Jane Austen died 200 years ago and her legacy is celebrated this year with exhibitions and events. Kerstin and I visited Skokloster Castle last week. Their exhibition, Jane Austen’s World, featured costumes worn in Austen’s movies, including the famous soaked shirt worn by Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. A theme in the exhibition was marriage as a guarantor of family survival. Girls’ education focused on studies that would secure a future husband.
Our Augusta was fortunate in that she had a wealthy benefactor – her brother-in-law, Gustaf Lejdenfrost. She was not eager to get married, and when she did fall in love with her future husband, Lejdenfrost was also not in favor of her getting married. He would make sure that she could live comfortably without having to get married.
In the spirit of the Jane Austen celebration, I decided to re-read Mansfield Park. The following quote made me smile because it was so timely:
”Fanny, William must not forget my shawl, if he goes to the East Indies; and I shall give him a commission for anything else that is worth having. I wish he may go to the East Indies, that I may have my shawl. I think I will have two shawls, Fanny.”
For the last couple of days, Kashmir shawls have been on my mind. I guess, having a relative travelling to the East Indies would have been the way you would get one. If you were not fortunate to get a real Kashmir shawl, you might be able to get a locally produced copy.
I wrote about my hunt for Paisley shawls in May; then 3 weeks ago, my travels took me to Edinburgh. The first day, we did some sightseeing and visited charity and antique shops. It was there, in a back room, on top of a pile of other textiles that I spotted the now so familiar paisley pattern. I started pulling in the pile and realized that it was an antique shawl – with a few holes and matted fringes. What would you expect with a, maybe, 180-year-old shawl? The shop keeper and I agreed on a price and she stuffed the shawl into a plastic bag for me.
It wasn’t until we got home that I realized the size and beauty of this shawl. And it wasn’t until I got back to DC, and spent an afternoon in the textile library at The George Washington University that I realized that my shawl seems quite unique among published pictures of Kashmir and Paisley shawls. Since then I have spent many hours scrolling through online images of genuine Kashmir shawls and those made in France and the UK during the 1800s. I have also been reading all I can find about the shawl industry in Edinburgh and Paisley. I am no closer to assessing where and when the shawl was made. There is one tell-tales though: as I can discern, the warp is silk, which points to a European made shawl.
So here is the beauty, annotated with name of the parts of a Kashmir shawl:
The shawl is 306 cm long. The width at one end is 154 cm and at the other, 157 cm. The warp is silk and the weft is wool. According to historical records from Paisley, there was also a fine lace cotton thread used in the ground color weft for added strength – called a “sma’ shot”.
The silk warp is dyed in 3 different colors: gold, light red, and light yellow. Besides the ground color (cream), there are 4 colors used in the weft: crimson, light red, olive, and a very light turquoise.
The shawl is woven in 3:1 twill which can be seen in the fringe gate.
This is typical of European shawls; genuine Kashmir shawls are woven in 2:2 twill. The back side is typical of the European shawls in that the loose wefts were clipped and removed after the shawl was taken off the loom. This reduced the weight of the final shawl.
The typical “harlequin fringe gates”, those colorful squares at the end of the shawl, are 2 cm high. When harlequin gates first appeared on shawls in the 1820s, this is how high they were. They then became larger – having doubled in height by 1845 – and they were more ornate.
The field is quite large and cream (pale) colored. The pallu is also quite large with 8 tall, intricate butas (paisley shapes). What is so beautiful with this shawl are the stylistic flowers and fronds that stretch into the plain, cream-colored field. According to Rehman and Jafri, this motif started to appear on European shawls in the 1830s.
I would love to find out more about this shawl – nailing down the time period and the manufacturing site. Was is made on a draw-loom or on a Jacquard loom? And should I mend the holes?
While reading about the shawl manufacturing in Paisley, I realized the similarities with Norrköping and the life of Augusta. Both Paisley and Norrköping were textile towns that flourished in the 1800s. Paisley had long been a center for linen and wool textiles – and even silk manufacturing. In the 1820s, the Paisley shawl manufacturing was taking off. Unfortunately, shawl manufacturing was just about the only industry in Paisley and, when fashion changed and demand declined, there was no alternative work for those employed in the industry. By 1880, the manufacturing of Paisley shawls had come to an end.
Augusta lived a privileged life in Norrköping because of the wool mills and the textile industry. Her brother in law and benefactor owned a wool mill as did her cousin’s husband. So, did fashion in Norrköping at this time also dictate large wool shawls? And if so, were they aware of the European fashion of Kashmir shawls? Or did they buy locally produced shawls?
I wish I knew.
Below are some more images of the shawl: