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Vintage Handkerchiefs -- Hankies

Updated on November 6, 2014

Vintage Hankies

I think of vintage handkerchiefs, also known as hankies, as little works of art. The fabric is often printed with lovely designs like the mod 1960s design in the hankie shown here. Other vintage handkerchiefs are solid white or another solid color trimmed in delicate embroidery or tatting.

When I was little, four or five, each time I visited my grandmother, she gave me a dime, and I went to the (surprise surprise) dime store and always bought a hankie. They were new (not yet vintage, but they would be now) and were printed with cute animals on them, like puppies and kitties.

I don't know what happened to these cute handkerchiefs, but I had so much fun with those little squares of fabric. I wrapped them around my dolls and spread them out just to admire them.

Photo Credit: Peggy Hazelwood

Vintage postcard depicting how to use a hankie.
Vintage postcard depicting how to use a hankie.

Uses for Vintage Handkerchiefs

Vintage handkerchiefs are considered to be a hankie that is at least 20 or 25 years old. The older I get, the more ridiculous that sounds. I mean, those little hankies I bought when I was four or five would certainly be considered vintage. They must have disintegrated in the wash because they're long gone.

Of course, the obvious use for hankies to blow your nose, like this postcard shows. Actually, the older girl is using her apron to help her little sister wipe her nose but you get the idea. Some of the vintage handkerchiefs I've seen are just too pretty to use (like that anyway!).

Some people frame hankies or make pillows from them. I've seen doll dresses made from hankies, which are adorable. I love the fabric in printed handkerchiefs.

Graphic courtesy of Just Something I Made

Vintage Handkerchiefs with Printed Designs - Click a small image to enlarge it.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
White handkerchief with carnation flowers printed on the hankie.Gray, pink, and white printed vintage hankie.Red and white handkerchief with blue flowers, green leaves.Gray vintage hankie with red and pink flowers.Violets printed on white hankie.Floral vintage hankie.Silky handkerchief with printed flowers.Printed hankie with scalloped edges.
White handkerchief with carnation flowers printed on the hankie.
White handkerchief with carnation flowers printed on the hankie.
Gray, pink, and white printed vintage hankie.
Gray, pink, and white printed vintage hankie.
Red and white handkerchief with blue flowers, green leaves.
Red and white handkerchief with blue flowers, green leaves.
Gray vintage hankie with red and pink flowers.
Gray vintage hankie with red and pink flowers.
Violets printed on white hankie.
Violets printed on white hankie.
Floral vintage hankie.
Floral vintage hankie.
Silky handkerchief with printed flowers.
Silky handkerchief with printed flowers.
Printed hankie with scalloped edges.
Printed hankie with scalloped edges.
Check out this great hankie project by clicking the photo.
Check out this great hankie project by clicking the photo.

Add a Photo to a Vintage Hankie

Use Mod Podge Photo Transfer Medium

Ashlee at My So Called Crafty Life has come up with a great way to use a vintage handkerchief.

Check out how she used Mod Podge Photo Transfer Medium to make this darling framed vintage hankie.

Embroidered Handkerchiefs - Click a small image to enlarge it.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Embroidered violets on a vintage handkerchief.Unusual black handkerchief with embroidered flowers.White hankie with variegated pink and white embroidered edge.Green hankie with green embroidery.Flag hankie. Flag stitched on white cotton handkerchief with red, white, and blue tatted border.Vintage hankie with G initial embroidery.Tiny green flowers embroidered on handkerchief with lace tatting at corner.
Embroidered violets on a vintage handkerchief.
Embroidered violets on a vintage handkerchief.
Unusual black handkerchief with embroidered flowers.
Unusual black handkerchief with embroidered flowers.
White hankie with variegated pink and white embroidered edge.
White hankie with variegated pink and white embroidered edge.
Green hankie with green embroidery.
Green hankie with green embroidery.
Flag hankie. Flag stitched on white cotton handkerchief with red, white, and blue tatted border.
Flag hankie. Flag stitched on white cotton handkerchief with red, white, and blue tatted border.
Vintage hankie with G initial embroidery.
Vintage hankie with G initial embroidery.
Tiny green flowers embroidered on handkerchief with lace tatting at corner.
Tiny green flowers embroidered on handkerchief with lace tatting at corner.

Do you love vintage hankies?

See results

Holiday Vintage Hankies - Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day Hankies. Click a small image to enlarge it.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
St. Valentine's hankie.St. Patrick's Day hankie.Hearts galore on this vintage handkerchief.
St. Valentine's hankie.
St. Valentine's hankie.
St. Patrick's Day hankie.
St. Patrick's Day hankie.
Hearts galore on this vintage handkerchief.
Hearts galore on this vintage handkerchief.

Vintage Handkerchiefs Make Great Gifts

When I find a vintage handkerchief with a monogram (initials or initial) of someone I know, I buy it as a gift. Other hankies have scenes or writing that are relevant and meaningful for others. Keep this in mind for a thoughtful hostess gift or as a present for any occasion.

