Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Stars in a Time Warp 16: Paisleys

Reproduction block with a paisley star by Becky Brown

Tintype of a woman in a cashmere shawl, about 1860

What we call paisleys derive from woven cashmere shawls, which originated in India’s Kashmir region, home to soft wools and deft weavers.

Vintage British quilt about 1820-1840

Traditional patterns included stylized botanicals focusing on a cone or seedpod shape, seen in the lilac border on the right. This oval with a curled tail was known as the botha or boteh (from the Hindi buta for flower). 

Textile manual in German from the 
New York Public Library

The botanical source for the boteh design is in some dispute. Some textile historians see it as a pinecone, others as a gourd or the shoot of a date palm, possibly associated with fertility.

Portait of a woman by William Powell Frith.
Is she wearing an expensive Kashmir shawl or
a European knock-off?

European factories from Lyons and Rheims to Norwich and Manchester produced machine-woven shawls, but Scotland specialized in them. Pieces made in the west coast town of Paisley earned a reputation as the best. Soon the Kashmir shawl became known as the Paisley shawl and the characteristic boteh shape was called a paisley.

The fashion for wool shawls also inspired imitation cotton prints, first known as shawl prints.
Mid-19th-century quilters developed a passion for cotton prints that imitated the colors as well as the designs of the shawls.
Reproduction with the document swatch from my 
Civil War Homefront collection.

Madder dyes used in wool shawls also worked well with cotton printing processes.

The prints were popular for dressing gowns (wrappers) and furnishings for the boudoir so there were many sewing scraps, but the style was so important for quilts that much yardage must have been sold just for patchwork. 

Vintage block about 1870-1890

One sees these madder-style paisleys in quilts from the 1860s into the 1890s. The high point of the style seems to be the 1870s and ‘80s.

Vintage print from the last half of the 19th century

Paisley figures were often set in striped sets, which quilters
liked for borders and strips

and everything else....

Block dated 1875

Vintage print from the 20th century
Cone shapes were also set in what textile designers
call a tossed set.

Paisley dresses from 1968
A serious paisley revival took place in the 1960s; the cones here
 in a tossed set.

Vintage quilt about 1870-1900
Sashing strips include a tossed paisley on the sides
and a stripe paisley on the bottom.

Paisley from the early 19th century
set foulard style, or in a staggered half-drop repeat.


Shawn used a paisley center as a contrast to a lighter foulard background.
Terrific reproduction of mid-century madder style taste.

Flying Geese from Nancy's Quilts webpage, 1998.

You need tossed sets, stripe sets and foulard sets
in your paisley collection

Detail of a paisley reproduction by Roseanne Smith

Rue Indienne by French General for Moda

Three of mine: Striped set, tossed set and grid set

Another of my repros in a stripe set.

Reproduction star by Becky Brown
The dark paisley foulard in the background is from 
Alice's Scrapbag, my fall Moda collection.

The repro is the redder print in the corner. The other is the original.
Sales reps are showing this collection to shop owners right now.
It's both a paisley and a foulard. And a madder-style print too.

Two of Nancy Gere's many paisley repros.

Paula Barnes does
border stripes and neat stripes.

Pam Weeks

Moda Collections for a Cause: Charity

Jo Morton's Caswell County:
Foulards and Paisleys

Voila by Jo Morton
Border is the Leesburg indienne print below
in a different colorway

Jo Morton Leesburg

Atelier by 3 Sisters
A tossed set in colors popular in the 1880s and '90s,
a different brown with more green in it than red.
More on bronze colors later.

Paisleys Gone Wild by Becky Brown

What to Do with Your Stack of Stars?
Alternate with a Nine Patch.

The star is based on a Nine Patch with a proportion of 1:2:1 so a block based on the same geometry goes well.

My sewing group alternated stars and nine-patches
in our Summer Birthdays William Morris quilt.

Summer Birthdays by the Sew Whatevers

I found the same idea in Quilts by Katlin,

A few years ago Moda's Three Sisters did a Hollywood and Vines quilt
alternating the star with a four patch in the middle of the nine patch

One More Thing About Paisley Prints

Sandra Dallas’s 1995 novel about a quilting club in Kansas during the Great Depression established the name Persian Pickle for the boteh design. I could find no 19th-century references to “Persian Pickle” or anything that didn’t have to do with Dallas’s book. That’s the thing about good fiction—it can make you believe it’s all very real.

See a discussion of that name in my post and in the comments. In Russian they called the boteh a Gherkin.


cityquilter grace said...

oohh wheeee...i love paisleys and have a TON of them in my stash...once it gets unpacked that is....great choice barbara!

Barbara Goetz said...

Could the set indicate the time period? For example, a tossed set being much later, than say, a Foulard style set?

Lori said...

Love a good paisley!

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness I do love paisley prints. Have quite a few
of them which I have been waiting to add to this project.
Really like that small simple one from the 19th century. I want to call it "poor woman's paisley" ! You are doing such a complete job for us with this journey. We are sure to be learning a lot about our beloved fabric. Thank you.

Louise said...

Not sure why my comment says anonymous..?

Mary said...

Paisley's are a Favorite in all genres of fabric! Thanks for educating us every week.

Barbara Brackman said...


I haven't noticed the set for the cone shapes as having anything to do with date of the print. Some of the very early block print cottons are cones in a grid---foulards. That was a typical Indian-style. Indiennes. But I bet we could find some early tossed sets in woodblock prints too.

Vic in NH said...

Oh, thank you for helping me to understand the history of my favorite type of prints, paisley's!

allstontowers said...

If you want more information on the Paisley fabrics from Scotland, follow this link to the articles about the factories that produced these patterns called "Turkey Reds"

Susan said...

Barbara, I love the paisley weavers, described in THE VICTORIANS AND THEIR FLOWERS, who after working all day went home to breed pinks/dianthus/carnations (my favorite flower anyway). They just couldn't get enough beautiful things in their day obviously so they created their own. Eagerly waiting for Alice's Scrapbag and the book INFINITE VARIETY about the red and white quilt show this fall.

hcaparoso said...

Very, very interesting! I read somewhere long ago that the paisley design was based on the mango shape, and as a child growing up in Hawai'i with a big mango tree in the back yard, I could really see it! I love your blog and thanks for all the historic research you do.

jes1776 said...

I had a paisley dress from the sixties that I absolutely loved! It had a peter pan collar, a few buttons down the front, and the rest was a straight--like a very long blouse. It was cotton, in a yellow and aqua paisley print. It may sound hideous, but was actually really pretty--I wore it everywhere, and I wish I still had it today!! :)