Shawl Embroidery progress

The base of the cone motif which will get more texture & color added then get covered with floral vines and leaves. Or such is the plan. (I have an idea for a second one too.)


Published in: on June 15, 2012 at 5:33 am  Leave a Comment  

A little survey

I’m trying to figure out what size shawls people are looking for. This is for wool, silk, sheer & domestically made shawls. Please let me know if you would prefer:
A) a square shawl 36″ square (this is called a handkerchief shawl)
B) a rectangular shawl about 40″ by 80″ (this is called a three-quarters shawl)
C) a square shawl less than 50″ square
D) a square shawl between 50″ and 55″
E) a rectangular shawl 50″x100″ to 55″x110″
F) a square shawl between 55″ and 60″ square
G) a rectangular shawl 55″x110″ to 60″x120″
H) a square shawl between 60″ and 65″ square
I) a rectangular shawl 60″x120″ to 70″x140″
J) a square shawl greater than 70″ square
K) a rectangular shawl greater that 70″x140″

Published in: on May 9, 2012 at 6:20 am  Leave a Comment  

Shawls on Etsy!

Just a quick note with a proper post later including photos.
I finally have 5 of my shawls listed on Etsy. There are 5 100% wool shawls including a brown & blue plaid, two natural white, a red and blue. Each are light weight, ideal for spring & fall as well as chilly summer nights.

Published in: on May 4, 2012 at 6:28 am  Leave a Comment  

Embroidered Shawl Update

Thank you all who selected their favorite embroidery choices in the previous post. Since I already loved #3 and several of you like it as well, that is the one I’m going to work from. #3 is a nice balance of floral and paisley.
I’ve blown up the image and sketched out the design. (You’ll see a rejected larger cone motif on the right.) The wool is thin enough to see the illustration through. This will make tracing the design on to the wool to follow fairly easy. I just need to decide whether to trace out the enirety or the major lines then section by section. I’m leaning towards the latter.
For colors, I am thinking a duo or trio of greens and blues. Since the original is red, I may use a brown instread of the pale yellowish color for the vining bits. I may also accent with a red yet to be determined. I don’t know if the brown should be reddish or something paler. We shall see.


Published in: on April 5, 2012 at 6:13 am  Leave a Comment  

Storing Shawls

Another post I started a while back but didn’t finish to post…

A recent conversation led to thinking I should put together a post about storing shawls. Ideally, I could show you photographic examples of what can result from different conditions. Until I can give you those photos, we will stick with a list – Folding can cause creases and breakages. Moist conditions can lead to mold, mildew and rot. Dry conditions can lead to fiber brittleness. Bugs can cause holes. Contact with wood or acidic surfaces or being stored in non-acid free containers can lead to discoloration. Pretty awful right?

Guidelines for the Care of Textiles from the Textile Museum in Washington DC

How do I store antique textiles at home? From the Smithsonian

Preserving Your Treasures-Care and Storage Methods for Clothing and Textiles by the Missouri Historical Society



Published in: on July 20, 2011 at 1:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

How a Shawl Was Worn

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 July 1, 2009 at 12:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

Examples of Shawls

Looking at original examples is a great way to train your eye when choosing a shawl for living history. Here are a few to look at. Keep in mind some can fit in multiple catagories. (THIS PAGE IS VERY MUCH IN PROGRESS)



Indian, embroidered

Silk gauze printed

Mon0-tone border plaid

Border-stripe mono-tone


Earlier, long/scarf shawl

 1840, British, silk

British, Silk, plaid and damask


Paisley Family

ca 1870 (I say earlier) Scottish

mid-1800s Scottish

Paisley, Scottish 1830-50s

Scottish, mid-century, smaller motifs

1856, Scottish, Very unusual shape

ca. 1855 French

All over motif, 1850s possibly printed

1851 French, interesting design

1850s French

French, Zebra stripes

French and Indian

Double square, look at the center

First half of century, Turn-over shawl

Long shawl, Indian

Double square, Indian

Blue center

Border on white, Indian

Fold over

Kashmire, square

1840, India, could be mimiced


Mid-century Indian


British, mid-century

Great Stripe, Paisley Scotland


ca 1866, bordered shawl, could be mimiced at home

British, ca 1850 all-over motif, could be printed

ca 60-65, double square, British

Listed as a mourning shawl, British, 40-50s

Love this one

1840s, Russian, Could be made at home by adding borders to red center

1860-70 paisley family

Listed at 1820. Yellow center with paisley type border. Could be recreated.

