> What's wrong with paisley, exactly? My understanding is that the shape
> is derived from the butt end of the fist (the part we tell kids to stick
> in paint and then daub 5 points above it to look like a foot).
> It is my understanding that 'paisley' as we know it, those scattered
> multicolored 'twisted raindrops' was a patterning design originating in
> Paisley, England as an adaption of ME flower designs.
What i have read is that the paisley motif originally derives from a Persian motif called boteh. Modern paisley prints on fabric are usually multi-directional, so it doesn't matter how you place your pattern pieces on it, and they look - to quote someone else - like "an explosion in an amoeba factory". In or near SCA-period, however, boteh were aligned and oriented in one direction.
The boteh motif, sometimes characterized as a twisted teardrop or kidney-shaped, is believed to derive from one or a combination of motifs: a stylized floral spray, a leaf, a cypress, pine, or palm tree, and/or a Zoroastrian tree of life motif. The boteh originated in Sassanid Persia (ca. 200–650 AD). It appears in the Safavid Dynasty (1501-1736) - i've seen it on 17th c. textiles, but so far i don't recall any definitively 16th c. textile with boteh. And it was frequently used in the Qajar Dynasty (1785-1925), also written Ghajar or Kadjar, which like to recall the Sassanid.
The word "paisley" derives from the name of the Scottish city in which were woven less expensive imitations of Kashmiri silk-decorated fine cashmere wool shawls throughout the 19th c. The South Asian complex handwoven shawls - twill woven with a tapestry embellishment technique - had become desirable by the wealthy in Europe in the last quarter of the 18th c. And weavers of the time-consuming technique could not keep up with demand.
From around 1800 to 1850, weavers in the town of Paisley became the foremost producers in Europe of these shawls when special additions to their handlooms and Jacquard looms allowed them to work in five colors when most other weavers of paisley used only two. By 1860 they could make shawls with fifteen colors, although that was still only a quarter of the colors used textiles still being imported from Kashmir. By around 1870 the shawls had fallen out of high fashion for several reasons. Additionally, in the 19th c. the paisley pattern was being printed onto other textiles.
In modern day South Asia the motif is still popular. It is called by names that refer to the mango or mango seed.
I am a fan of paisleys, even modern ones, for mundane wear, but it is not easy to find suitably patterned fabrics for SCA. I have occasionally found patterns that are quasi-peri-oid.I recently made shalvar out of this fabric:
But often with appropriately mono-directional boteh the colors are way too modern (e.g., pale chartreuse with magenta/hot pink and maroon boteh)
Perhaps i need to frequent some local sari shops :-)
Urtatim (that's err-tah-TEEM)