History of the Dutch farmers handkerchief

Dutch Handkerchief Company is the only company in the world that produces the traditional, real farmers handkerchiefs. In the old days, the handkerchiefs came in two sizes: a little one for in your pocket - the so-called mouchoirs - and a big one to put around your neck or on your head - these were called foulards. The handkerchiefs have been the source of inspiration for the immensely popular bandana's, which tend to be made of thinner fabric and in a somewhat smaller size.

Most of the handkerchiefs were red, dyed by the root of the madder plant (rubia tinctorum) that was being cultivated mostly in the province of Zealand. It is the same red you might find in the Dutch Flanders' traditional clothing. Madder provides one of the few natural pigments that do not fade.

The red handkerchief was for daily use. On Sundays, men wore a white one with red patterns and women an entirely white handkerchief. White-and-black was worn when in mourning and white-and-dark-blue in half mourning.

The patterns on the handkerchiefs are designed in a similar way: a symmetric edge around a center full of scatter patterns, with sometimes in the middle a medallion with a print. On the edges you often may find branches and garlands, but also flowers, dots or geometric patterns. Most patterns origin from fabrics that came to Europe in the 17th century from the Far East, like China, India and Persia. Examples of those are stylized lotusflowers, palmettes and paisley-patterns (bowed drop-forms).

At Vlisco factory in Helmond you can find books with patterns, recipes and designs going back to 1868. Many of the original designs that are still printed, seem to exist since the mid 19th century.


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