The Rolling Pin: A History and A Collection

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When fall arrives in New England, I love to make comfort food like chicken pot pie, treats like apple and pumpkin pie, and to start baking holiday cookies in November. Lots of love goes into the rolling of dough! With all the baking we farmgirls do, have you ever considered the rolling pin and its place in history? Once a staple in every kitchen, rolling pins are no longer the most-used everyday item in a kitchen. With our modern, busy lives and store shelves stocked with frozen pie crusts and ready made cookie dough, a rolling pin might not even be found in a kitchen today! That’s not the case, however, in one Connecticut home, where rolling pins are a passion.

Redding, Connecticut resident Ellen Visnyei has been collecting rolling pins for thirty years. Currently, she has amassed around 75 rolling pins, considering them works of art that come with stories all their own.

Ellen first got bitten by the collecting bug while chairing the Annual Redding Arts and Crafts show. Each fall, around 200 apple pies are baked for the festival. Volunteers freeze unbaked crusts; it was here that Ellen first started noticing everyone’s rolling pins.

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Displayed in Ellen’s stunning collection are rolling pins of every type, shape, size and color – all made from materials such as glass, wood, metal and porcelain. Ellen has displayed her collection beautifully. The pins are neatly arranged on walls in sturdy wrought iron racks.

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For another cute way to display rolling pins, check out MaryJane’s collection in the current issue of MaryJanesFarm. For a subscription, click here.

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Every collector has that one piece that really first spoke to them. For Ellen, it’s a huge commercial wooden rolling pin with chipped blue paint, made from maple. It was once used for generations by the baker at a favorite pizza parlor. When the restaurant was closing, Ellen asked for the rolling pin. “It occurred to me that someone made a living from that rolling pin. It was such an honorable profession.”

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When Ellen sees a rolling pin, she doesn’t see what some might consider an antiquated kitchen tool: she sees art, history and an important part of life. Ellen says that in the past, “Rolling pins were made for women.” Men went off to sea, and would gift their beloved a handmade rolling pin. “Whale bone was used for handles – with inscriptions of love.”

Rolling pins were made to fit the size of the user, and considered very personal. Glass blown rolling pins would have one handle bigger than the other. Hollowed out pins were more than likely used as gifts, first filled with herbs. Later they were filled with cold water or ice to keep the dough chilled and from sticking.

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Rolling dough was also once a rite of passage, with children being taught to roll dough. Ellen has collected quite a few small rolling pins made especially for children.

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The materials and color of a rolling pin are telltale of the time from when it was manufactured. A pink one was from the 1950’s, with homemakers first acquiring the kitchen gem by sending away for it with box tops.

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A copper rolling pin was probably used not to roll dough directly. With its seams, it would have gotten bits of dough stuck in the grooves; a sleeve probably fit over the top before dough was rolled, perhaps with some sort of embossed design.

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Ellen appreciates the artistic value of hand-blown glass, with some dating back to the 1800’s. The wall of her dining room is graced by a beautiful, antique porcelain rolling pin in a Blue Delft Willow pattern.

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IMG_4243Ellen enjoys trying them all, but when she is baking, she usually reaches for a heavy maple rolling pin with its smooth, hard wood. Her least favorite type for use are the hand-painted ones and the lop-sided glass pins. She says a good rolling pin for dough is hard and non-porous.

Ellen isn’t done collecting, and advises those who want to start a collection of their own to “Look in the dustiest corners of every antique store because they usually don’t feature them. There are rolling pins out there, just waiting to be re-discovered.”

A special thank you to Ellen Visnyei for sharing her wonderful collection with us! Remember to stop by and say “hi” in comments!

Until Next Time…Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

Leave a comment 37 Comments

  1. Janice Slater says:

    Enjoyed this article so much. Thank you for sharing this amazing collection. I find it do interesting the things that people choose to collect. This collection….very unique!

