Time Period: 1835

Category: Accessories

Accession Number: 62.99.245

Donor: Mary Cecelia Whitlock


Long, stitched cloth fabric. Alternating patterns throughout the piece. Based on fabric, color, and stitching, shawl appears to be from the 1800 time frame.

Object History:

The Paisley shawl was not originally called Paisley, nor did it originate in the town of Paisley, Scotland like most people believe it to be. The Paisley design and style actually originated in India as a Kashmir Shawl. While manufacturers in Europe and Britain said they were making Kashmir Shawls, others stated that they were in fact making 'imitations of the Indian' shawls. In Kashmir, their shawls were made from the softest and finest wool in the world from the mountain goat of the Himalayas. Not surprisingly a shawl could take at minimum eighteen months to weave.[1] Kashmiri shawls were woven in a double interlock tapestry weave. The reason that this was created and desired by many was the fact it was very dependable and pliable which allowed people to drape the clothing better. [2]
Shawls that were manufactured in Europe also did not start in Paisley. Production shawls actually began simultaneously in Norwich and Edinburgh. However, the reason that Paisley is known for making these shawls was because they were the leader in mass producing large quantities of shawls after 1820.[3]

In about 1803, both Norwich and Edinburgh weavers started to try to imitate the Kashmirs from India, and by 1808, Paisley, Scotland's weavers were trying to do the same. The weavers in Paisley were more successful because they introduced the ‘ten-box lay,’ which allowed five shuttles to be held in the loom at the same time. This allowed for multi-colored weaving in a harness-loom. This type of fabricating allowed Paisley to be able to make the first and closest copies to the Kashmir shawls and patterns. Paisley would identify the latest trends in Indian Shawls in London and then make imitations that would sell at a much lower cost. This allowed them to make more of a profit and have more orders not only in London, but throughout Europe.[4]

The earliest references to a Kashmir shawl industry was in the reign of Akbar between A.D. 1556-1605. The shawls were said to be brought over from India to Britain through the East India Trading Company as bribery. The earliest account of a Kashmir shawl being made was by William Moorcroft between 1820-1823. In that account, it stated that the women who made the wool and thread for the shawls, and the men were the ones who actually weaved the shawls.[5]

There are many different types of designs that are used on these shawls. Paisley is a type of pattern that gets woven into the shawls. But one of the first patterns that was used was buta which means ‘flower.’ The buta later developed into a more sophisticated pattern. It became a vase or a tied bunch of flowers. However, this then adapted even further to the pine cone pattern with a bent tip at the top and then later this became to be known as the widely accepted Paisley pattern that is mass produced on shawls in Europe.[6] The buta pattern evolved and became known as the cypress shapes that are more commonly seen in paisley shawls and scarves today. [7] During the middle of the eighteenth century the buta pattern began to harden and became what in the West was known as the pine cone.[8]

buta 2.JPGbuta.JPG

There were two styles of shawls, the Patchwork Shawl and the true Kashmiri Shawl. The Patchwork Shawl was a shawl that if looked at carefully, one could see that the shawl was made up of tiny pieces of needle work that had been sewn together. A patchwork (also known as a twill-tapestry technique shawl) would be woven on a loom and would take a minimum of eighteen months on one or two looms. Later in the eighteenth century however the work was then split up between eight looms. So there would be eight looms working on different pieces of that one shawl, thus the eighteen months would be greatly reduced. A shawl like this could be made from over 1,500 pieces and then pieced together, thus the ‘patchwork shawl.’[9] The Kashmiri Shawl, on the other hand is a combination of needle work and loom work. Instead of a solid, continuous line from one side to the other on a loom, it is seen that this shawl is sewn together by a weaver in shorter intervals on the back of the fabric. This was the style of Shawl that became very popular and easier to make in the town of Paisley. [10]

There were two shapes that were popular in Europe when wearing a Kashmiri shawl. There was the square shawl, which was about 2 meters in length. When wearing one, the person would fold it diagonally. Then, there was the long shawl, which was approximately 3.5 meters and would be draped around the body.[11]

Originally, Kashmiri shawls were not worn by women. In fact, women were not seen wearing anything close to something like a shawl until the 1800s. Before that, women wore things such as capes and cloaks. The shawls were made for different classes of people and were used for different purposes. The uses ranged from a light wrap that a working girl would use to cover her head to the Shepherd's Plaid which is still quite popular, to the use as harness work in the fields.[12]

Today, women use shawls to cover their shoulders and torsos to keep themselves warm or as a decorative accessory to the clothes they are wearing. They also use shawls to cover their heads if necessary or the shawl can be worn in a different style so the shawl appears as a dress or as a skirt of some sort. Another very common name for shawls/scarves that women use today is the Pashmina, which is another term for Kashmir but more commonly used in the West.

Additional Images:



Courtney Walker

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Search keywords: Kashmir, Kashmiri, Paisley, Shawl, Buta, Pashmina.

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  1. ^ Pamela Clabburn, Shawls in imitation of the Indian (U.K: Shire Album 77, 1981).
  2. ^ Clabburn, Shawls.
  3. ^ Clabburn, Shawls.
  4. ^ John Irwin, The Kashmir Shawl (London, H.M. Stationery Off., 1973).
  5. ^ Irwin, The Kashmir Shawl.
  6. ^ Susan Larson-Fleming, "Kashmiri to Paisley: Evolution of the Paisley Shawl," The Weaver's journal 11 (1987).
  7. ^ Matthew Blair, The Paisley Shawl and the Men who Produced it. A Record of an Interesting Epoch in the History of the Town (Paisley: Alexander Gardner, 1904).
  8. ^ Irwin, The Kashmir Shawl.
  9. ^ Irwin, The Kashmir Shawl.
  10. ^ Larson-Fleming, Kashmiri to Paisley.
  11. ^ Blair, The Paisley Shawl.
  12. ^ Larson-Fleming, Kashmiri to Paisley.