Examples of a Turn-Over Shawl

A nice example of a Turn-Over Shawl is on Ebay this week. I hope they keep the photos up for a good long while.

A “Turn-Over Shawl” is A shawl that when folded in a triangle, shows all four finished borders. This is done by attaching 2 borders on the right side and 2 on the wrong side.

The three-quarter back view shows the Vs of the two border pairs. These are set on opposite sides so when folded over, both sets of borders form their Vs. You can see the “right side” construction of the top V in one of the photos. This shawl is made with a center piece of black wool, 4 paisley type borders and black wool borders that are frayed. The right and wrong sides of the paisley type borders can be seen in the other two photos. A border such as this one could have been purchased at the time.


There is another one over on Etsy as well. This shawl is 58″ square, within the common size perimeters for the mid-century. Again we can see the borders set in pairs on opposite sides so they will make Vs when the shawl is folded. While this border is narrower than the Ebay shawl’s, the way it is folded and photographed really shows how dramatic and lovely the look can be. The seller includes a teaser photo of one corner showing the right and wrong sides of the border. The color thread clearly shows the construction details. (btw – Please do not dry clean an antique shawl as the seller suggest.)

I believe Genteel Arts just did a workshop on making a turn-over shawl.

Additional examples:






Published in: on January 25, 2016 at 6:50 am  Comments (2)  

Shawls Sizes & Shapes

For more in-depth information, read Paisley, Plaid, & Purled: Shawls of the Mid-Nineteenth Century

PPandP book cover


  • Square shawls should be in the range of 55 inches to 70 inches square with 64 inches square being standard.
  • Long shawls are double squares, sometimes called plaids, which should be 55 inches wide by 110 inches long to 70 inches wide by 140 inches long with 64 inches wide by 128 inches long being the most common.
  • Three-quarter shawls are 3/4ths the width and 3/4ths length of a standard double square shawl. A three-quarter shawl would be 48 inches wide by 96 inches long.
  • Scarves are much longer than they are wide. A shawl 3 feet by 9 feet would be considered a scarf. These were more popular earlier in the 19th century.

The exceptions to these standard sizes include lace, knit or crochet shawls.

Next, consider weight. One of the mistakes I observe is the use of wool which is more of a blanket weight than a shawl weight. The weight of fabric is determined in ounces per linear yard. If you want to think of wool weights in terms of modern suit weights, a tropical weight is the lightest and regular is generally the fabric worn for a winter suit.



For more in-depth information, read Paisley, Plaid, & Purled: Shawls of the Mid-Nineteenth Century

PPandP book cover


Published in: on January 21, 2016 at 5:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

How do I …. My Shawl

I am being asked more and more frequently about repairing or strengthening shawls.

Oh, how I wish I had taken classes textile conservation and preservation already. But, I haven’t.

Before proceeding, I want to say I do not encourage the wear of original shawls.

What causes damage to a shawl

  • Folding creases the thread and causes fractures.
  • Dryness can dry out the fibers and make them brittle.
  • Moisture can invite mildew or mold.
  • Moths can eat holes.
  • Time is just time as it wears away the life of fiber.
  • Chemicals/dyes can cause some threads/fibers to be less stable than others. These can deteriorate quicker.


Reading up on the options

Further reading

  • Preservation begins at home: How to care for your textile collections” by Julia M. Brennan. (This is one of the nicer, easy to follow articles for at home.)***
  • Caring for Textiles blog.
  • The Museum Textiles “Issuu” page.
  • “A Conservator’s Approach to Viewing Textiles”, Textile Society of America, Proceedings of the Seventh Biennial Symposium, Sante Fe, NM, 2000.
  • Preserving Textiles: A Guide for the Nonspecialist,  Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, Indiana:  1999, 92pp.
  •  “Treating Mrs. Robertson’s 1802 Dress”, Costume Society of America, Dress, Earleville, Md,  1993-4, pp. 65-73.
  • “Fabric Wallcoverings: Historic Use, Cleaning and Conservation”, Historic Preservation, The Interiors Handbook for Historic Buildings, Vol. II, Washington, DC, 1993, pp. 5. 21-24.


For in-depth information on shawls and their history, read Paisley, Plaid, & Purled: Shawls of the Mid-Nineteenth Century

PPandP book cover

Published in: on January 14, 2016 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Shawls for Historic Interpretation

For more in-depth information, read Paisley, Plaid, & Purled: Shawls of the Mid-Nineteenth Century

PPandP book cover


Shawls for Historic Interpretation

Kashmir, Asianic Paisley and Paisley-type Shawls

Paisley family shawl, possibly French

Fibers, weave and size: These shawls should ideally be made of hair brushed from the Kashmir/cashmere goat or from a wool and silk blend. The silk should be the warp or blended into the wool in a small amount. Avoid shawls with a rayon or acetate blended with the wool. Original Kashmirs are very light weight because of the tapestry twill weave. I have yet to be able to compare the weights of original and new. Look for sizes around 64 inches square or 64×128 inches as a double square.

