Thursday, February 16, 2012

Vintage Hankie Quilt

My vintage hankie quilt is finally complete!
I started collecting vintage hankies a year or so ago simply because I was so taken with the charming graphics.  But what does one do with a growing stack of hankies other than moon over them every once in a while?  I finally decided that twelve hankies, carefully mounted, would make a pretty throw for the lake house.  To begin, I assembled a group featuring a shade of aqua or light turquoise somewhere in the design.


Then I measured to find the largest hankie so that I could determine how big the backing squares would need to be.  
Continuing the whole re-purposing theme, I tore up an old white sheet to make twelve 18 inch squares. 


The next step was carefully cutting two-sided Pellon to size, centering each hankie on its square of white sheeting, and then ironing it in place.  

Most of these hankies required detailed ironing because so many of them had elaborately cut edges. 


 Once attached, I hand stitched around the edges of each hankie to be certain they would wash and wear without curling up or unpeeling.


Then I stitched the squares together.  At this point I could have hand quilted the throw, but I decided instead to have it machine quilted.  

A local quilt shop provided me with the name of a professional machine quilter, and so I was lucky enough to meet LaDonna of One Stitch at a Time Quilts.
LaDonna was a wealth of information and help, guiding me in how much backing and edging to buy, the best type of filler, and where the quilting should go.

We agreed that on this quilt the hankies themselves would be lightly quilted, finding a unique pattern in each. The most elaborate stitching would be between the hankies rather than on top of them. 


This is her giant longarm quilting machine!

  I delivered the quilt top, the edging fabric and the backing fabric. LaDonna assembled the layers and quilted them together. When the quilting was done, she created the edge binding and attached it to the front side.  


After picking up the quilt, I turned the edge binding under and used a hidden stitch on the back to complete the project.


Then I washed it and put it in the dryer!
It wasn't soiled. Pellon is kind of stiff until it's washed. Now the throw is soft, feels good and looks great!


The final result is so pretty!  I love being able to see these vintage hankies on display.
 I'm starting work on another hankie throw (!), this one in red and blue.

36 comments:

  1. I thought how pretty it would be to make a throw out of vintage hankies. I wondered if anyone else ever made these. I hunted and hardly found any, but I must tell you this one is so stunning and beautiful!!!! This is one of the most beautiful throws I have ever seen! Thank you for explaining how it was made. I am considering making one, now!!! What a wonderful throw...thank you!

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  2. you piece is stunning! I love the aqua. I have just collected 12 vintage hankies myself and planning to do the same. Exactly what product did you use to fuse your hankies to your background fabric?

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  3. Thank you, Patti. I had such fun collecting my hankies and then seeing them transformed and preserved as a quilt!
    To fuse the hankies to their background squares, I went to Joann's Fabric store and asked for the thinnest double sided heat bond available. It is made by Pellon, and is so sheer it almost looks like cobwebs.
    The hankies will feel a bit stiff initially - which is good as it makes it easier to stitch the edges and complete the quilting smoothly.
    As soon as my quilts were completed, I put them in the washing machine (regular cycle, warm water), and then the dryer. Presto! All the startchiness disappeared, and the quilted hankies became as soft as they were before being bonded.
    Good luck with your project. I would love to see it if you would be willing to share a photograph!
    Suzanne

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    1. I have just started the quilt. As I was scrolling google images, I spotted your pic again and found my comment! Will definitely let you in on my progress as soon as I get pics!

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    2. I am just finishing the last 5 hankies for my quilt. I backed them with blue, and have a 3 inch strip around each one. I just love what has happened to these hankies, and they all belonged to my family years ago. That makes them so precious!

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  4. I have been collecting hankies for a while now and have my mother's too. I was saving them up as I had seen them appliquied on a bedskirt/dust ruffle but your small quilt is stunning it turned out very well and the hankies all work together so well. Congrats on such a nice job!

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  5. Your colors are perfect. I hope mine turns out as beautiful as yours did.

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  6. Absolutely beautiful. I have many old hankies and am working on a few projects with them. I would wish mine to be as nice as yours.

