"That's a great deal to make one word mean," Alice said in a thoughtful tone. "When I make a word do a lot of work like that," said Humpty Dumpty, "I always pay it extra."

Friday, 1 March 2013


   There aren't many words in the Englsih language with so many alternative spellings as doiley - an ornamental mat, crocheted or done with openwork and designed to sit under things like sugar bowls on the tea table.  Nowadays paper doileys are quite popular but in my grandmother's day it was a common practice for young girls to make large numbers of doileys. They were crocheted or sometimes knitted from cotton or linen thread. Openwork allowed the surface of the underlying object to show through. Many patterns for crocheting or knitting doilies were published by thread manufacturers in the first part of the 20th century.

Although it may to some extent interfere with the original use, some doilies have raised designs, such as rose petals or ruffles, rather than being flat.  One of the one I inherited has raised flowers on it and is quite useless for putting things on.  (I'd show you a photo but it's buried deep in the linen chest).

In addition to their decorative function doileys have the practical role of protecting fine-wood furniture from the scratches caused by crockery or decorative objects.

The name originated with a 17th Century London draper called Doiley (or Doyley!) and was given at that time to 'genteel affordable woolens' such as were sold in his shop.

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