What are these linens used for?
September 12, 2011 9:45 AM   Subscribe

What are these strangely shaped table linens inherited from my Japanese Step-Grandmother?

There are 12 of them and they were all loosely basted together. I think this is the tag that came with them. They were all folded like this. What are they for?
posted by shmurley to Home & Garden (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
if i'm right about the size, they look like they're for end tables - doilies with lace that hangs off the side.
posted by nadawi at 9:49 AM on September 12, 2011

What size are they? Maybe they are furoshiki... although I have never seen furoshiki that aren't square/rectangle for maximum versatility.
posted by illenion at 9:51 AM on September 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

My (American, southern) grandmother has lots of those - exactly the same shape. They line bread baskets and fold loosely over the top of the rolls or what have you to keep them warm and just generally to look nice.
posted by cilantro at 9:53 AM on September 12, 2011 [7 favorites]

They just look like small, decorative tablecloths to me, designed to have the lace hang from the sides. Their size should be indicative of what type of table they were meant for.
posted by lydhre at 9:55 AM on September 12, 2011

examples here and here
posted by cilantro at 9:55 AM on September 12, 2011

Oh, fail, the lack of perspective made me think they were larger than you seem to imply. So, napkin sized rather than tablecloth sized?
posted by lydhre at 9:56 AM on September 12, 2011

oooh. now i want bread basket liners.
posted by nadawi at 10:02 AM on September 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Shmurley has 12 of them, maybe s/he'll share? :)
posted by cilantro at 10:03 AM on September 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Okay, we originally thought they might be bread basket liners also but do they come in a set of 12? We are pretty sure they are not doilies or table covers of any kind. They were packaged folded up so I assume they were meant to be used that way. These were part of what she brought with her from Japan to American in the early 1950s.
posted by shmurley at 10:09 AM on September 12, 2011

I measured them and unfolded from point to point is 23 inches and folded they are 12 inches square.
posted by shmurley at 10:13 AM on September 12, 2011

12 is the size of a traditional set of China, isn't it? Maybe they are liners for individual bread baskets? They seem small enough. It makes sense in a germophobe "don't touch my buns!" kind of way.
posted by LyndsayMW at 10:18 AM on September 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Perhaps they're a wholesale bundle from the factory?
posted by drlith at 10:19 AM on September 12, 2011

Yep, bread basket liners. Maybe she has so many so each day there's a fresh liner or two between laundry days.
posted by mochapickle at 10:28 AM on September 12, 2011

Bread basket liners do seem like more of an American thing than a Japanese thing, but could they have maybe been purchased/gifted as something that would be useful once she arrived in America where bread is served at most meals? One of my friends gave me a tea cosy (no, really) when I emigrated to England from America, so maybe it was that kind of thing. Plus their cute fold-y usefulness would definitely place them in the category of American things that would appeal to and be sold to Japanese women.
posted by cilantro at 11:18 AM on September 12, 2011

I too wondered how likely bread basket liners were to be indispensable to a traditional Japanese woman, but it turns out that a certain kind of bread, an pan, became very popular in Tokyo during the late 19th century and remains so today:

A hundred years ago it was unthinkable that bread might replace rice as a mealtime staple. The idea of bread as a confection, what the Japanese call kashi, made more sense to the local populace. Eventually, the recipe that found favor combined sake kasu for rising the dough with an (sweet bean "fudge" as a filling. ...

Sake kasu are the lees of sake brewing, which is accomplished with an Aspergillis subspecies (!)--Aspergillis oryzae-- and that apparently gives an pan a very different aroma from Western bread.

So I would say they are the dessert roll basket variety of bread basket liners.
posted by jamjam at 11:46 AM on September 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

Can you rotate the tag photo a quarter-turn clockwise, please? I think that will put the characters the right way up.

(I don't think I'm going to recognise them anyway, but there are plenty of people on here who might.)
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 12:07 PM on September 12, 2011

Tag photo rotated!
posted by shmurley at 12:17 PM on September 12, 2011


(Bet somebody'll be along shortly to say it's now upside-down...)
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 12:37 PM on September 12, 2011

Cilantro is totally right, they are roll covers. Each bread plate would have a roll folded in this cloth.
posted by Foam Pants at 2:31 PM on September 12, 2011

Wait, 12" square? OK, they are still roll covers but they would be in a basket.
posted by Foam Pants at 3:29 PM on September 12, 2011

Awesome, I just found one of these in a drawer the other day and was wondering what the heck it was for!
Sadly it's too late to use it for my fancy tea party--would have been perfect for scones.
posted by exceptinsects at 11:39 PM on September 12, 2011

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