Paisley family

1853, stripe, weaver known




Silk – Embroirdered, etc

White silk crepe, embroidered floral



1859 British, duo-tone

1830 borders

 Technically in the Paisley family, Norwich, England

 Paisley family, possibly French

Printed silk crepe

French printed wool

American printed wool

French or Italian printed on cotton

French or Italian printed on cotton, size suggests a scarf shawl


Black, American, Triangle, cotton

French, triangle cotton

lace, mid-century

British, 40s

French, cotton

1860s French


Silk net and embroidery

Linen net and embroidery

Machine made lace


This might be printed, British

Later century printed

French printed wool

French printed


Norwich, double-square boteh motif

Scottish, printed wool

c1850 printed small motif & border

c1840 printed paisley design





French stripes

Published in: on July 1, 2009 at 11:34 am  Leave a Comment  

Shawl Basics

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.–dsh–Hand/Detail Has a few that I like. These cost in the $180 area. I was surprised to find there are a couple shawls I like on the flamanco sites. These are in the $200+ for the larger shawls and $169 for the smaller piano shawls.

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.)

Sizes & Shapes:

  • 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.


Paisley family shawl, possibly Scottish

Shawl Terms

Border Pattern Pattern that is predominantly in the border area around the field. This pattern is very visible when worn in a triangle over the shoulders.

Cashmire French word for shawls with the pine pattern both of Oriental and European origin.

Chenille Shawl A shawl of Paisley, Scotland invention with a comprised of tufted silk, wool or cotton. This shawl was briefly fashionable in the 1820s but was un-washable. (Reilly, p.34)

Damask Shawl Reversible pattern with alternating colors on opposite sides made with a different color warp and weft. (Reilly p.34)

Diagonal Shawl Square crepe shawls with two different embroidered designs on opposite triangular halves. (Worth p. 52)

1. Providence in India. 2. Shawl made by weavers in the Kashmir.
Kirking Shawl A white centered shawl given as a wedding gift to be worn to church the first Sunday after the wedding.

Medallions Motive combinations located in corners, ends or centers of a shawl.

Paisley 1. The town of Paisley in Scotland. 2. The shawl with the cone or pine motif made in Paisley. 3. The individual design of a single pine or cone motif. 4. Overall design comprised of multiple pine motives. Green Plaid Wool Shawl

Plaid 1. Rectangular, double square shawl that came into fashion in the 1840s with the crinoline skirt. “A new size of shawl, called the plaid, was produced.”(Reilly, p8.) 2. Tartan based design of alternating warp and weft threads.

Pine motive or Cone motive Basic flower design surrounded by a border in a tear shape . This is the design we have come to identify as the “paisley”. In India it was call “Buta” meaning “flower”. Kashmir designs tend to have a short, simple, plump pine while European designs became more elongated and stylized.

Point Shawl A triangular half shawl; generally a shawl of lace, knit or domestic make. Some shawls are described as single, double or triple point.

Reversible Shawl A woven paisley type shawl with the same design on both sides. Not being made until 1865.

Standard nineteenth century shawl dimensions “The long shawls being more esteemed than the square ones, and considered articles of luxury, it is by no means unusual for dealers to cut the former in two, in order to evade the higher duty, and to have the two halves fine-drawn together afterwards.” (Scientific American, December, 7 1850).

Scarf or Stole Shawl – Primarily ornamental – 9 feet x 20 inches Square Shawl – Up to 6 feet x 6 feet Handkerchief Shawls – 3 feet x 3 feet (called so due to customs fees) Plaid Shawl or Long Shawl or Double Square Shawl – 10 feet x 5 feet Three-quarter Plaid Shawl – 8 feet x 4 feet

Turn-over Shawl 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.

Zebra-Stripe Shawl A striped shawl with a floral or paisley motive in the stripes, which was fashionable throughout the 1800s. (Reilly p. 36)

Published in: on July 1, 2009 at 11:29 am  Comments (2)  

Fringing Shawls

Fringe Frustration
Fringing Your Wool Shawl:

A Guide to Fringing Your Wool Fabric Shawl

My fringe frustration comes after working many hours on my new red shawl. I carefully found the weft grain and fringed for hours, and hour just to find in the end my shawl is not square. Thus, the title fringe frustration.

