Persian Pickles or Paisley?

Persian Pickles or Paisley?

Did you know that the Paisley design is sometimes called Persian Pickles? I didn’t until I got the Paisley bug and started to poke about the topic a little.

The pattern can be traced back more than 2,000 years. The Paisley is some argue is Persian in origin, adapted in India and copied in Britian.

The main element of Paisley is the distinct droplet tear drop shape, a motif which resembles a large comma, is actually is a buta or boteh. Monique Levi-Strauss, in The Cashmere Shawl states that

“The origins and symbolism of the pine (boteh, as it is known in Kashmir) I can offer the following brief explanation: this motif probably first appeared in Persia or India but there is such controversy on the subject that it is very difficult to opt for any one of the many hypotheses. Much has been written about its probable significance, from “Tree of life” to “mango,” with others opting for “cypress” and “palm” on the way …”

Others trace the motif to ancient Babylon where the shape represents the growing shoot of a date palm. The palm was used to provide food and the fibre was woven into textiles. The palm became regarded as ‘The Tree of Life’, with its growing shoot being gradually accepted as a fertility symbol.

What we know as Kashmir shawls is thought to have begun being woven in Kashmir during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

The East India Company introduced woven shawls from Kashmir to Europe. As richly patterned garments they quickly became popular and European weavers were quick to copy them. In 1805, the weavers of Paisley increased production on Jacquard looms , and the sheer numbers of “Paisley shawls” gave the design its name.

From roughly 1805 to 1860, weavers of Paisley , Scotland, were kept busy.

For images of paisley design search Scottish Textile Heritage online typing in Paisley into their image gallery search brings up a number of shawls and designs from the Glasgow school of art. Of particular interest is a pattern book of colourful cashmere and silk woven borders

The Paisley Museum and Art Gallery holds a famous collection of Paisley shawls.

What has provoked this ramble? Jo of No Matter Where I Go I Always Meet Myself There has the paisley bug and her suspect band of cohorts is feeding it.

I have to make a fabric postcard for the monthly 6 x 4 lives challenge and digging through the posts from those who have the paisley bug has my mind twisting into paisley patterns … lets see what tomorrow will bring with two days to the end of the month my needles will be flying.

The image above by the way is my favourite scarf which I purchased in China when we were there on a visit. In Winter not a week goes by without me wearing it with something as the colours seem to fit just about everything in my wardrobe. It is pashmir and silk so I thought I would give you a bit of eye candy.


  1. I have not read the Persian Pickle club but obviously need to chase it up. Thanks for the Link Nathalie its a great site which I need to investigate further.

    As for the suspect band of cohorts – wait an hour or so I am working on post now

  2. Hi Sharon B:
    I so enjoy your website.
    I am a crazy quilter, love embroidery and am always looking for new ideas! Your 100 days in 100wonderful!

    Just to add to your Paisley/Persian Pickle discussion…There is a fun book, historical fiction I would call it, called the Persian Pickle Club. It is about a community quilting group, U S based, 1930s…fun to read, lots of quilter language and details. Author is Sandra Dallas. I have read it twice and loaned my copy to many. Fun reading.

  3. In my Goodhousekeeping Quilting and Patchwork it mentions that (in Wales at least, I suppose) paisley is also called Welsh Pears, and shows a wedding quilt from 1888 with them in.

  4. Sharon, myself,and my band of suspect cohorts will wait impatiently to see your version of a persion pickle!!
    Doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, does it. Thanks for all the extra info. You dig up some great stuff.

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