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August 3, 2009 07:11 - Paisley ~ the Pashmina Shawl

First a note, the August Highland Games were posted last Friday, July 31st, so they would be available for the weekend.

Now, on to the shawls. My sister-in-law buys pashminas from street vendors in New York City. Their cost is almost next to nothing, but the colors are delightful. Each one has multiple colors which can coordinate with many different ensembles.

Notice the twisted fringe in this pashmina. The fibers don't get entangled when twisted into this more substantial fringe.

Pashmina shawl courtesy Wikipedia

The original pashminas were woven of fine cashmere wool. Both the shawl and the textile are called pashmina. The test of the pashmina's qualilty is how it feels and it's warmth.

The name has evolved from pashmineh, a Persian word from pashm, meaning wool. This wool came from the pashmina goat found in the higher altitudes of the Himalayas. Because of the high demand, the goats are now domesticated in the Gobi Desert.

In Kashmir, the shawls are hand spun, woven, and embroidered from this fine cashmere.

Although found mentioned in history between 300 BC and 1000 AD, the traditional cashmere wool industry is dated from the 15th century.

A softening process is used to render a soft, silky feel. Some pashminas are a blend of wool and silk, which adds strength and durability. But the higher the pashmina wool content, the more expensive the shawl.

Indian Kashmiri vendor courtesy Wikipedia

Pashminas range in size. The scarf is 12" x 60", the wrap or stole is 28" x 60", and the shawl is 36" x 80".

Pure pashmina has an open, gauze-like weave and can't take much tension. A more popular fabric is 70% pashmina and 30% silk. This imparts an elegant sheen that drapes nicely while maintaining the soft, light-weight feel of pure pashmina. A 50-50 blend is also popular.

Unfortunately, some vendors import shawls woven from viscose. They get away with it by labeling them "authentic viscose pashmina". With the low cost and high availability, there's no reason to go with an imitation when you can have an authentic pashmina.

As the segment on paisley winds down, I don't think I'll ever look at paisley in the same light again. But when I do see it, I will think of the town, the weavers, and the soldiers who originally brought the shawls back home.

When I wear a paisley shawl, pashmina or otherwise, I'll probably snuggle in a little closer and queitly thank the weaver.

And if I were marrying, I'd probably plaster paisleys all over the place ~ my wedding gown, on the reception tables, maybe an altar cloth…and I'd definitely paint some on my reception shoes. I may do that to some shoes anyhow and I'm already designing a pair of beaded paisley earrings.

Tomorrow the segment closes with a famous Paisley citizen and his works…

August 4, 2009 07:15 - A Famous Paisleyian ~ Gerard Butler

A discussion of Paisley, Scotland, would be incomplete without a side trail leading to Gerard Butler, actor and singer.

His popularity is steadily growing. Many attribute this to his being one of the nicest actors to come down the track in a long, long time. While filming Mrs. Brown, he saved a boy drowning in the River Tay. For his heroism he received a Certificate of Bravery from the Royal Humane Society. His reaction ~
he only did what anyone in the situation would have done.

After growing up in Paisley, he was studying law at Glasgow University, when he was offered a role in a stage production.

Though he did complete his studies, right then and there, Scotland lost a potentially great solicitor. His first movie was Mrs. Brown in 1997. He played the younger brother of John Brown, the personal assistant of the widowed Queen Victoria.

When the Brown brothers stripped naked and jumped into a freezing loch, Gerard's career was probably guaranteed right there.

Gerard was also the lead singer for 'Speed', a Scottish rock band.

This partial list of his movies are the ones I've particularly enjoyed. Some are love stories, others are rough and barbarian.

Attila in Attila the Hun, 2001

Gerard Butler Attila courtesy Wikipedia

  • Beowulf in Beowulf and Grendel

    Gerard Butler Beowulf and Grendel courtesy Wikipedia

  • Terry Sheridan, a former love interest and mercenary in Lara Croft, Tomb Raider, 2003

  • Andre Marek, an assistant professor in Timeline, 2003, in which a group of archeologist travel back into 14th century France. If I remember the story correctly, he plays the male love interest whose love transcends time.

  • The Stranger in Dear Frankie, 2004. Once more, a love story, not only between a man and a woman, but her son who desperately wants a father.

    Gerard Butler Dear Frankie courtesy Wikipedia

  • The Phantom in the film version of Phantom of the Opera, 2004, which also introduced us to his vocal abilities. His rock and roll vocals were just what the producers were seeking.

