Saturday, September 27, 2014

Historical Australian D’oyley[1]
Art Essay

Marie-Therese Wisniowski

The 1885 edition of “The Dictionary of Needlework” by Sophia Caulfield and Blanche Saward defined d'oyley as:
“This was once the name of a woollen stuff, but is now that of a small article of napery [i.e. house linen]. It is usually produced with fringed edges, for use at dessert, or for the toilet. D'oyleys are woven in both cotton and linen; in white and ingrain colours. The name appears to be derived from the Dutch dwaele, signifying a towel.”

According to this article another explanation for the term d’oyley (also spelt doilies, d’oyleys, and d’oilies) originated from the time of William the Conqueror when one of the knights, Robert D’Oyley was granted land in Oxfordshire and in return had to give his king a linen cloth each year. These pieces of cloth were known as “D’Oyleys” and so the term was applied to small cloths. The name has also been attributed to the fabric supplied by a 17th Century London linen draper. Hence, there is really no definitive explanation of the origin of the name.

Blue linen d’oyley by Mary Palmer, Sydney (Australia) ca. 1930s.

Designs for d’oyleys proliferated in Australia from the 1890s to 1914. Many of the Australian historical embroidered d’oyleys, termed fancy work by their owners, were made when they were young girls in Australian schools or for their glory boxes in their late teen years. Early in the 20th Century Aboriginal women living on remote missions were taught crochet techniques.

Aboriginal girls at the Weipa mission (Australia) sewing garments to send to the Brisbane exhibition in 1912.

D’oyley made by women at Mapoon mission, Cape York, Queensland (Australia) ca. 1919. Hay family papers, Cape York Collection, Hibberd Library, Weipa (Australia).

In Australia crochet d’oyleys centered on tray cloths, scone cloths, runners for the table, and jug covers, predominately in white lacy patterns that accentuated the appetizing freshness of the food offered. Many of the d’oyleys centered on the table setting. Others were for the parlor or sitting room – table, sideboard runners, table cloths and antimacassars.

D’oyleys were on many different shapes, each of which had its specific function. There were round cake d’oyleys to be placed under a cake on a plate, elongated sandwich d’oyleys for silver trays, scone cloths, which folded over scones at each corner to keep them warm, and d’oyleys for milk, tea and sugar. Large rectangular d’oyleys were antimacassar for placing on the back of chairs so the men’s macassar hair oil would not stain the furniture. Duchesse sets were made for the dressing table – a large oval d’oyley under the jewelry box, a small circular one on either side for the mirror and brush and comb, and one or two others for trinkets, perhaps, or for a small vase of flowers.

Historical Australian D’Oyleys
Much of the information of early Australian d’oyley designs has been lost. Women's craft has never been valued as historical documents in their own right. They were kept at home in bundles and then later thrown out as relics of a bygone fashion; fashions changed and people needed to make way for more space to house their ever increasing wares. Local libraries were not interested in housing d’oyley designs and so major library collections in Australia are sparse. Below are just a snippet of historical Australian d’oyley designs.

Crocheted plate d’oyleys made by Louise Tufnell of Sydney (Australia) between 1918-1925.

Filet lace dressing table d’oyley by Mary Delanety, Euroa, Victoria (Australia) ca. 1920.
Photograph courtesy of K. Atkinson.

Stencilled and painted d’oyleys. Grapes and leaves painted on velvet by Mrs. Ruby Falconer (neé Burgess) of Brisbane (Australia) ca. 1920. The outline was first burnt like poker.

Waterlilies painted in lavender by Ruby Falconer, ca. 1920.
Photography courtesy of K. Atkinson.

Crocheted d’oyley. Birds. Mrs. Edith Thompson of Sydney, ca. 1920.
Photography courtesy of M. Courtney.

“Sol” lace. Sun center with medallions. C.W.A. Cabramatta, NSW (Australia) ca. 1930s.

Embroidered d’oyleys by Helena Smith (neé Brasil), Sydney (Australia) ca. 1930s.
Photograph courtesy of M. Courtney.

D’oyley with fancy work.
Collection of Lorna Martin, Sydney (Australia) ca. 1930s.
Photograph courtesy of K. Atkinson.

D’oyley worked by Mrs. M. A. Foster of Freemantle, WA (Australia), ca. 1930s.
Photograph courtesy of G. Morrissey.

Crochet cotton sandwich d'oyley by Mary Delabeny, Eura, Victoria (Australia) ca. 1930s.
Photograph courtesy of K. Atkinson.

Another crochet cotton sandwich d'oyley by Mary Delabeny, Eura, Victoria (Australia) ca. 1930s.
Photograph courtesy of K. Atkinson.

"Castor oil plant" d'oyley designed and embroidered by K. Marjorie Warren (neé Hall) ca. 1936. Mrs Warren's designs were manufactured for the Sydney firm Mackower & McBeath and Tootal, Broadhurst & Co., England.

"Poinsettia cake d'oyley", designed by Grace Valentine, published in Australian Womens' Mirror, 1930. Filet crochet by Mary Delabenty, Euroa, Victoria (Australia).
Photograph courtesy of K. Atkinson.

[1] J. Isaacs, The Gentle Arts, Ure Smith Press, London (1991).

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