knottedoek en knottedoosje

The so-called knottekistje (knot box)and the knottedoek (knot cloth) used to play an important role in marriage proposals in Friesland.

When a boy wanted to propose to a girl, he showed his intentions by giving her a few coins. If she accepted them, it meant that she agreed, and that the engagement was on. Alternatively, the boy proffered the coins in a loosely knotted embroidered handkerchief – hence the name knottedoek – or knotcloth. If the girl considered the giver a good candidate for marriage, she would tighten the knot as a sign of acceptance.

Doek, 1650-1700. Doosje, Jan Melchers Oostervelt, 1626.

Cloth, 1650-1700. Box, Jan Melchers Oostervelt, 1626. Click on the picture to see a larger version.

This knotcloth is embroidered with the image of the tree of life and seven bird figures in red silk.

Instead of a cloth or a handkerchief, boys from wealthy and noble families often used a small, nicely engraved silver box.