At a glance, it is clear to see just how much this town was influenced by the textiles industry. Silk, Cotton, Lawn, Gauze, Thread, Shuttle and Mill all grace the street signs of a place which was once world famous for textiles manufacturing and the Paisley pattern shawl.

 

During the 18th and 19th centuries, Paisley was one of the leading textile manufacturing towns in Europe.

The collections in Paisley Museum and Art Gallery are internationally recognised and reflect this rich textile heritage.

By far the most prominent and ubiquitous output of Paisley’s weaving past is the Paisley pattern and Paisley shawls. The name derives from the town of Paisley whereas the distinctive tear drop shape has its origins in various Eastern and Middle-Eastern cultures.

The symbol spread across Asia and in the mid-eighteenth century was being woven into elaborate shawls in the Kashmir region of India. They were traditionally given as gifts and only to the very wealthy.

The shawls filtered back to Europe where members of the aristocracy took a shine to the rich designs and luxurious fabrics and the implications of wealth that they brought. These shawls were aspirational but inaccessible to all but the elite; however, Paisley found a way of producing something equally beautiful but faster.

Paisley produced its first shawl in 1805 with the weavers already skilled in muslin, lawn and silk work. By this time there were thousands of looms in Paisley and as many people employed in weaving with them.

Queen Victoria bought no less than seventeen Paisley shawls and wore one to the christening of her son Albert Edward in 1842.

The pattern lives on. It is constantly recurring in fashion, never seeming to fade or become passé. It is to be spotted everywhere as a luxurious pattern synonymous with the finer things in life. Often accompanied by rich and royal colours as well as more modern interpretations, with each revival the pattern develops and expands its versatility but its heritage has the opportunity to shine through and ought never to be lost or forgotten.