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The Doily

The doily, a decorative and protective textile once found adorning the tops of furniture in many homes, has largely gone extinct. Often placed under vases, centerpieces and dinnerware on dining tables, under toiletries and framed photos on bedroom dressers, or even under radios or television remotes in the living room, doilies are now considered unnecessary and unmodern. Some may still be found here and there in homes or tucked away in storage – often as keepsakes from family members past.

The skill, dexterity and creativity expressed in the creation of handmade doilies is an often-overlooked aspect of these objects. Crocheted, embroidered, woven and more, let’s look at some of the doilies in the WDM Collection and appreciate the handiwork of those who made them.

Scroll through the images below to see a sample of doilies in the WDM Collection.

Note: The WDM has many more doilies than shown and we are no longer accepting them for the WDM Collection.

  • 1876 white crocheted doily reading "MARY BOYD/ SULLIVAN/ CO GREY ONT/ MARCH 1 1867”. Features a border of flowers and is finished with a cross knotted fringe. Made by Mary Boyd, possibly as a child practicing needlework, or to commemorate an event, such as a birth. This doily was eventually brought to Saskatchewan.

  • c1900 rectangular white cotton doily with wide crocheted mesh in a diamond pattern.

  • c1915 doily set including tablecloth, table runner and cushion cover, beige in color with large yellow and blue embroidered flowers. Made by a convalescent soldier while hospitalized during the First World War.

  • c1925 round tatted doily, light beige colour with rings of floral designs and scalloped edges. This doily was made by a 12-year-old and won first prize at a local fair in Kisbey, Saskatchewan.

  • c1930 round doily made of unbleached fabric with crotched edging. Features three embroidered baskets of yellow, white, pink flowers with mauve flowers between the baskets.

  • 1933 square tatted doily crocheted from pink cotton with unbleached linen in the centre. Made by a mother and daughter for a hope chest.

  • c1950 round crocheted pink, ivory and green ruffled doily, decorated with pink and ivory flowers and encircled by a deep lacelike ruffle. This doily was a prize given out by the Hawarden Homemakers Club and was won by a 10-year-old whose mother used it.

  • Made prior to 1960, a square white linen doily, hemstitched at edges with hollyhocks or lupins embroidered in several shades of purple with green leaves below.

  • Date unknown, set of six round white crocheted doilies mounted on a rectangle of red tissue paper with a tag reading "Humboldt Ag. Fair". Each doily has a lily bloom at its centre. Made by a nurse working at the Saskatchewan Hospital in Weyburn, SK.

  • 1980 square beige linen doily with a bold and colorful embroidered floral design in red, green, burgundy, beige, yellow, pink and blue. The border is decorated with a large herringbone stitch in green thread. Made using an embroidery pattern and thread bought from Hungary.

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