This section is from the "A Complete Dictionary of Dry Goods" book, by George S. Cole. Also available from Amazon: A complete dictionary of dry goods and history of silk, cotton, linen, wool and other fibrous substances,: Including a full explanation of the modern processes ... together with various useful tables.
Kerchief. [From Fr. couvrir, to cover, and chef, head] Properly a cloth to cover the head, and originally signifying a simple square or oblong piece of linen or silk worn folded about the head, more or less loosely attached so as to cover or drape the head and shoulders. Some traces of its early form and use still survive in the costumes of different parts of Europe, especially among the country people. Since the 16th century, however, the word has been adopted for a loose cloth folded about some part of the person; as neckerchief, head-kerchief, breast-kerchief and night-kerchiefs. The word has been still further corrupted to signify a cloth for use in the hand - a handkerchief. [See Handkerchief, Neckerchief, Napkin]