    Gerard Butler Phantom of the Opera courtesy Wikipedia

  • King Leonidas in 300, 2006, about the Persian battle at Thermopylae in 489 BC. Many claim this is his very best role. I just couldn't get into the movie, but I'm told it's a guy movie.

  • Gerry, in P.S. I Love You, 2007. Reprising his vocal talents, he dies early in the movie, then reappears in the memories of his young bride.

    Gerard Butler P.S. I Love You courtesy Wikipedia

  • Jack Rusoe and Alex Rover in Nim's Island, 2008. He stars as both the father/scientist and the author's muse.

    Gerard Butler Nim's Island courtesy Wikipedia

    Released July 24th, his latest role is as Mike in The Ugly Truth, another romantic comedy.

    Gerard Butler The Ugly Truth courtesy Wikipedia

    Talk about being comfortable in his manhood, in the 2005 Dressed to the Kilt Fashion Show, which is part of the annual New York City Tartan Week celebration, he wore a pink T-shirt and boots with a kilt.

    Gerard Butler at the 2005 Dressed to the Kilt Fashion Show
    courtesy Mystic Bliss

    But does he have a clan tartan? He says his family has none because of partial Irish ancestry. Philip Smith, an expert on tartans, in his book, "Tartan For Me!", connects four tartans with the name Butler. Perhaps he would select one of these for himself...

    Butler 4058

    Butler Clan Tartan 4058

    Tweedside District WR1175

    Tweedside District Tartan WR1175

    Tweedside District Hunting WR163

    Tweedside District Hunting Tartan WR163

    Irish Cian/Carroll WR43

    Irish Cian or Carroll Tartan WR43

    And there are also the Paisley District tartans published in the July 22 blog.

    Coming tomorrow, The Dog Days of Summer…

  • August 5, 2009 07:18 - The Dog Days of Summer

    From ancient times, Dog Days were thought to be an evil time. Quoting Brady's Clavis Calendarium, of 1830

    …when the seas boiled, wine turned sour,
    dogs grew mad, and all creatures became languid,
    causing to man burning fevers, hysterics, and phrensies

    A major historic battle was thought to have been lost by the Byzantine emperor, Nicephorus, ignoring the significance of the ancient Caniculares dies, or days of the dogs. From this Latin name, the dog days of summer are also called canicular days.

    Dog Days of Summer courtesy NBC Augusta

    Both the Greeks and the Romans acknowledged the significance of these days, even sacrificing a brown dog to appease the rage of Sirius. Sirius, the dog star, is the main star in the constellation Canis Major, also called the Big Dog.

    These cultures believed the hot, sultry days of summer were caused by the star, Sirius. Because Sirius was so bright, they also believed it added to the summer heat on Earth. We now know the heat of summer is a result of the earth tilting on it's axis.

    They knew that Sirius, the brightest star in the sky, rose and set with the sun in the summer months. This simultaneous rising and setting is called conjunction. The 20 days before and after this conjunction came to be called the dog days of summer ~ a time that was unusually hot and the crops received very little rain.

    Originally, the Dog Star rose at sunrise, called a heliacal rising. Due to the procession of the equinoxes, this is no longer true.

    In ancient Rome the Dog Days were from July 24th through August 24th. These dates are still recognized in many European cultures ~ including Germany, France, and Italy. The Old Farmer's Almanac lists July 3rd book of through August 11th, which coincides with the ancient heliacal rising of Sirius. The Book of Common Prayer states the Days begin on July 6th, ending on August 17th.

    In Sweden July 23rd through August 23rd is called Rötmånad. In Finland, these days are called Mätäkuu. Both mean "rotting-month", as the high temperatures are known to spoil foodstuffs.

    In parts of India their dog days are called Kathiri veyyil, meaning sunlight that acts like scissors, and Agni Nakshathram, meaning star of fire.

    In ancient Egypt, Sirius would appear just before the season when the Nile flooded. For them the star was a "watchdog" for the flooding. The rising coincided with a time of extreme heat, so the star also forbode the extreme heat and sultry weather.

    Tomorrow, back to the historic Battle of Pliska...

    August 6, 2009 07:23 - Dog Days of Summer ~ Part II

    Getting back to the Byzantine emperor, Nicephorus and the Battle of Pliska...

