De rode boerenzakdoek was bedoeld voor doordeweeks gebruik. Op zondag droegen de mannen een witte met rode motieven en de vrouwen een helemaal witte zakdoek. Wit met zwart was voor de rouw en wit met donkerblauw voor de halve rouw. Foto Museum Noorderhuis, Zaandam.
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Most 'Boerenzakdoeken' are red handkerchiefs, colored by the root of the madder plant mainly grown in Zeeland. The red handkerchief was intended for weekdays use. On Sunday the men wore a white with red motifs and women a completely white handkerchief. White with black was for mourning and white with dark blue for half mourning. The patterns on the handkerchiefs are all the same structured way: one not too busy symmetrical edge scatter around a central plane full of motifs, sometimes with the a center medallion. In the edges are many branches and garlands to find, but also flowers, dots or geometric motifs. Most designs came in the 17th century to Europe from the Far East such as China, India and Persia. Examples these are stylized lotus flowers, palm and networks paisley patterns (curved drop shapes). Already in the 13th century, the principle of this wax print technique was introduced in Java.
Making hand-painted batik fabric is very time consuming and therefore expensive. European printers saw a market for imitation batik fabrics, which are printed with blockprints or machines. In the second half of the 19th century Vlisco began to export cheap batik sarongs, slendangs and headscarves to Indonesia. The imitation batik fabrics are much more uniform than real batik: the crackle is constant and has lost its capricious nature. Indonesia (in that time Dutch East Indies) closed its borders to imitation batik so Vlisco(pdf) went to new markets mostly in West Afrika. In the full version there will be more texts about all kind of patterns used in tapestry, fabrics, ceramics in different parts of the world from different times.