Studying the history of doilies is very interesting. Wikipedia credits a London draper (cloth maker) named “Doiley” for the name “doilies” or even it’s invention. It is understood that the NAME doily in English came from this gentleman, however the “invention” of doilies was much earlier in my humble opinion. They might have been called napkins, protectors or whatever else in any language.
German castles – even the ones from medieval times – had clothes in various shapes, materials and sizes to protect valued thrones, furnishings, such as dressing tables. Many were round, made out of fine woven linens, some of tapestry or silk. They were simply called LACE. Lace-making is an ancient art.
As with all folk art the origins are sometimes obscure, because back than women were not credited with anything they contributed to smart daily living, making ends meet and society in general.
I am not an historian and I was not living than so I do not want to “alter” history or discredit anybody. But this is my theory about doilies: Once cotton was ” invented” in the 1700 ( I think by the American indians). The woven threads , which was conducive to making doilies in various shapes to protect and beautify furnishings. The French promoted crochet ( to hook) and the winning combination between cotton thread and lacy hooking is what developed into creating doilies.
With the fashions of powdered wigs and later hair oils, probably one smart maid must have suggested to make doilies to protect the velvet stuffed chair of their time. The reason I say that: From medieval times it were the peasants, who MADE things for their lords. Only in the Renaissance the wealthy discovered the fun of embroidery and other handiwork and very few totally engaged in it until much later in the Victorian era.
Economics played a part in doily making, because cotton was much easier to come by than silk. Linen was also expensive and had the tendency to break with the hooking technique (crochet). Cotton was just perfect, especially being mercerized, it was durable, washable and had good “wearability”.
Than in the 1900 century, where also home furnishings were made to perfection, doilies were especially popular. They were practical to protect the furniture from scratches and wear, were conversation pieces and of course showed the talent and taste of the lady of the house.
Doilies even look cozy and create a sense of “home” on an
orange crate as end table ( That is were I used them a teenager in my first apartment)
I apologize not giving Mr. Doiley the credit and surely do not mean to contradict Wikipedia, but if their theory was correct than doilies would be called doilies all over the world,with a capital D.
Like Cornflakes are called Cornflakes according to their inventor Mr. Kellog, Fords are called Fords, Singer sewingmaschines are called Singers and so on all over the world, because that is what the inventors named their inventions. Doilies are called doilies in English, but Deckchen in German, TALLRIKSUNDERLÄGG in Swedish, ドイリー in Japanese, Napperon in French. That is why I think Mr. Doiley was just en entrepreneur selling doilies. Sorry Wikki, and of course I would like to hear your opinion on the subject
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