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Vintage Handkerchiefs Hold Crafty Potential

Hankie Transformations Turn Yesterday's Linens Into Today's Treasures


Vintage Handkerchief Crafts

An inexpensive vintage hankie like this one can be used to make lots of pretty decorative items.

Pamela Wiggins
Vintage handkerchiefs usually sell for $2-5 when you find them in antique shops. At estate sales, you might come home with a handful of hankies for that amount. Why not use some of the more average examples for vintage handkerchief crafts?

Many of these sentimental linens are crafted with colorful ladylike fabrics, while others have fancy embroidery or delicate crochet trim. The more detailing, the higher the price will be when you buy them piece by piece. Handwork is generally more desirable than machine made examples.

Since most ladies don't have a use for hankies these days, it's easy to transform them into something decorative or useful. Here are a few fun ideas.

Handkerchief Dolls

These make great crafts for church bazaars, bridal showers and hostess gifts. Start with an unfolded vintage handkerchief, and then fold it in half diagonally. Stuff cotton batting inside to form a head. Tie the neck off with a ribbon bow. Knot each of the two top corners to close the ends forming a pair of puffed sleeves and “hands.” Sew lace (vintage if you have it) around the bottom of the gown and across the top of the head to make it look like a bonnet. You can add small silk or dried flower bouquets in her arms, if you’d like, and join them with another ribbon bow.

Pillow Cover

This is a really simple way to transform an outdated pillow into something totally now. And, they make great gifts for friends into the shabby-yet-chic look. You can completely cover the pillow with two matching hankies by sandwiching it between them and sewing on all four sides. Or, you can simply tack a single vintage handkerchief to a solid pillow in a coordinating color. I tried this with some old dusty rose pink pillows I had put away in a closet and it perked them up nicely for my guestroom.

Sewing Projects

If you have enough hankies on hand, you can piece together coordinating colors and styles to make curtains or a table topper. You can even use the pretty part of hankies that are permanently soiled to sew a quilt top. Less than perfect linens can be found for 25 cents or so at flea markets and estate sales and they make a very distinctive looking quilt. I’ve also seen hankies transformed into collars and attached to jackets made from interesting old tablecloths, if you’re feeling really handy.

Decorating with Handkerchiefs

Draping vintage hankies diagonally on a shelf so the corner triangles are hanging over the edge can be quite charming. You can use plain white hankies with a little crochet or lace trim in this way, which can usually be purchased very reasonably. A “bouquet” of floral decorated vintage handkerchiefs can be tucked into a ball vase for an arrangement that's always in bloom. Colorful hankies can also be used as basket liners in a bedroom or bath.

Baby Bonnet

Take a look at this clever idea using the link shown in the box above. While most bonnet makers suggest using a new bridal hankie for this project, transforming a pretty old handkerchief in this way would be the perfect mom-to-be shower gift for the lover of old things. Incorporating vintage lace and ribbon embellishments along with antique buttons would make a cute hand sewn bonnet like this even more special. Think about using an heirloom hankie from your grandmother to fashion a pretty bonnet for a special cousin.

Dream Pillow

Another trendy project discovered online. Dream pillows let you recycle an old button that coordinates with the hankie as well. Fill it with fragrant herbs for a gift that will ensure your best friend always has sweet dreams. A link to this no-sew feature from the Do It Yourself Network can be found in the link box located above. Don’t forget to check out the herb mixture at the bottom designed to spur creativity while you’re sleeping. With all these ideas on how to use vintage hankies, you’re going to need it!

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