Handkerchef Quilt


This one is actually a keepsake for myself 🙂 These are handkerchiefs that belonged my mother – she collected many of them during her travels as a young Lieutenant in the Air Force as a nurse, some her brothers found for her while they were in the Navy, and some were given to her by friends. She gave them to me in a sweet little tin box with tulips on the lid, and I’ve just kept them for years, getting them out to admire and refold periodically.

Enter a book I found while on vacation (I never visit a town without first googling where the quilt shops are!) called Wise Craft Handmade by Blair Stocker – the book is full of ideas on using your vintage linens, blue jeans and even your wedding dress! But the best part of the book was Ms. Stocker’s pep talk on giving yourself permission to cut into these  special fabrics – so that’s exactly what I did. And really, why not? These hankies were just moldering in their tin, getting permanent creases and brown spots and rarely being seen, let alone used. This way they are part of a quilt, and being used on a bed, or at the moment hanging on display in my studio. And by the way, I did talk to my mom about this project first – just because I gave myself permission to cut her hankies didn’t necessarily mean she gave me permission!

I first interfaced the hankies so they would have some body, then sewed them to the center of 20″ squares, using clear poly thread. I used several different white tone-on-tone fabrics to keep it simple. I cut each hanky/square into quarters, and resewed them back together. I did all this because not a single one of the hankies was truly square, and they were all different sizes and colors – so I decided to play that up rather than try, and fail, to make the “blocks” look alike. By cutting the handkerchiefs along the years-old fold lines when I quartered them, this gave an added benefit of removing the permanent yellowish folds, that frankly were not too pretty.


I decided to stitch a different type of feather design around each hanky square – the negative space of the white fabric and mostly white hankies just called out for some fancy quilting, so I worked hard to make each square unique. I hung the finished quilt in my studio, right next to my long arm machine and I use it like a sketch book to remind me of all the various kinds of feathers I can stitch when I’m working on another quilt and have “quilter’s block” and find myself stuck on what to quilt next.


Below are a few close ups of the flanged binding I used – I liked the little pop of pink in an otherwise monochromatic white quilt.

Finally, here are few shots of the back – I used this sateen fabric on another quilt for a friend, and loved it so much I got more to use for this project. The sun was behind the quilt when I was taking the photos, and I loved the way the colors of the back shone through – almost looks like a pastel tie dye!

I have many other vintage linens and threadbare quilts I’ve stored up, and now that I’ve given myself permission to cut them up I can’t wait to get started!

Happy Quilting!

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