Do you use handkerchiefs? Do you even have handkerchiefs? They seem to be token textile remembrances from an earlier era, an item you might find in time capsule. Like butter churns and girdles, they still serve a purpose but are seldom pressed into service.
Well, now that I think about it, occasionally a bride will carry a hanky which is later made into a bonnet for her first baby. But for tear jerkers and bad colds, a box of Kleenex is today’s wipe of choice.
Every school day when I was 8 years old, I rode my bicycle one block to Curtis’ house where he would be waiting on the front porch for me. As he mounted his Schwinn, without fail his mother would call from the kitchen, “Curtis, do you have a clean handkerchief?” Without fail, he would replay, “Yes, Mama!” and we rode off to school.
My routine departure from home did not include a handkerchief check. I sometimes wondered if this were a serious breach of etiquette. Like every school girl in the ’50, I always wore dresses. Since I had neither a pocket nor a purse in my school girl dresses to carry a hanky if I had one, I concluded that it must be a boy requirement.
On shopping trips to the 5&Dime, I gazed at the extensive display of handkerchiefs. Soon I had a few of my own and asked my mother to include pockets on the dresses she made for me. But my hankies were nothing like the beauties that were available in the high end stores where I seldom shopped.
Before aloe infused tissue paper pushed lace edged, monogrammed linen squares from ladies’ pocketbooks, these delicate squares had morphed into exquisite examples of expert needlework. Hours were spent lavishing linen or cotton batiste with elaborate surface embroidery, fil tire’, applique’ cord, drawn threadwork, shadow embroidery, cutwork and Madeira applique’.
Not all were stitched at home in front of the fire. Around the world, by hand and machine, exquisite handkerchiefs were made for the world market. I know of nowhere you can find such a concentration of fine needlework as on a ladies handkerchief.
Through the years, I have assembled a nice collection of handkerchiefs, including monograms, souvenirs, novelties. Others were selected simply because they were beautiful or had creative, interesting design.
They are a source of design inspiration as well as a three dimensional stitch library. Serious students of needlework, both hand and machine, could learn a great deal from close examination of vintage and antique handkerchiefs.
Some of these were purchased when it first became popular to use handkerchiefs for children’s collars. That is still a great idea, but I haven’t seen any lately.
I did make one for Rebecca when she was in 1st grade. Karoline, the 2nd grader in our carpool, asked about the collar, was it really a handkerchief? Yes, I assured her, it was.
“Good idea,” Karoline replied. “Then you can just blow your nose on your collar.” I guess she didn’t have a pocket or a purse either.
Recently, I read that someone had removed colored tatting from a handkerchief to trim a baby dress. That moved me to pull out my hankies for a fresh look. What good is a collection if you never look it over? I thought you might enjoy seeing some of my monograms.
I am working on a monogrammed summer dress for my granddaughter Laurel. I thought it was quite nice until my eyes rested on these beauties. Compared to them, my machine stitched monogram will be more like a laundry ID, strictly utilitarian.