French Kashmir shawl from the 1830s

Gallery of my shawl

Gallery of my shawl

In July, I wrote about my antique “paisley shawl” that I bought in Edinburgh. I was trying to figure out when and where it was made? I had spent time in the library and read all I could find, and I had narrowed it down to a European-made shawl from the early 1800s.

Who could shed some light on it? Any “paisley shawl” experts?

I googled something like “US expert paisley shawl” and found Dr Joan Hart, a textile specialist and art historian who specializes in Kashmir and paisley shawls. Contacting her led to a wonderful exchange of emails and some very definite answers, for which I am very grateful – thank you!

Even though I bought the shawl in Edinburgh, it is French, and probably made in the 1830s. It is very fine early jacquard weave (not woven on a drawloom). I also received some great advice on how to wash and mend the shawl.

Excited about knowing that the shawl was French, I continued looking for pictures of similar French shawls. The closest one I found was a French, wool and silk jacquard shawl from around 1830. The picture is included in The Kashmiri Shawl by Sherry Rehman and Naheed Jafri. The design has many similarities and the color in the weft seem to be exactly the same as in my shawl. The width is also the same. According to the authors, “the delicate fronds that creep upwards on to the small, plain cream section is a motif that came into European shawls around the 1830s.”

I also purchased a used copy of a beautiful book by Monique Levi-Strauss: Cashmere – A French Passion 1800-1880. Besides being stunningly beautiful, it is a fascinating read about the history and designers of French Kashmir shawls.

Verification des Cachemires

Verification des Cachemires

Where do I go next? I would love to know who actually designed and produced these shawls – maybe a research trip to France 🙂 ? The French have always been scrutinizing their Kashmir shawls – and finding cotton fibers among the silk and wool fibers must have been scandalous!

But what about the shawl Kerstin and I got from our aunt Eva – a reversible square paisley shawl. I asked Dr. Hart about that one as well. It turned out to be Scottish and from the 1850s or slightly later. There is a photo of a similar shawl in Frank Ames book: The Kashmir Shawl.

This has been an interesting and inspiring side-trip to Augusta’s Journey. I have discovered a whole new world of beautiful textiles that I knew nothing about before. But then, I have always liked scenic byways.

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