Hand woven and natural dyed Paisley Silk Shawl

Contributed by: Private collectors

The complete garment. Canberra Museum and Gallery, Photographer, Rob Little RLDI Added "fringe". Canberra Museum and Gallery, Photographer, Rob Little RLDI Back of shawl "fringe". Canberra Museum and Gallery, Photographer, Rob Little RLDI Back of cone-like motif showing woven portions. Canberra Museum and Gallery, Photographer, Rob Little RLDI Close up view showing weave. Canberra Museum and Gallery, Photographer, Rob Little RLDI Colour before dry cleaning Tear over 20cm long in the centre fold Jean Armour (Nisbit) as a very old lady Three generations. Allison Pirie(the second person to wear the shawl) is flanked by her daugther, Jean on the left and Jean's daughter, Allison Adelyne, on the right. Jean Drummond and her daughter, Jean Christina.(always called Teen). This young person is Kay Durant's(present keeper of the shawl) grandmother.
  • Australian dress register ID:

  • Owner:

    Private collectors
  • Date range:

  • Place of origin:

    Fenwick, Ayrshire, Scotland
  • Gender:

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Object information

Significance statement

The importance of this garment, especially within the family history, is quite significant. The story of its existence has been passed down through the eldest daughter and always referred to as "The Shawl". As a wedding gift, it would have been treasured by Jean Nisbet, and as a Mother, passing it onto her daughter, Allison, to wear on her wedding day, shows how it was. These types of hand woven shawls, where not cheap, and to have something so beautifully made, as well as its vibrant colour, would have meant a great deal to the young bride. The fading that is evident on the front of the shawl, shows to the historian,that, even though it was no longer a fashionable garment to wear, it was still worthy of being diplayed. When the Textile restoration was taking place, Victoria Gill, from "Endangered Textiles", made the comment, that the shawl was like a historical document. This "page" in the family history, when displayed publicly, brought together many members of Matthew and Jean Armour's family. Their sons and other daughters' families, had no knowledge of this garment as it came to Allison and along her family line. Sharing this "historical document", with other descendants, was a wonderful experience. From the early days of working as a weaver, then dairy man, to owning and farming their own property in and around Bookham, Matthew and Jean lived as early pioneers and their extended family grew into a vast family covering five generations. This Silk Paisley Shawl is a reminder as well as a representative of woman's fashion of the period and with its provenance, a truly rare "document".

Author: Kay Marie Durant. P O Box 680, Bega NSW. 3rd daughter to Christina Jean Lemon., 30 July 2011.


This shawl is a lovely coral pink colour with cone like motifs covering the major part of the garment. It has a "fringe" edging both ends, made up of eight larger cones and this is then surrounded by a tapestry-weave type edge. The larger part of the shawl is in one piece and then the "fringe" is sewn on as a separate piece. The whole garment and fringe is surrounded by an edge, handsewn into place.

History and Provenance

Births, deaths, marriages, children or family information

Children from Matthew and Jean Armour: Alexander married Eliza in Gundaroo in 1856. Marion married Thomas Drummond in 1846 and lived in Wombat. John never married and lived in Bookham. Youngest son, Matthew married Elisabeth Sarah Masters in 1859 and lived around Yass. Youngest daughter Jean, died 1865 aged 22yrs. Allison married Andrew Pirie in 1855, lived in Bogolong and later Temora. Allison and Andrew, had 9 children, the shawl going to Jean, the eldest child. Jean, born at Talmo 1856, married Alexander Drummond (son of Allison's Sister Marion) in 1880. They had 5 children, 2 boys and three girls and only the girls survived infancy. Alison Adelyne, born 1884, and Marion Lydia born 1887, both never married and the youngest daughter, Jean Christina born 1893, married Albert Edward Meacham on 1st March 1916. Jean and Albert were the grandparents of the author of this statement. Jean and Albert had 3 children, born after Albert's return from Western France and the Somme. Christina Jean, born 1920, married Clifford Manning Lemon on 15th June 1940. They had six daughters, the eldest being Barbara Jean, born 1941, died 4th March 2010, Sandra Marion, born 1943, married Grahame Still. Kay Marie born 1946, married John Durant, Cheryl Diane born 1947, married Wayne Meaker, Robin Allison born 1950, married Anthony Brown (died 2010) Alexis Esther born 1952, married Richard Rolfe.

How does this garment relate to the wider historical context?

The shawl was given as a wedding gift to Jean Nisbet, from her fiance, Matthew Armour, in Fenwick, Ayreshire, Scotland. Jean wore the shawl on her wedding day on 9th July 1824. Matthew and Jean had 5 children in Scotland and it is understood that they came out to Australia after meeting with Robert Campbells' Factor, who was looking for workers for the Campbell property "Duntroon" in New South Wales. When the family migrated to Australia, the children were, Alexander 16yrs, Marion 14yrs, Allison 11yrs, John 8yrs and Matthew 5yrs. They travelled out to Australia on the "Percy", arriving in Sydney Cove on August 28th, 1841. This ship, on its return journey to Scotland, was lost with all hands. On 7th September, 10 days after arriving, Matthew, Jean and family, moved to "Duntroon", Canberra (then called Limestone Plains, New South Wales) where Matthew worked as a dairyman. Jean, their sixth child, was born at Limestone Plains, near Queanbeyan, in 1843. After a few years, the family moved to the Bookham area where Matthew and selected family were granted large tracts of land making up Talmo Station and Wattle Vale. Wattle Vale is still held by the Armour family. In 1992, descendants of Matthew and Jean erected a memorial stone and plaque for the Armour Family on Talmo. Both Matthew and Jean are buried on Talmo.

