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Friendship Handkerchief

Curated Submission
Western Canada
1916 – 1919
DIMENSIONS in centimetres
42 x 40
Materials & techniques
Cotton; Embroidered
Gift of Dorothy E. Leonard
Textile Museum of Canada T01.13.3
This friendship handkerchief was made by Magdalena Wipf for Peter Entz, both members of a Hutterite colony in western Canada in 1916. Among young Hutterite women, making a friendship (sweetheart) handkerchief was a tradition dating back to 16th-century Germany and Austria. The handkerchiefs were embroidered with a love message for young men as a token of serious affection. On the pure white ground of the handkerchief, a love message is embroidered in red:

To the only one I love
Forget me not
Magdalena Wipf
Peter Entz 1916

If the couple married, the handkerchief was kept as a memory of courtship; if the relationship ended, the man was expected to return the handkerchief.
Textile work was an essential part of Hutterite women’s lives. Until the mid-20th century, they made all of the blankets, quilts, clothes, socks, and gloves needed by each colony. Girls were trained to spin, sew, weave, and embroider, and were expected to use their needlework skills throughout their lives in support of the colony’s needs. Often, the colony would give a spinning wheel to each girl to encourage her to develop and exercise her skills. As evidence of achievements, each girl made a sampler: a colourful array of cross-stitched alphabets, hearts, stars, vines, and birds worked on commercially woven linen or cotton in manufactured cotton or wool thread.
Contemporary Hutterite needlework has shifted toward new materials and modern objects: placemats, coasters, appliance covers, and crocheted slippers are often made from synthetic fibre, while commercially produced clothing came into use in Hutterite communities. These products are consistent with the Hutterites’ modern farm machinery, woodworking tools, and machine shops. This is a culture that retains its conservative religious beliefs and customs within a framework of 20th-century technology.
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