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Janice! Thanks for stopping by…I am so glad you enjoyed the article. I think Ellen’s is one of the most unique collections I have ever seen. Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  2. Krista says:

    Wow what a collection! What makes that collection even better is that the rolling pins hold interesting and important history stories. That’s what adds more passion to a collection. I like that she displays them for everyone to see.
    I am proud to say that I have a rolling pin in my kitchen and I still use it to this day! I am going to be getting my rolling pin out shortly to start making my holiday sugar cookies. There is just something about staying with the old times that brings much joy to our lives especially during the holiday season. It allows me to feel closer to my family as we share recipes and cooking techniques that my grandma used when she was younger.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Krista! Isn’t Ellen’s collection exquisite! I love her passion, and how she sees the history in each one. I am like you…I wouldn’t be without a rolling pin my kitchen. I can still see my mom rolling out her pie crust each Thanksgiving. When I first got married, I used a marble rolling pin. You don’t want that one to roll off the counter…it could break a foot or crack tiles! After years of use, it started to get “yucky”. A few Christmases ago, my mom sent me a new rolling pin. It’s made of silicone, so the dough doesn’t stick to it, and it is lightweight and easy to clean. I also love it because it is red, and it sits on my counter next to my mixer, because in our house we use both – a lot! At least once a week or so I make a MaryJane bakeover and use the rolling pin to roll out the top. I will be starting my holiday baking next week – I can’t wait. Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  3. Ellen Ottoson says:

    I remember my Russian born grandmother’s long tapered wooden rolling pin. She made varenyky, Pirozhki and other little round meat filled pastries with it. It came with a wooden board and I wanted it for a memory and to use. Unfortunately my mom didn’t keep it for me while I was in service overseas. They have so much meaning and are beautiful. I now have collected a Foley rolling pin of heavy maple that shines from lard and butter in the doughs! I also watch out for the German carved wood Springerle cookie rolling pins. Thanks for sharing this collection with all of us.
    Ellen Ottoson

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Ellen, Thank you for sharing with us today! I am so glad you enjoyed the blog. I bet you can still taste those pastries of your grandmother’s! Do you have her recipes? I have a few recipes from my family that make me think of loved ones past whenever I make them. Thanks again for commenting. Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  4. Paula Vanecek says:

    Thanks for this most interesting article!

  5. Bonnie ellis says:

    She has a wonderful collection. I collect miniature rolling pins. I will e-mail you a picture Nicole.

  6. Joan says:

    Love the ‘pins’, my collection is very small but love each one. Thanks for sharing these.
    God Bless.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Joan, I bet your pins are lovely. All collections are special, I think. I was once told, “Two of something is a ‘couple'; three or more is a ‘collection’. Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  7. Beverly Battaglia says:

    Nicole, I never knew there were so many kinds of rolling pins! My sister, Barbara, would love the pink one from the ’50’s. She has a lot of pink utensils in her kitchen from the 1950’s including a mixer. I like the picture frame with a miniature rolling pin, that you sent me for Christmas last year, in my kitchen with Audrey’s picture in it. I would have loved to see a picture of you in this blog with one of your aprons and holding the red rolling pin I gave you.
    Love, Mother

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Mom, I love that rolling pin you gave me! I learned so much from Ellen about rolling pins, too. Love you! ~Nicole

  8. Bonnie B says:

    I really enjoyed this blog! – As someone else mentioned – I am surprised at all the different rolling pins. And all the stories and memories that they evoke are the icing on the cake. You have a wonderful source of interesting people’s brains to pick in your area!

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Bonnie! I am so glad you enjoyed this post! And I am laughing out loud at the last line of your comment! I have to say I have really met interesting folks. One of my most favorite quotes is from Oprah Winfrey, “Everyone has a story.” Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  9. Marilyn Collins says:

    Lovely collection. Congratulations.
    Marilyn

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Marilyn, isn’t Ellen’s collection really neat? In person it is just breathtaking to walk into her kitchen and see them all there. Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  10. Heidi says:

    Still remember the first time my Mom let me roll cookie dough. My grandmother had a knit sleeve for her pin, just toss your flour and doughy leftovers in the wash!

