If you are a regular reader of this blog you know that I’m not a fan of mindless “up-cycling.” I didn’t arrive at that opinion quickly or lightly. I’m a child of the 60s and 70s, and those of my generation thought we invented the re-crafting of old clothes. Of course that was not true, no more than the DIYers of today invented the idea.
No, as long as there have been textiles, people have taken the old and tried to make it new. Collectors of old clothes often come across garments that are reincarnations of an older item. One favored material for such up-dating was the paisley shawl.
Shawls were popular during the age of the crinoline, the mid 1800s. They were huge and rectangular in shape, and were used as a warm wrap over the voluminous dresses. The very best ones were quite expensive. After skirts began to shrink, so did the shawls. Eventually, they became passe’. But that did not mean that people discarded them.
I’ve seen many garments dating from the Edwardian era and the 1920s made from paisley shawls. Many of them were cut into jackets and into robes. Smaller pieces became handbags. Here is an example form the 1890s.
Click to enlarge. From Handbags, by Anna Johnson
Even today, shawls are being made into new items. A few years back, slipper-maker Stubbs and Wootton did a paisley slipper made from old shawls.
Several years ago I found what had once been a robe made from paisley. It was missing an arm and most of one side, but the price was right – 50 cents if my memory is correct – and I knew that eventually I’d use it for something. It was in such terrible shape that this was one piece that could be remade without guilt. A few weeks ago it occurred to me that it would make a lovely scarf.
In order to get a good length, I had to piece the fabric. I arranged and cut, and then resewed the paisley.
Then I had several larger holes to deal with. I used a patch, but I’m not entirely happy with the results. I may take off the patches and go with embroidery around each hole.
Finally, I backed the paisley with a length of black wool flannel.
To see more paisley, visit Brenna Barks’ blog, where Monica Murgia has written about an exhibition at the Allentown Art Museum.