Corner Embroidery on Vintage Hankies - Click a small image below to enlarge it.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Butterfly embroidered on the corner of a white vintage hankie.White embroidery on yellow hankie.White on white, fan corner embroidery.Variegated white and golden yellow / orange embroidery on hankie corner.Vintage hankie with embroidery and tatted corner.
Butterfly embroidered on the corner of a white vintage hankie.
Butterfly embroidered on the corner of a white vintage hankie.
White embroidery on yellow hankie.
White embroidery on yellow hankie.
White on white, fan corner embroidery.
White on white, fan corner embroidery.
Variegated white and golden yellow / orange embroidery on hankie corner.
Variegated white and golden yellow / orange embroidery on hankie corner.
Vintage hankie with embroidery and tatted corner.
Vintage hankie with embroidery and tatted corner.

Affiliate Disclosure

This author, Peggy Hazelwood, participates in Amazon, eBay, All Posters, and other affiliate advertising programs. When you click an advertising link on this page and make a purchase, I receive a small percent of the sale. Thank you for reading this far!

Do You Like Vintage Hankies?

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    • profile image

      resabi 

      5 years ago

      I think these hankies are so pretty. Love the ideas of how to use them in a non-hankie way. That really appeals to me. I enjoyed this lens.

    • JuneNash profile image

      June Nash 

      5 years ago

      I love hankies! I have several vintage hankies. I never realized they were vintage until reading this lens. LOL! I use mine as handkerchiefs. I put them in my purse. My favorites are the ones that are very soft. The new ones in the store are scratchy, so I keep returning to my old stash. Mine are in pretty good shape. I don't use them all of the time. I love the photos!

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 

      6 years ago from Central Florida

      We used to use them like a shawl for our Toni doll (see I'm probably older than you). I always loved the embroidered ones. Too nice to blow your nose on and usually saved in a drawer for special. I've seen ideas for making pillow covers, quilts and table runners with these vintage handkerchiefs. I used one that I got at a garage sale to make a padded fabric picture frame for my dad. It had his initial embroidered on it.

    • OrganicMom247 profile image

      OrganicMom247 

      6 years ago

      I am a big lover of hankies. Growing up i had one particular one that i liked that ended up being sawn into my favorite dress bodice. This made it twice as lovely. Thanks for the walk down memory lane.

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      6 years ago

      have my hankies but modern one :)

    • profile image

      poutine 

      6 years ago

      I didn't realize that there were books on that subject.

      Good to know.

    • profile image

      poutine 

      6 years ago

      I didn't realize that there were books on that subject.

      Good to know.

    • Pam Irie profile image

      Pam Irie 

      6 years ago from Land of Aloha

      I LOVE vintage hankies! I made a pair of pillows for my daughter and son in law by sewing their respective state hankies (vintage of course) on the pillow fronts. You have a wondeful collection of vintage hankies pictured here; nice lens!

    • BLouw profile image

      Barbara Walton 

      6 years ago from France

      This takes me back! We used to have hankies - yes, we called them that - exactly like these. I should have kept them. Never throw anything away!

    • profile image

      AlleyCatLane 

      6 years ago

      Brought back a lot of memories. We had a Kress five and dime, and then a Woolworth's. Wish I still had some of the treasures I bought there.

    • gottaloveit2 profile image

      gottaloveit2 

      6 years ago

      The timing of this lens couldn't be better - I found 6 vintage hankies just today in an old desk I have. There are some of Mom's and some of Bubie's (my grandmother). Carina and I were deciding what to do with them and came up with the idea to cover a pillow with 2 of the bigger ones. We're going to sew them to other fabric to protect them and then make a pillow cover. Can't wait to put my Bubie's hankies on my bed!

    • Scarlettohairy profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Hazelwood 

      6 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      @DreamsBloom: Yes, it was great getting to buy stuff at that dime store. It was before Walmart took over the world. Such neat stuff there! What a great idea to use the hankie as the wrapping! I'm going to steal that one!

    • DreamsBloom profile image

      DreamsBloom 

      6 years ago

      Reading about your going to the dime store to buy hankies made me so jealous. Being a child of the '80s we had nothing like that when I was a kid. I love hankies. I once wrapped a gift for a friend in a vintage hanky and she thought that was sooo wonderful! Hankies are truly charming.

    • Scarlettohairy profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Hazelwood 

      6 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      @Nancy Hardin: Thanks so much for the blessing, Nancy! And yes, my mom and dad both carried hankies all their lives.

    • Scarlettohairy profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Hazelwood 

      6 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      @traveller27: Yes, I think hankies are an "old lady" thing; in this regard, I've always been an old lady!

    • Nancy Hardin profile image

      Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 

      6 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      My Mom had hankies like these. Back in the day, you didn't have Kleenex, so everybody carried handkerchiefs, even the men. Of course theirs weren't as fancy as the ones the ladies carried. This story reminded me so much of Mom and her hankies, and thanks for sharing. "Blessed"

    • traveller27 profile image

      traveller27 

      6 years ago

      I can remember my grandmothers and great aunts having some of these. Very nice!

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