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  7. Thanks so much for sharing your method and pictures of your lovely quilt. I have many of my mom's and aunt's hankies and will be starting my piece soon. A friend made a quilt out of her mother's old housecoats/dusters(remember those?)and it also turned out beautifully.

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  8. The aqua handkerchief quilt is absolutely beautiful. I really like the fact that all of the hankies shared the same color. I also collect them and have been doing so since I was a child and it was common practice to carry one with you everyday. Keep up the good work. You are so gifted!

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  9. I have had my collection of vintage hankies organized for a quilt for well over a year. When searching the internet for patterns on "how make a hankie quilt", I found your excellent instructions. Many thanks to you. I have a wonderful long arm quilter and I am looking forward to completing my vintage hankie quilt instead of having them in my dresser drawer and having her quilt it for me.

    I also have vintage embroidered feed sack squares which I will complete into a throw using your pattern. Thank you so much for sharing. PS: Love your colors and layout.

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  10. what type of hand stitching do you do around the hankies to hold them down?

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    1. Hi there,
      I used a very simple stitch which I don't actually know the name of, so let me describe it.
      To start, using a single thread knotted at the end, I pushed through the back of the quilt to the very edge of the hankie. A quick, sharp pull usually would pull the knot past the quilt backing and lodge it into the batting, hiding it from sight.
      Then I would catch the tiniest bit of the rolled edge of the hankie before sliding the needle back under the edge of the hankie and into the space where the quilt batting is located. My stitches were placed about an inch apart. They disappear entirely unless I get out a magnifying glass! I hope this helps.
      Best wishes on your project, Suzanne

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    2. The stitch you are talking about is called the blind stitch, or slip stitch. I sew a 1/2 inch at a time.
      I have made 4 of the beautiful handkerchief quilts. I've also made the handkerchief butterfly quilts. Just fold them a certain way to resemble a butterfly, and stitch with a pretty stitch by hand or machine. Mariettta

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  11. Thank you for your kind words. I am so glad my experiments with quilting vintage hankies have been of use to others trying to decide how to save these small, special bits of fabric! It interesting to hear that you are going to be working with vintage feed sack material also. Best wishes! Suzanne

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  12. What type and weight of batting did you use? Did you use an old white sheet for the back also?

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    1. The batting was provided by the long arm quilter for this quilt. The same was true for my second hankie quilt, completed by a different long arm quilter. The professional quilters working with these machines have very specific standards when it comes to batting.
      I did use an old sheet for both the front panels and the backing on this first quilt. However the quilter encouraged me to buy fabric with a better " hand" for my next project. The red and blue hankie quilt which I discussed in a later post was mounted and backed on cotton fabric featuring a white-on-white pattern. It is subtle, but does add greatly to beauty of the finished piece.
      Best wishes with your project!

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  13. Just Lovely it all is, Thank You for the Instructions....

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  14. How much money to have someone else quilt it. I can do the top but no longer put it together

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    1. Hi Sandra, The cost depends on the size of the quilt. I paid just over $100 dollars for a throw size quilt. I provided the pieced top, the backing, and enough fabric for the edging. The quilter provided the batting, did the quilting, made the edging and attached it to the quilt back. I hand stitched the edging to the front.
      My quilter is Diane at mylongarm.com. She has a great website! If you put in your quilt size, you can easily work out the cost at no obligation. Her work is beautiful and you will usually have it back in less than a month. Best wishes with your project.
      Suzanne

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  15. Thank you for these instructions on how to do this. I just acquired several hankies from my mother and I told her this is what I was going to do with them. I think your quilt is beautiful!

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  16. I made a similar one. Just spray starched carefully and hand stitched to block. Some were folded in different designs. With fine print labeled each with owners name. Did over-all stitch with long arm machine. Very special heirloom for our family. Have made some for friends. Alot of us have family hankies but don't know whar to do with them.

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  17. I just love hearing about all the different ways people are saving personal memories and some of our aesthetic history by creating unique hankie quilts. Thank you for sharing!

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  18. I have made a few simple quilts, nothing fancy, never sent any away to be quilted. Am elderly and have home help she showed me a bag of old hankies wanting to know if I knew how to display them as a wall hanging without having to cut them. Only pattern I found that didn't "ruin" the hankie is yours plan to try it and send to be professionally quilted for her. Thank you much for your inspiration.

