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Friday, July 16, 2010

All About Shawls

Summer is a great time to make a shawl. It can be used when the sun goes down and you need a little something for the evening temps... I found this wonderful site on Vintage shawl history and how to quickly "zap" up a shawl and make it your own design....
First start with the shawl, dear ladies, this is the easiest to make. The shawl was a useful garment worn by women in the Civil War era. Shawls were created in a variety of fabrics and fibers, from plain to elaborate in design.

The best alternative to true cashmere was a blend of silk and wool. Pure silk was sometimes used, and later in the 19th century wool-cotton blends were used too. Printed cotton shawls came onto the market – some quite high quality, intended for light summer wear. At first there was usually a multicolour printed border round a plain centre. As the trade got better at imitating Indian calico fabric, shawls with all-over printed patterns were also produced.

As fashions changed, so did the shawl. By the 1830s, they were still essential items in the wardrobe of elegant ladies, but woven shawls were now available to “middling” women too. They worked better with the new wider skirts than fitted coats would. Improvements in looms made it easier to produce the large, typically Victorian shawl covering the entire upper body while also draping down over the skirt.

Clothes were another way for a Victorian lady to enjoy hand-knit lace. The Victorian Shawls were a favorite accessory. Some were simple one-stitch designs, while others were lavish, with ornate patterns, scalloped edges, and long fringe. For more warmth, shawls were often crafted from non-lacy patterns, such as garter stitch or double crochet, and then enhanced with a lacy edge. Whether they were lacy or cozy, shawls were often trimmed with ribbon and made in fashionable hues of red, mauve, and blue.

The simplest & warmest shawls were made from a square of wool, that was folded in half diagonally to make a large triangle. The ends of these shawls were often fringed. Today we call them the Triangle Shawl.
Decorative shawls were created from fine fabrics, and some were made to match the fabric of a favored dress. This flaunted a lady's wealth, as she could afford enough fine fabric to create a dress and large shawl. These shawls were often finished in a ruffle of the same fashion fabric and were cut very full in the hips to drape over their large skirt. Shawls in a paisley design were very desirerable, and many period photographs feature a belle proudly modeling her prized paisley. Fabrics with a check pattern were also frequently seen.

Knitted or crocheted shawls were widely used and were sometimes called a "Fascinator". A shell stitch pattern was popular, and an edging pattern in contrasting colored yarn was sometimes incorporated. Photos show both fringed and plain edges on these shawls. Most photos show a little collar crocheted on the neckline.

A note on crocheted shawls: You can find multitudes of crocheted or knitted shawls in thrift shops. Unfortunately, most are done in shiny acrylic yarns of excruciating color. Find one of these in somber colored wool, or at least an acrylic in a nice muted tone that looks like wool. Needless to say, period crocheted shawls did not come in the variegated yarn so popular today.

Lace shawls were very fashionable. While not providing much warmth, they were worn as an accessory with lovely dresses. Light shawls were seen with dark dresses, and dark shawls were worn with light or dark garments.

The best thing about the shawl is all the ways you can wear it. You can wear it around your neck, drape it down the front, or wear it the standard way over your shoulders, be sure and check other ways to wear your shawl here.

 "How to Make a Shawl" project:

Purchase a square of fabric from a fabric store or thrift shop. A nice woven wool blanket from a thrift shop is excellent material for a shawl. Purchased fabric should be very wide, try to find some that is 50 - 60 inches wide if at all possible. Wide fabrics are often available in the decorating or upholstery section of fabric stores. Choose a wool fabric in a solid, heather, or somber colored plaid.

Cut off the selvages from your square of fabric. Fringe the ends to at least 1/2 inch from the edge to prevent raveling. Fold your fabric square in half diagonally and your shawl is complete. Voila!!! Easy as pie....hmmmm that sounds good right now...lol....ok getting off track... :)


  1. Thanks for the wonderful write up on shawls. I've been hanging on to a couple of lovely shawls that were given to me by my mom several years ago. Your write up prompted me to get them out of the box and out into the world. It also reminded me of all the lovely pashimas I've been collecting over the past few years. Perhaps what I really need to do is sew up a cute little black dress to wear with all these great treasures.

    Thanks again for the tribute to the shawl


  2. Oh I so agree, I love shawls and when on one of our long weekend travels I came across this small shop and was able to get 3 beautiful shawls that I love to throw on in the summer months or just to decorate an outfit....thanks for your comment. :) DaCraftyLady


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