Design: When looking for an Asianic shawl, look for a strong cone motif. The cone motifs should radiate out from a center field of black, white or red. These radiating motives create a star or spoked flower appearance from a distance.  The spokes should be connected with ribbon like borders consisting of small floral motives. By our era a newer shawl would have a smallish center. But, the higher cost of these shawls along with their durability means it would not be unlikely for a grown woman to have a shawl with a larger center from her youth. The outer border can be on two or four sides. This borer should be comprised of smaller designs brought together in the border. Kashmir borders will have more independent blocks of design while French borders will visually entwine each block with it’s neighbor.

Two other design options include the striped shawl and the border shawl.

Where to look: There are some nice shawls coming out of India. Many of these are available on online and via Ebay for various prices. When doing an online search use “Paisley Shawl” or “Cashmere Shawl” or “Antique Shawl” for your key words.

(note: I have read several 1990’s news stories regarding the skinning of goats for their under-coat hair, which is used to make shawls, thus endagering the goats. While shopping be sure to find a merchant you are confidant in.)

Woven shawls Red Wool Shawl

Fibers, weave and size: Wool or wool/silk blends. These should also be 64 inches square or 64 inches by 128 double square. A shawl relatively near these dimensions will look nice. The weave should be a tight plain or twill weave. The shawl can range from light weight to rather heavy if hand-woven.

Design : Look for solids, checks, plaids (preferably symmetrical) stripes and border plaids.

Golden yellow plaid shawl with detailWhere to look: This is a type of shawl you can make yourself. Many Museums offer weaving classes thru-out the year. You can also make a fabric shawl from woven wool lengths. You will need a dress weight to coat weight wool rather than a heavy weight  in a 54 inch to 60 inch width. Plain woven fabric and plaid woven fabrics work well. The yardage can fringed on the end by unravelling the ends by hand. To calculate your yardage, decide if you want a square or double square shawl and how long you wish your fringe to be on the ends. For a square shawl, purchase the width of the fabric plus 6 to 12 inches for fringe. For example: if you want a double square shawl out of 60 inch wide fabric purchase 130 inches for a 120 inch shawl with 5 inch fringe.  (see the article on fringing a shawl)

Printed shawls

Fibers, weave and size: Printed shawls come in wool, cotton and blends of wool, silk and cotton. Ideally, you would find a 64 inch square shawl, but the common 55 inch square shawl is not bad.

Design: Printed shawls vary by region. Look for period motifs and borders.

Where to look:  The Russian Pavlovo Posad company still makes printed shawls in their 19th century designs. There are several sellers listing these on ebay and more on the web. I am still trying to find a direct link to the company. I may have to settle with a regular address and phone number. Use “Pavlovo Shawls” or “Russian Shawls” for your internet search.

Sheer Shawls – Muslin Shawls, Grenadine & Barege

Fibers, weave and size: I still have not found sheer shawls that I like. These were silk, wool or cotton. They frequently had a plain central field and a stripe border creating a plaid motif.

Lawn, Gauze, Voile, Silk Organza & Batiste fabrics can be used to make a sheer shawl. The edges would need to be hand finished with a rolled hem. This isn’t what original shawls have though. You may want to starch the fabric as well. You can add tucks to the border or ribbon to the border or edge.  

Design:: Plain, woven plaids, woven checks, woven border plaids.

Where to look: – Online fabric merchants including Exclusive Silks and Fashion Fabric Club

Silk Shawls

Fibers, weave and size: I have not yet found the ideal silk shawl. Thai Silks has larger white shawls in their scarf section. These are a little smaller than ideal, but may suit your needs.

To make your own shawl, you want a durable silk, in the 64inch square range, no slubs with or without fringing. Look for a taffeta, china or habotai silk. Do not use satin.  I have seen solid color, shot (or changable silk) and patterned silk shawls. A couple of the India, China and Thai merchants sell nice silk shawls. I tend to think play it safe for silk shawls and go for simple. Also, many list as silk but are selling Viscose.

Design:: If you want to embroider your shawl, I highly suggest looking extensively at originals.

Embroidered China Crape

There are some fabulously beautiful embroidered shawls out there… but only a few designs are suitable. I occasionally pick through ebay to see what is out there. It is rare I find something that meets size, design, quality and fiber standards. But it is possible.

**Edit – The previous finds are no longer available. I’ll keep an eye out for more.

Lace Shawls

Sadly, every modern lace shawl I have seen is a synthetic. I may not have found the right maker. I suspect the prices may be quite high.

Crochet and Knitted Shawls

Great thing about these is you can make them your own. There are several patterns available in magazines and guide books. Many of these patterns are available digitally through Accessible Archives and online from various sites.

If you are purchasing a shawl, be sure to ask where the pattern design came from and what fibers the shawl is made out of. The shawl patterns above are worked in wool or silk.

Orenburg Lace Shawls

Fibers, weave and size – These should be 100% wool

Design – See originals

Where to look: – These are available from the same places the Pavlavo shawls are available. But not all are 100% wool. These should be square and very, very fine. The idea is they could fit through a wedding band. Most of the ones I see listed on Ebay don’t look like they have been blocked (set to the square shape.)


