There are some truly exquisite vintage handkerchiefs that date back hundreds of years and are wildly rare and costly. One story I read pointed to their use by actors in the ancient Roman theaters!
If you're descended from European royalty, perhaps you have some linen and lace treasures in the family vault. But, chances are better you have a kindly older relative or friend who is willing to part with some of her hankies from the first half of the 20th century. These vintage hankies are the easiest to find and can still be collected for just a few dollars a piece. The most common are screen printed with beautiful florals. Some feature decoratively cut edges and many are embroidered.
Here are a few I found on Etsy recently. One note when searching online: don't hesitate . If you see something you like, snatch it. The prettiest ones go quickly. Thrift stores and garage sales are also good sources, but be prepared to hunt. A lot of people are hankie fans.
One great thing about hankies as Vintage Rescue is they are the perfect size and shape to fashion into a pillow. However, they are also usually quite thin and sheer, which means they work better if lined or layered over a base fabric.
I made three pillows from my Etsy hankies, and none of them took me more that two hours to complete – that's from cutting out the fabric to stuffing in the pillow form!
My first pillow features two complimentary hankies with a fun fan fold in the center to show off their beautiful embroidery and scalloped edges. I simply stitched the hankies to the base pillow top in opposite corners, leaving the inner triangles of each free. I fan-folded the free edges and added a vintage button to hold everything together in the center.
I loved the delicate edge on this hankie and the design is so sweet. But sadly, there was a bit of a stain in the middle that just wouldn't come out. So, I carefully trimmed out the center, folded under the raw edge and added some baby ric rac to create a little peek-a-boo frame for my pillow top. A selection of antique buttons accent the ric rac and cleverly hide where it joins. I sewed on the yellow buttons with pink thread to pick up the pink roses in the hankie.
This last example is as simple as simple can be. I used the plain hankie as my pillow top with a white piping accent that matched the white highlights on its design.
I've seen darling pillows made from souvenir hankies, ring bearer pillows made from intricate lace hankies, even super cute kitchen curtains made from a number of hankies patch-worked together into panels. So have fun .... and "bless you" for giving your hankies a new lease on life.