July 10th Saturday Have finished Susans 5th pair of
pantletts & Mrs Witherell has given her three
more so she is pretty well off in the pantlett line
Have been marking some clothes and Mrs
Witherell marked 6 gentlemans hdkfs & 6 for
me and doylies & other things Mary has sewed
some but does not accomplish much is better at
housework than sewing Oakes A has gone to a
sing near Jonas Hartwells with other gentlemen
Evelina and her sister-in-law, Sarah Witherell, sewed today: pantletts, handkerchiefs, and an item new to the repertoire: doilies. A maid named Mary did some sewing, too, but wasn’t up to the standards set by the older women.
In the 21st century, we know doilies as decorative paper mats that are typically used to present special baked goods. Doilies can also be made from cloth or lace, however, and once had a broader range of applications than just accompanying tea cakes. Designed in the 17th century by a London draper named Mr. Doiley, the original item was an inexpensive woolen cloth that was used to ornament a dress. It developed into a napkin used to protect the material under it. It might be seen on a tablecloth, a sideboard, or even on the back of an armchair (where it became known as an antimacassar.) Beautifully-made doilies were a housewife’s source of pride, specially stored in the linen closet.
Old Oliver, no doubt entirely disinterested in the women’s sewing agenda, reported that this “was a a fair warm day wind south west. + has bin all the week.”* Oakes Angier Ames took advantage of the good weather and, after work, headed to Bridgewater to attend a sing near the farm of Jonas Hartwell “with other gentlemen and ladies.” Who were they? Did he run into anyone of interest?
*Oliver Ames, Journal, Stonehill College Archives, Arnold Tofias Collection