For more in-depth information, read Paisley, Plaid, & Purled: Shawls of the Mid-Nineteenth Century

PPandP book cover

Published in: on January 7, 2016 at 5:00 pm  Comments (3)  

Paisley, Plaid, and Purled: Shawls of the Mid-Nineteenth Century

PPandP book coverNow Available!!!

Exclusively as an Ebook in my Etsy Shop!!!

At long last, I offer you Paisley, Plaid, and Purled: Mid-Nineteenth Century Shawls. I am very excited to finally share my extensive research on mid-century shawls began over a decade ago.

PP&P is 120+ pages long looking at each of the shawls worn during the mid-nineteenth century, including the Civil War era. Learn about the types of shawls, where they came from and how they were worn along with much, much more.

PP&P includes over two dozen CDVs displaying period shawls, photos and illustrations. It also includes over 30 original directions for shawls including sewn and knit shawls.

1. Introduction & Methodology
2. Shawl Culture
3. The Shawls
4. Domestically Made Shawls
5. Shawls for Living History
Bibliography & End Notes
Appendix Including a Glossary of Terms, Manufacturing, Production, and Tariff Statistics, and Exhibition Examples.

Published in: on January 1, 2016 at 1:00 am  Comments (5)  

Paisley, Plaid, and Purled…..Coming New Year’s Day

PPandP book cover

Published in: on December 28, 2015 at 4:16 pm  Comments (3)  

How to wear a shawl


On the shoulders, draped open or held with the hands

This woman, dressed in evening attire, wears a lace shawl on the edge of her shoulders

This woman wears her shawl high on the shoulders, rather close to the neck. It drapes down the front of her.

This woman wears her lace shawl on her shoulders while holds her dog with the shawl draped through the arms.

This lace shawl is held on the shoulders, fully covering the arms.

This lace shawl is held closed with arms.

This image is harder to see. It appears to me the shawl is held on the shoulders.

This shawl is draped off the back of the shoulders. I believe this is a posed wearing.

These women wear their shawls on their shoulders tucked high under their arms.

Painting, 1860 another painting


On the shoulders, held closed with pin or other item

This lace shawl is held closed at the neck.

This woman is seated, wearing an open neckline dress. The striped silk shawl drapes around her shoulders and is closed at the front.

This lace shawl is worn high on the shoulders to the neck where it appears to be pinned.

This paisley family shawl is folded square and pinned at the neck. It is unusual to see a shawl folded this way.

Just off the shoulders

This woman wears a loosely knit shawl just off her shoulders. She holds it closed with her hands. She appears to be in her 30s or 40s.

The woman on the right wears her shawl just off her shoulders and holds it closed low as she poses.

This shawl appears to be pinned in place. The woman is Cornelia Van Ness Roosevelt, taken in 1857.  I believe this is a posed wearing.

This woman wears her shawl with a paisley border just off her shoulder with a significant amount draped over her arms.

This shawl is worn just off the edge of the shoulders and held fully with the arms.

This is likely a later 40s or early 50s image based on the dress and bonnet. The shawl is one that could possibly have been made at home.

Woman wearing a knit shawl

Draped on mid-upper-arm

Lace shawl worn by a woman in her 40s or 50s, draped over her upper arms as she is seated.

 This lace shawl is worn on the upper arms. It is possibly a later 60s image based on the neckline.

On the arms/elbows

, draped low on the back, held at the elbows. Woman 20s or 30s.Solid shawl with possible border

This painting shows a woman, likely from the 1840s, in an open neckline day wear dress with her shawl draped around her arms loosely at the elbows.

Published in: on February 7, 2015 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  

“The Musical Wife” – What do You See?

I had picked this sterioview up last summer with the thought it would find its way into my new shawl book. Since then, I’ve found a far, far better image, bumbing this from the publication list. This means I can share it here and we can play a game of “what do you see”

Take a look at the image and comment below on what you see.

Copy of SAVE0044


Of course, I see the shawl draped on the arm of the chair to our left. This looks to have a wide border, possibly on opposite ends.

Published in: on March 20, 2013 at 12:30 pm  Comments (2)  

Shawl progress

The embroidery for the shawl is progressing, slowly. I’m working on the leaf layer.


Published in: on August 9, 2012 at 6:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

New (to me) Plaid Shawl

Thanks to a text message from my sis-in-law, I made it to one of my favorite place’s fundraisers where I picked up this shawl. With these colors it just had to come home despite the fold fractures.

It is 63″ by 128″.

There are plenty of moth holes and fold fractures. But, I’m going to have to spend some time looking closer at the damage spots because I noticed something as I was measuring it. Along the sides, the red areas are shorter than the other color areas. I’ll need to determine if these areas have worn differently, if they were trimmed back (there is very little red fringe but plenty of blue and green) or something else.


Published in: on June 16, 2012 at 12:54 pm  Leave a Comment