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Paisley Pattern : The ever favourite Fabric Pattern revisited

A guide to the versatility of the paisley pattern, a timeless and beloved motif in textiles, its origin, cultural significance, and enduring appeal in contemporary fashion and home decor.
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This pattern with Indo-Iranian origins has a motif shaped like a droplet in a recurring design. The paisley pattern is a very popular pattern used in modern and traditional designs. The paisley designs have floral/abstract swirls and intricate details incorporated into them, making each paisley motif distinct from countless others.
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In India, this motif is also known as a Mango motif because it resembles a mango or, rather, a mango seed. Some also call it the almond motif (sprouting almond motif) when there is a stalk under the motif along with leaves. When it has a small footstalk and stand, it is called a palm leaf. Paisley is the English name for this universally famous motif. You will also hear it compared to an asymmetrical teardrop, but the other comparisons may as well raise a laugh – onion, cucumber, tadpole, wheat ear, cotton buds, and even the dragon. Can you see the resemblance? It is even compared to half of a heart or an elongated feather, depending on how it is drawn.

Some alternate names for paisley motif are Boteh ( after the word “buta” which refers to an ornamental motif in Hindi), Turkish bean, Tear of Allah, and the Indian palm leaf motif.

Although the motif itself is of  Persian origin with a lot of Indian influence, the term Paisley is derived from a Scottish Town. The first name for this motif was Buta, and it is said to have been derived from a pine cone motif.  French people have attributed the development of the paisley shape to the palm tree – particularly the palm shoot.  Palm is a very versatile tree with many uses and a symbol of prosperity. Zoroastrians compared the teardrop-shaped motif to a cypress tree, a symbol of life and eternity.

Re-invention of Paisley in the Western world

The paisley pattern seems to have originated in ancient Persia (modern-day Iran) and India. Once upon a time, this design was used in Royal regalia. Imagine the Paisley-printed brocade gowns of all those people in royal courts. British East India Company that colonized India introduced this pattern to Europe. The Kashmir region of India was renowned for its exquisite paisley-patterned pashmina shawls.

These Kashmir shawls were highly prized by European nobility and royalty. British tried to make these shawls cheaply in their own country – mainly because of the exorbitant cost of these valued original shawls made from wool from the underbelly of a special breed of goats only available in the Himalayan region. More on this on the post on Pashmina shawls

Paisley is a small town in Scotland made famous for its textiles, especially shawl production, during the 18th and 19th centuries. Pashmina look-alike Kashmir shawls with paisley designs were made in silk there at half the cost. This town gave its name to these beautiful motifs which were present in almost all of these shawls.

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Paisley fashion trend

In Asian countries, you will find that paisley is used a great deal – on fabrics of saris and other dress materials, on accessories, home furnishings etc. The paisley is largely used in western countries on fabrics for home furnishings – like cushions quilts etc. Maxi dresses, summer dresses and bohemian clothing usually have paisley prints. 

One clothing which has this print in abundance is the men’s silk ties.

Another clothing where you often find the paisley pattern is on the bandanas.

At one time in Victorian England, this pattern was the toast of the court and beyond. During the East India company reign in India hundreds and thousands of Pashmina shawls with paisley patterns were shipped to England and Europe. It reigned for a long time on shawls and hems of gowns. Then it disappeared and then had a resurgence during the 1960s

In the 1960s, particularly in the later part of the decade, there was a fashion style called “psychedelic” fashion. This style was known for its bright and bold colors, complex and fancy patterns. Brightly colored English shirts with paisley patterns were quite a trend then. Members of the famous band of the period, Beatles, such as George Harrison, were often seen wearing paisley-patterned clothing, including shirts.

Then it went into decline and came up back after 2010 as a modern print, especially for home decor.

You will find paisley patterns used in quilting as an easy to do free motion quilting design – they are given odd names like Persian pickles. It is an easy quilting stitch which looks good as well.

Below is a beautiful bedsheet I have with the paisley interspersed with other floral designs. The paisley pattern is a popular motif in Persian silk brocade and it is a wonderful material for home decor.

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Basically, paisley pattern is a timeless trend which will gain high popularity sporadically. It can experience periods of high popularity from time to time and then disappear and come back again. So, wait for it!

If you’re not a fan of the traditional floral paisley patterns, there’s a modern alternative: digital or pixelated paisley designs. If you still want a touch of the paisley motif but prefer a more updated look, you can consider stylized floral patterns that incorporate the paisley element. These contemporary versions replace the classic swirls and floral elements with a more modern aesthetic. These designs offer a modern twist on the traditional paisley motif while maintaining a fresh and stylish appearance.

Relate post : 10 ways to embroider a paisley motif.

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The fashion for paisley prints and patterns comes and goes. It is not a pattern that everyone favors, but those who like it find a way to incorporate some element of it in their homes or clothing, whatever the fashion trend.

Learn more about the paisley pattern: Go and visit the Paisley Museum and Art Galleries with Paisley’s rich range of pictures and artifacts. Address – High Street, Paisley,Renfrewshire,Central Scotland,PA1 2BA

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Author: Sarina Tariq
Hi, I love sewing, fabric, fashion, embroidery, doing easy DIY projects and then writing about them. Hope you have fun learning from sewguide as much as I do. If you find any mistakes here, please point it out in the comments.
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