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Heidi! That sounds like a quick and easy cleanup! When I roll dough, I make a mess no matter what I do, hee hee. Clean up is not my favorite part…Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  11. Forgetmenot says:

    Nicole, I really enjoyed this article! I love, love, love historical articles related to the home arts. I’m really curious about the copper rolling pin and the glass ones. I’ll have to go surfing on the net! My mother had a porcelain rolling pin. It had a beautiful multi-colored floral print. She always used a ribbed cotton sleeve on it. My sister has it now. Thank you, for such an enjoyable article!

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi there! I am so glad you enjoyed this post. I learned so much from Ellen, and now I am noticing rolling pins everywhere I go! I love that you have fond memories of your mom’s rolling pin, and that it is still in your family. What a lovely heirloom! Thank you for commenting! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  12. Susan says:

    Lovely rolling pins….i have a few but nothing spectacular as yours. ..but 75? Wow!

  13. Pingback: Rolling « knabble

  14. Deborah Tenkate says:

    Hello Nicole……..I discovered your lovely site whilst looking for a stand/holder to display my rolling pins. My mouth fell open when I scrolled down viewing and right at the end, there is a beautiful Willow pattern pin and above it is a stunning large plate depicting a Dutch river and rural scene with a windmill in the background. The most wonderful aspect is that I have the exact same plate in my dining room, here in Australia.
    Amazing to think we share the same item, which I love and is surrounded by other Delft pieces.
    I am still looking for the right display for my rolling pins and will continue to browse the world. I look forward to seeing more of your site and to see if we share anymore pieces .
    Warmest regards…….Deb

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Deborah, A big farmgirl “Welcome”! I hope you will visit again. I myself have not yet been to Australia, but would love to visit there someday. Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  15. Marjorie Smith says:

    Hello! I’m trying to find information of a rolling pin I recently purchased. It looks a lot like the one that is third from the bottom in your first picture that displays 7 different rolling pins. it has a highly intricate design cut into the wood, and is longer than most. Do you know the history of them and a ball park figure on the worth of one? Thank You!
    Marjorie Smith

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Marjorie, Sounds interesting and beautiful! I will PM you via email and you can email me a photo. I don’t know if I can help you for sure, but I will try and ask some of my friends that know about them, as well. Thanks for reaching out! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  16. Marla Jockets says:

    Beautiful collection. I collect rolling pins as well and i believe i have around 50 so far.. I wish there were a book on how to “date” rolling pins, as i would love to know how old they are and where they may have been made.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Marla, sounds like you have a nice collection! Maybe you could write a book! 😉 Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  17. Barbara Davis says:

    Hello! I love your beautiful collection of pins!!
    I recently bought a “Davis” rolling pin; I had to have it as my last name is Davis! Do you know any history of the Davis rolling pins?? Any insight will be appreciated!! Thank you!

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Barbara, Thank you, glad you enjoyed this post. I did some research for you. I did not find much on Davis rolling pins, except that the J.C. Davis Co. manufactured them in Detroit Michigan circa the 1950s. They were wood with stainless steel ball bearings in the handles for smooth rolling. Hope that helps…would love to see a pic! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  18. Kathy says:

    I am curious if you know anything about Rowcoco rolling pins. When did the stop making them and what they originally cost?

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Kathy, I couldn’t find much on them except that they were manufactured in the 50’s in Canada. There are some on Etsy for sale in vintage condition. Hope that helps a bit! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  19. Anna-Lena Tillberg says:

    Hi,
    Nice collection! I wonder if you have seen any rolling pin made of silver? I have a rod/stick/pin made of English silver from the mid-nineteenth century, about 1 foot long. No-one seem to know what it is, but I thought it might be a rolling pin for doughs which needs to stay cool?
    Thanks for your reply.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Anna, very cool! I have seen vintage aluminum and tin rolling pins, but not silver. Perhaps it was custom-made for someone? Thanks for reading and sharing. Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

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