Friday, June 4, 2010

Persian Pears & Florence Peto

Miscellaneous thoughts about paisley:

Magazine cover featuring a boteh or shawl print

Found this picture of a baby nurse wearing a terrific ruffled cape made of a paisley print, maybe in the 1870s.
It's from a blog called 19th-century American Women: A Museum in a Blog

Wool/cotton blend printed in a paisley, about 1880

I wrote about the lack of historic sources for the term "Persian Pickle" recently. Click here to see that post:

Indigo paisley border about 1890.
The jagged edges imitate the woven shawl designs.

I'm still working on sources for various names for the design. I was surprised to NOT find the word paisley in the Oxford English Dictionary---is the word not used in England? (ouch! there are a lot of negatives in that thought.)

12 hours later: I went to the library and read their edition in regular-size print of the O.E.D. Paisley is in there as "a garment or material made [in Paisley] or having the curvilinear design characterstic of cloth made there, or the pattern itself." The earliest use of the term Paisley shawl they cite is 1834; the earliest possible use of the word for a boteh pattern is 1898---"trimmed with paisleys."

While reading my notes about Florence Peto, who was a textile dealer and historian in the 1930-1960 years, I came across her reference to a paisley design as a "Persian Pear" in the Magazine Antiques in July, 1942, giving us another visual metaphor for the paisley cone shape or boteh.

The idea of a Persian Pear may come from oriental rug dealers. I found an article in a 1918 magazine criticizing all the imagined myths published about rug motifs.

As for the so-called Persian pear pattern, concerning which the rug books evolve so many fanciful theories, I know no more about it than they. But I do know that the Persians call it the bute, meaning twig or bush, by which they further designate the camel-thorn of their bare plains. And I have seen the same design on old Indian silks…
"About Rug Books" by H.G. Dwight in The Bookman Volume 46, 1918

Read more about Florence Peto by clicking here:




And here's a small stamped piece by Linda Frost.

She sees birds in everything, including butah, boteh and bute shapes.

Check her blog 13th Street Studio


  1. Love the indigo and those paisley birds, very unique work.


  2. Thank you so much for the reference on Florence Peto. I am pleasantly surprised, as I consider your research the best. Your book Clues in the Calico is pretty much my constant reference for every question I have on quilt and textile history.