Kashmir & Shawls of Paisley Design

18/19th century

The European manufacturers were not slow to realise the potential of the shawl market, with Britain taking the lead. Both Edinburgh in 1790 and Norwich in 1792, began to imitate 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, instead of just two colours, indigo and madder, 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, the original Kashmir shawl costing £70-100.

Differences Between Kashmir & European Shawls

The two basic differences between Kashmir shawls and their imitators are the type of cloth and the weaving method. The Kashmir shawls being woven from hair, were lighter and smooth with a natural sheen, whilst the European shawls, until the end of the 1830's, were woven from silk or wool which made them much heavier and less fine .

Methods of weaving were quite different in Kashmir and Europe. In Kashmir the shawls were woven in the twill tapestry technique, which is similar to weaving a European tapestry. The wefts (horizontals) which form the pattern do not run right across the fabric, but are woven back and forth around the warp (vertical) threads, where each particular colour is needed. Woven with goat's fleece, the finest softest fleece, shah tus (king's wool) came from beneath the coarse outer hair of the underbelly of wild central Asian goats (8). These goats had such hair as a protective layer against the extreme cold in the high altitudes of the Himalayan region at 1,500 ft. In spring, the goats would rub themselves against the bushes from where it was collected. This quality of fleece was used only for the most expensive shawls. The majority being woven from pashmina , hair from the underbelly of domesticated goats. The best fleece was left the natural cream colour, whilst the darker pashmina was dyed with natural vegetable dyes.

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