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  19. My friend just gave me her old hankies. She had asked if there was "something you can do with old hankies". I'm hoping I can use them in this way and give it to her for Christmas. This is inspirational...

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    1. That would be an amazing gift! A real treasure. Best wishes on your project!

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  20. Hi Suzanne, I have been looking at hankie quilts on the Internet for a few years, and thinking about doing one with the handkies I have accumulated in my 67 years, but I couldn't figure out the best way of joining them up, with differing sizes. So I was delighted to find your blog and the detailed tutorial of how to mount the handkies on a background block - makes sense! I bought two metres of homespun, cut it into squares and fused the handkies to it using quilt basting spray instead of fusible webbing. My next step will be to find a suitable fabric for sashing and the border, as my handkies are mostly white with pastel designs, and look a bit lost when they are all laid out with nothing in between them. Thanks again!

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  21. An absolutely beautiful way to preserve these wonderful vintage treasures!

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  22. My grandmother and her husband both passed away within 4 days of each other, just this past March. While going through their home, we discovered a sizeable box of vintage hankies labeled "mom's hankerchiefs". These are my great grandmother's! I was looking for a way to preserve them but also use them in some way. My mother (these were her parents) quilts and I thought it would be a great idea to make these into a quilt. Seeing your post and the beautiful artwork you've created, I am definitely going to do this for my mom! May I ask how long it took you to complete this project - from start to finish (not including the time it took to acquire the hankies)?

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    1. Hi Liberty,
      Wow! What a delightful discovery to happen on a box filled with your great grandmother's hankies. Yours is going to be a very special quilt.
      I made my quilt first hankie quilt four years ago, so it's hard for me to be very exact about the time expended.
      The hankies with fancy edges took longer to iron, attach and stitch around, but I think I was able to complete one square each evening while watching TV - say two hours? (I do have a lot of experience with hand stitching. It might take a beginner longer.) Twelve squares would be twelve evenings.
      Sewing the squares together, using a sewing machine, took another couple of hours because the seams had to be lined up just right.
      I would guess I spent about two weeks getting this project ready to send to the quilter.
      The quilter had it for about two weeks.
      When it came back from the quilter it took me three or four evenings to stitch the edging under.
      So, this project probably took me about a month from start to finish!
      Best wishes with your project!

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  23. I love this quilt! My Mom passed away when I was a small child. About 10 years ago, one of her dear friends gave me an apron my Mom had made for her out of hankies. It had to have been made before 1951. I have cherished that gift and your quilt resonated with me both because of its beauty and the apron my Mom made. I am new to quilting having recently started since my retirement. I look forward to collecting some beautiful handkerchiefs to make a quilt. Thank you so much for sharing yours! - Mary

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    1. How wonderful that your mother's friend had cherished that gift for so many and then made sure it found its way to you!
      Have fun collecting hankies for a quilting project - fair warning: it's addictive!

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  24. As a newby, can you explain what the pellon's purpose is? Is it just to hold the hankies still while you sew the edges, or is there another purpose? Also, all I can find is 12" wide pellon. How did you do this with larger hankies?
    Thank you!!

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    1. Hi Tracie, The pellon serves multiple purposes. During construction it keeps the delicate fabric of the hankie perfectly flat and smooth against the stronger backing. This allows the edges to be stitched in place without any buckling or shifting.
      During the quilting stage the pellon again holds the hankie appliqué firmly on place as the quilt is either worked by hand or put through a long arm quilting machine.
      When the quilt is completed and in use it adds a layer of strength. I use my quilt and have washed it a number of times - it comes out of the dryer soft and fresh - no wrinkling or buckling of the hankies.
      The two sided Pelion I used was whisper thin, almost a cobweb. It is sold by the yard, 24" wide. I bought it at Joann's Fabric, but stores specializing in quilting fabrics also carry it.
      I have pieced scraps of it together on other projects (I hate to waste the smaller bits) and that works, too. It's ticklish work because the stuff is so thin, but it can be done.
      I hope this helps! Best wishes on your project!

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