favorite patterns, and I've always hated it when it goes "out" of fashion...all the paisley facts were incredible as well, who knew?

JuliaR said...

Good post and photos. I like paisley too - even the word is nice.

Granny J said...

Very interesting -- paisleys appear to leave the readers of the masculine persuasion cold! Even though I'd bet that any guy with a sense of romance would love to envision himself in a paisley vest (like the one made by Julia that caught my eye) as a Mississippi River gambler & dandy!
And yes, chickenbells, those facts grabbed me, too; a lot more of 'em at that Victoriana site. I had always thought that the term paisley came from some Scottish laird Paisley who went off to India to seek fame & fortune.

And welcome back, Karen -- it's been a couple of days since I posted at your place; I hope that the couple of days have been good mending days for you.

Lucy said...

Lovely and fascinating post!
Paisley ties for gents go in and out of fashion I suppose...

Granny J said...

Lucy, I don't remember seeing a paisley tie in goodness how many years -- tho I have to admit that one doesn't see many ties at all in Prescott.

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