Quilt block with a paisley print on the right,
Ask a quilter today to give you a name for a paisley print and she might tell you it’s a Persian Pickle, a name with a supposedly long etymology— but it’s all fiction. The earliest source I found for the name is Sandra Dallas’s 1995 novel The Persian Pickle Club about a quilting group in Kansas during the Great Depression. They took their name from a bolt of paisley fabric.
I did a digital search for the words "Persian Pickle" in the Google books database of print material from the 19th century and found nothing with those two words linked together. Doing a search for references after 1900 found lots of hits but they all had to do with Dallas’s book, which is quite popular.
Here's the only 19th-century reference with the words Persian and Pickle close-by. It's from an 1874 play, called Mont Blanc: A Comedy in Three Acts by Eugène Labiche and Henry Mayhew. The reference seems to have to do with a brand of pickles and how to advertise it.
CHIRPEY," said I to myself when the brilliant idea first flashed upon me, " you're the proud inventor of a delicious new condiment—christened—after a long series of sleepless nights—' THE SHAH'S DELIGHT, or, Persian Persuasive Pickle.' But," said I, " nothing's done now-a-days, Chirpey, without advertising and puffing… Chirpey ! you be off at once and put up a poster of your delicious ' Persuasive Pickles' on the summit of Mont Blanc so that the eyes of Europe may be upon it."…. (he lets the end of the roller drop down over the chair~back, so as to expose to the audience a large coloured placard, representing the SHAH OF PERSIA seated cross-legged devouring pickles, and with the words " THE SHAH'S DELIGHT " printed in large letters underneath it.
it can make you believe it’s all very real.
Wool paisley shawl, machine woven between 1860-1890
Woman in Paisley shawl about 1875
What might a 19th-century quiltmaker call a design in the tear-shaped paisley cone? The manufacturers referred to them as Cashmere prints or shawl prints, after the Cashmere shawls made in India. These hand-woven Kashmiri shawls were reproduced on mecahnical looms in Scotland, particularly in the town of Paisley, which gave its name to the design.
The scrap of fabric above is the document print for the reproduction paisley in my Moda collection called Civil War Homefront. Those little wiggly lines around the "paisley" are supposed to imitate a woven design in a printed cotton. Shawl prints were all the rage about 1860-1890.