Little Bitty Pretty One: Vintage Swedish Baking Cloth

IMG_6470Little bitty pretty one,

Come on and talk to me . . .

Sometimes, when I see just one perfect vintage treasure, that old song from the 1950s pops into my mind.

Some items are just so simple and understated and perfect, that I wish I knew their full story. I wish they could talk and tell me where they came from, who made them and used them and loved them. “Come on and talk to me . . . “

Such is the case with this little baker’s cloth, with its sweet red embroidery of a pastry-crimping tool

I actually do know more about this cloth than many vintage linens that find their way to me. I bought the cloth on eBay and the woman who sold it to me sent along a note.

IMG_6475My little cloth came from Sweden and has been used by three generations of girls in one family. It was used to cover rising dough for bullar (buns), which are made with cardamom, and limpa bread, which is scented with anise and fennel.

But, of course, I’d like to know more. When was it made? Were the women who used it homemakers, who made all their own breads, or was this kept for rare occasions of holiday baking?

Who did the stitching? A practiced hand, certainly; the stitches are infinitesimal! Did she make a practice of decorating her kitchen linens in this simple, effective way? Did she pass her skills down to her daughters, and through generations?

When did the little towel come to the United States? Was it a gift from a mother to a daughter who was leaving home and moving so far away? Was it brought to America as a little reminder of home, and family, and tradition?

And why was it sold?! It’s so small and easily stored or displayed—surely the previous owner could’ve found a spot for it?

But, she didn’t. She passed it along to me, saying, “It has been well loved, and we hope you will have your day brightened by the cheerful red embroidery!”

I have, indeed, had my day brightened, and this little bitty pretty one continues to be well loved!

What little bitty pretty treasures in your home just make you smile and say, “Come on and talk to me”?

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40 thoughts on “Little Bitty Pretty One: Vintage Swedish Baking Cloth

  1. I have some pieces of silverplate from the late 1800s as well as brown transferware from that same period that I just couldn’t part with. There is a plate shelf encircling my dining room that has many different designs of brown transferware featured, a niche built into the wall to display my smaller pieces and a corner cupboard full of my favorite pattern. These 130 year old designs speak to me…

    • I bet your dining room looks wonderful! You do a lot more with true antiques–I love them, too, but am so drawn to textiles, which don’t stand the test of time so well.

  2. Oh I LOVE this sweet little cloth- it’s simple red stitches make my heart so happy! I have collected many French cloths and aprons all embroidered with initials and just those few stitches give so much more meaning to a simple cloth for me. I suppose with each stitch the person who sews is imbuing the fabric with love and care and this gets passed on.- Karen.

  3. How thoughtful to put a note in with the cloth, it amazes me when someone parts with a family heirloom, perhaps I’m too sentimental but there are a few pieces I’d never let go

    • I have had to make some choices–I am the only one in my generation who cares about the old stuff and I simply do not have room for every piece of furniture, etc. So, keep my very favorites, the ones with personal memories, and pass the rest along to someone who isn’t lucky enough to have family heirlooms.

      • I hadn’t really thought of it that way, of course these items very well may become the new owners family keepsakes for future generations 🙂 what a treasured thought

  4. I’m glad that you are able to give the baking cloth a home. The person who sold it obviously had mixed feelings about selling it–and it makes we wonder about what was happening in her life that forced her to make the decision to part with it.

  5. It looks in very good condition. If only such items could talk – they would have so much to tell about what they have seen. That’s why I love looking at old things in museums – they would have travelled so far and seen so much. The people who first used them may be gone, but they are still here to tell a story in their own way.

  6. That’s so cool! First because you scored the cutest little kitchen cloth ever (I mean, seriously! I love the embroidery) and second because you leaned some of its history. Always interesting to learn the past lives of treasures that you end up with.

  7. I know what you mean when you say you wish you could ask objects questions. It would be so interesting. I wonder if anyone will think that about anything from our time or do we throw it all away?

  8. We cannot account for the seller’s motivation, but I suspect that in our disposable society, with machinery to imitate design work, even a simple, hand-sewn emblem is easily passed over and replaced. We purchase calendar dish towels every year to hang on our pantry door. At the end of the year, they are replaced with a new calendar. Rather than going to trask bin or charity thrift sotre, they move onto kitchen duty for another decade or so, until we can barely see the print of the original year on them any longer. Joyful baking.
    Oscar

    • I’m glad to hear you’re using your towels! I see lots of those calendar towels in thrift shops and on eBay and always wonder why people aren’t just using them the way they were meant to be! My theory is that one can never have too many good strong dish towels around!

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