The Scottish town of Paisley was famous during the latter part of the 1700s for the creation of fine fabrics, and these were shipped all over Europe. This was known as a significant period for the practice of handloom weaving.
It was around the same time that the Kashmir shawl was brought to Europe and it was a much sought-after item, becoming a symbol of wealth and good taste. The shawls featured a decorative border that contained a floral design. The creation of the model in the shawl was so intricate that it had to be inserted by hand and the original technique used meant that it could take more than a year for two people to make just one shawl. When this fact was added to the price of the luxury fabrics used, the shawls became a very rare item that had a high price-tag attached.
The Paisley Shawl
Naturally, there were efforts to replicate these shawls by European manufacturers, but a high level of hand-weaving was required to match the work done by hand on the original designs. The weavers in the town of Paisley were able to meet the demands for the intricacy of the work. They were able to produce an imitation shawl relatively inexpensively. The new fabric was referred to as the ‘imitation Indian’ shawl, and the weavers in the town went on to produce these for most of the 19th century.
They continued to work on designs, and soon they were producing so many of the shawls that people were soon referring to it as the Paisley shawl. The motif was also soon claimed as the Paisley pattern, and over the years the links to the Indian shawl were referred to less and less. Weaving techniques advanced, and the weaving industry moved from the cottages to the factories.