Where did this information come from?

This story of the shawl, was handed down through the female line on Allison's family tree. The shawl was given to Allison to wear on her wedding day in 1855 and it remained in her family, being passed onto her eldest daughter Jean. During Jean's ownership and with the advent of the bustle, it was possibly put on display, draped over a lounge or piano, as it was no longer fashionable to wear shawls. The garment has some fading on the front and this would indicate that it had been draped at some time. Jean's daughter, Jean Christina, was the only one of her three girls to marry and so it came to Jeans' eldest daughter, Christina Jean. The story of the shawl was something that was explained and passed on to the eldest daughter until today, as Barbara Jean, Chris's eldest daughter passed away, without marrying or children, and so the shawl is now in possesion of Kay Marie Durant, Chris's third daughter (there are six girls all together).

This garment has been exhibited

A recent exhibition at the Canberra Museum and Gallery, called "altered States", from 23rd October to 27th February 2011, had the garment on display. It was an exhibition about change in culturally significant places in Canberra. The Canberra and District Historical Society, recognised that Canberra's rural heritage was more than the grand houses of Duntroon and Yarralumla; that it was also evident in the workers cottages and the dairies and barns where they laboured. In the section of the exhibit, designated for Duntroon, the shawl was displayed fully and was the main item on show. This also tied in with photos of the Duntroon Dairy, which has recently been restored.

  1. Place of origin:

    Fenwick, Ayrshire, Scotland

  2. Cost:

    Cost is unknown and as the story goes, if Matthew, the weaver, made it himself, then the hours it took to create could add up to eighteen months.

  3. Owned by:

    Jean Nisbit. A wedding gift from her fiance, Matthew, worn on her wedding day when she was 24 years old.

    Also worn by their daughter, Allison, when she married Andrew Pirie in 1855. Allison retained the shawl and it was then passed to her eldest daughter, Jean. Jean married Alexander Drummond and the shawl was passed onto her daughter, Jean Christina (Teen), as she was the only daughter to marry. Jean married Albert Edward Meacham and it was passed onto their eldest daughter, Christina Jean. She married Clifford Manning Lemon and so it came to Barbara Jean Lemon in 2003.

  4. Worn by:

    Jean Armour (Nisbitt) and her daughter Allison.

  5. Occasion(s):

    Jean wore it as part of her wedding outfit in 1824.

    Allison wore it on her wedding day in 1855.

  6. Place:

    Jean was married in in Fenwick, Ayrshire, Scotland.

    Allison was married in St Clements Church, YASS, New South Wales.

  7. Made by:

    It was believed by the family, that Matthew Armour, made the shawl on a hand loom. He came from a family of weavers, Father Alexander Armour and brother John where custom weavers. Matthews' other brother, Alexander, was a Muslin weaver.

  8. Made for:

    Jean Nisbit in Scotland, as a wedding gift and worn on her wedding day.

Fibre / Weave

The fibre is silk.

Colour comes from a madder dye and is a soft pink colour.

The back of the shawl displays the patterns of the cones to be rough and matted.

The edging has been stiched by hand and is fraying in places. The stiching appears to be an over stich and is cream in colour.

The cone like motifs are made up of blue, green and cream.

  1. Natural dye
  2. Synthetic dye


It is believed that the shawl was woven on a hand loom, by the groom-to-be, Matthew Armour, as he was a weaver by trade, as was his brothers and Father.

The technique used was described as a kind of extra-weft patterning or as discontinuous weft patterning. This technique allowed weft yarns to float outside the weaving. These floats where later cut off, leaving only the woven portions. In the finished shawl, the pattern wefts were no longer continous yarns from selvedge to selvedge but where short snatches of yarn, each woven securely where the colour was required by the pattern. The fabric is held together by other wefts.


The shawl was found to have several weak areas where the base fabric was very thin and risked tearing. There were three main tears, one being over 20cm long in the centre fold. There were several tears to stitching attaching the the woven edge. There is fibre loss along the edge where fraying is prevalent and small loss associated with tears and holes. All holes and weakened areas have been repaired by Victoria Gill from Endangered Textiles, using silk patching fabric and monofilament thread. The thread had been dyed to match the base cloth colour.

  1. Hand sewn
  2. Machine sewn
  3. Knitted
  4. Other


  1. Bias
  2. Straight


  1. Hook and eye
  2. Lacing
  3. Buttons
  4. Zip
  5. Drawstring


The shawl measures 104 inches by 49 inches. This measurement is within the parameters of shawls of this period, mainly 100 inches by 50 inches.


After the death of Christina Jean, the shawl was found folded and stored in a leather suitcase and had been in this suitcase for a period of approximately 70 years. It was contained in a pillow case. The younger daughters of Chris, did not know or comprehend the full story behind this garment and it was only through the dedication to all things historical from Barbara Jean, that it was restored and known to all.

Evidence of repairs

In the initial report from the Textile Restorer, it was noted that there where many stains, some dark brown, some navy blue. Dye testing indicated that the dyes where mostly stable but some areas showed a weakening of the dye bond to the fabric and there is subsequent dye loss in these areas. The garment was dry cleaned of spot areas and then dry cleaned in 30cm square sections at a time, so the threads remained aligned. With cleaning the garment, the cloth changed from red/orange to a pretty coral pink, which was its obvious original colour.

See notes on Manufacture for repair detail.

Insect damage


Mould damage



  1. Excellent
  2. Good
  3. Fair
  4. Poor


  1. Fading
  2. Stained
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