    A major historic battle was thought to have been lost by the Byzantine emperor, Nicephorus, ignoring the significance of the ancient Caniculares dies, or
    Dog Days of Summer.

    The Battle of Pliska in Bulgaria pitted Byzantium against Bulgaria in a series of battles. The final battle took place in 811 AD in passes in Eastern Bulgaria. Using ambush tactics and surprise night attacks, the Bulgars trapped and immobized the Byzantine forces. They annihilated most of the army, including Emperor Nicephorus.

    Above: Emperor Nicephorus enters Bulgaria with his army
    Below: The captured Nicephorus is presented to Krum

    Miniatures from the Mannasas Chronicle
    courtesy Wikipedia

    The Battle of Pliska was one of the worst defeats in Byzantine history. It kept the Byzantines out of the Balkans for over 150 years, allowing the Bulgars to spread to the south and west, establishing the First Bulgarian Empire.

    At the time of the battle, Sirius was rising and setting with the sun, in the Dog Days. The Greeks had believed that the Dog Star sent out emanations which exerted a malign influence. People suffering from the effects of the Dog Star were said to be astroboletos, meaning star-struck.

    The Byzantines believed the Dog Star and it's position caused Nicephorus to act with the reckless bravery of an impertinent coward, making him behave like a madman. It's recorded he frequently shouted challenges, then realized...

    ...some supernatural power, either God or his enemy, the devil, pulled him against his will .
    Theophanes the Confessor, Chronographia, Ed. Carl de Boor,
    vol. I, 1883, vol. II, 1885, Leipzig, p. 486

    With time Dog Days of Summer have come to have different meanings.
    • The Bar Sinister, by Richard Harding Davis, c. 1903. A street dog, who is the main character, states

      "…but when the hot days come, I think they might remember that those are the dog days,
      and leave a little water outside in a trough,
      like they do for the horses."

      The story can be read in it's entirety at Questia.

    • On Wall Street, Dog Days of Summer refers to the slowness of the stock market in summer. Dogs also refer to poorly performing stocks who hold little potential.

    • Many think of the laziness of dogs during the hottest days of summer, as they lie around avoiding overheating, as the origin of the Dog Days of Summer. People are said to "dog around" or be "dog tired" on hot, humid, lazy summer days.

    • Saint Roch, the patron saint of dogs, has a feast day on August 16th.

    • In Iceland, the Danish adventurer, Jørgen Jürgensen, is commonly known as Jörundur hundadagakonungur, meaning Jorgen the dog-days king.

    • A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, also mentions dog days

      Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand
      at the grind-stone, Scrooge!
      A squeezing, wrenching, grasping,
      scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner!
      Hard and sharp as flint, from which
      no steel had ever struck out generous fire;
      secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.

      The cold within him froze his old features,
      nipped his pointed nose, shrivelled his cheek,
      stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice.

      A frosty rime was on his head,
      and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin.
      He carried his own low temperature
      always about with him;
      he iced his office in the dogdays;
      and didn't thaw it one degree at Christmas.

    • Shoot Your Dog ~ talk about a play on words, Topel Winery urges all dog owners to shoot their dog…with a camera, as part of their Dogs Days of Summer celebration.

      This is Maddy, their 2009 calendar dog.

      Maddy, Topel Winery 2009 Poster courtesy Marketwire

      Information about entering your dog in the 2010 calendar contest, can be found at their website, Topel Winery.

    August 7, 2009 07:29 - Dog Days of Summer ~ Part III

    You've probably been wondering what the Dog Days have to do with Scottish wedding themes. They don't. They have to do with me.

    I don't know about where you live, but here in Central Texas the heat almost has us lying on the ground, panting like dogs, hoping cooler days are ahead. We're in a drought that's lasted over a year and the temperature has been over 100 since sometime in June.

    I have decided to a break from blogging for the rest of August, through Labor Day.

    My husband has [had] an extensive bonsai collection which is dying. We need to take more time and more severe measures to save the rest. Also my "real" job needs some extra attending to. Something has to give, rather than spreading myself too thin.

    I also figure a break will allow me to come back refreshed and raring to go ~ after all isn't that the whole purpose of a vacation from something?

    So my blog will return September 8th, the Tuesday after Labor Day, when I shall once again take up my labor of love ~ Scottish Wedding Dreams.

    July 2009 «  » September 2009


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