Most shawls of the early Victorian era were fringed on two or four sides. This applies to wool, silk and cotton shawls. As a shawl’s fringe was often made from it’s warp and weft threads, a squared shawl was fringed on the grain. The shawls I have observed have had fringe ranging from 3 inches to 10 inches in length. Personally, I find the longer fringe pretty but difficult to live with.

Helpful hints before you start
– Make sure you purchase plenty of extra length to work with. I often find merchants do not cut along the grain. If your fabric is not cut on the grain you will lose length on one or both ends.
– Have a lint basket near-by. This works much easier than a bag.
– You might also want a lint brush to clean up with.
– Pick up your favorite movie or audio-book from the library. You will need several hours of video or audio.

Purchasing Your Fabric
For a square shawl, you will need the width of the fabric, plus twice the length of fringe, plus waste.
———- For example: The fabric width is 60″. You want 5″ fringe on each end. There is approx. 1.5″ waste on each end. You will need 60″+10″+3″= 73 inches.
For a long shawl or double square shawl, you will need twice the width of the fabric, plus twice the length of the fringe, plus waste.
——— For example: The fabric is 60″. You want 6″ fringe. There is approx. 1.5″ waste on each end. You will need 120″+12″+3″=135″.
If you are working with a plaid, stripe or check fabric, you may need additional length in order to have a balanced design. Be sure to lay your fabric out on the cutting counter to double check you measurements.

Step One – Find the grain
I find it easiest to work along the grain of the fabric as I fringe. But, as I learned with the red shawl, make certain your fabric is square first.
To do this, snip the fabric at the selvedge about a half inch from the cut end and tear along the weft. This will create a straight line along the weft. Do this at both ends. Lay the fabric out flat. Each corner should form a 90 degree angle. With in the fabric, the weft should run perpendicular to the warp. If there is a small difference consider squaring your fabric. (see below)
At one cut end of the fabric, measure in from the end the desired length of your fringe. Mark your measurements along the width of the fabric. Repeat this at the opposite end of the fabric.
Using a seam ripper or embroidery scissors, carefully snip the weft thread that passes through these markings.
With a thick needle or small crochet hook, carefully remove this weft thread. The space created by removing this thread becomes your measurement guide in the next step. If this line is not easy to see, remove a second weft thread in the same way.
Repeat this process at the other cut end of fabric.
This image shows a green shawl where the weft threads have been removed:

Step Two – Sectioning
It is easier to fringe in sections rather than lengths. Make cuts, dividing the width of the fabric into 2 inch sections. To do this – Cut along the warp threads from the cut end of fabric to the removed weft line you created above. Repeat this on the opposite end.

Step Three – Fringing
Here is the fun part! Put a movie or audio book in the player. Using your fingers, large needle, crochet hook or anything you think might help, remove the weft threads from each section. I find it easier to alternate from working vertically to working horizontally removing threads.

Step Four – Finishing
You can finish your fringe in a few ways; knotting, hand stitching, or working a weft thread back through the fabric.
One of the simplest ways to finish as shawl is to stitch along the fringed edge. Using a matching thread, make a sort-of back-stitch and whip-stich combination along where the fringe meets the fabric. Go forward 5-7 warp threads at the fabric edge, then back three threads and up tree warp threads, catch the stitch and go forward. This sounds much more complicated than it is. Picture to come.
A method used before taking a shawl off the loom is to work the weft thread back through the edge. This process could be attempted if you can save enough of your weft thread. I have not yet tried this.
For knotting your fringe, I suggest an over-hand knot (as you would knot the end of thread) instead of a square knot (as you would start your shoe laces), because a square knot tends to pull threads together creating a puckered look. If you are going to do multiple layers of knots, creating a nice diamond pattern, I suggest starting with an over hand knot than continuing with a square knot for a flat diamond pattern.
This image shows fringe from warp threads that were knotted as the scarf shawl was removed from the loom:

This image shows fringe knotted with an over-hand knot:

Squaring your fabric
You will need a large, flat, traffic free space for this. Double check prior to doing this that your fabric is color fast. Otherwise you may stain the drying surface. At each end of your fabric, snip at the selvedge and tear the fabric along the weft threads. Do this at each end. This will create a straight edge along the weft. Wet your wool fabric. Do not agitate it as this can cause your wool to shrink. Press out excess water. Lay the fabric out flat using a quilter’s rule to square the edges. Place weigh (jars of food work well) on each corner and side. Allow your fabric to dry. Go back to step one.

Published in: on July 1, 2009 at 11:22 am  Comments (2)