Vintage Hankerchief Quilts

My first post on how to make a quilted throw using vintage hankies has been so popular (more than 26,000 hits to date), that I thought I'd dedicate a page to this topic!

Hankies had a long history even before fair ladies gave them as favors to medieval knights.
If you would like to learn more about their many uses and changing styles there is an excellent book by Nicky Albrechtsen called 'The Printed Square'.

It's fun to read and includes many full color photographs of collectible hankies.

Another book that I managed to find is by Helene Guarnaccia and Barbara Guggenheim.
'Handkerchiefs, A Collectors Guide Volume II' is so wonderful, packed with so many amazing examples, that I just wish I could lay hands on Volume I!
If you find a copy of either one, don't let it get away!

I've made two quilted throws using vintage hankies. 

First Project: Aqua Vintage Hankie Quilt 

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 pretty and sturdy! 

I love being able to see these vintage hankies on display.
 So I started work on another hankie throw (!), this one in red and blue.

Second Project: Red and Blue Vintage Hankie Quilt

This is such a fun project for anyone with a collection of vintage hankies looking for a new life.

Vintage hankies can be found in so many pretty colors, and with any number of themes.  I love the fact that each artist started out with the same blank square and turned it into something unique!  

Serious collectors pay quite a little for a rare hankie - however, the pieces in my little pile were priced between $3 and $5.  I found them in antique shops, on, and on ebay.

Here are the finalists for quilt number two, featuring hankies with red and navy.

 Each hankie was washed and pressed before being attached to its backing with a light weight, double sided, iron-on pellon.  Then I hand-stitched around each side to make sure every hankie would stay smoothly in place during the quilting process.

I played around with placement before stitching the squares together.
The hankies vary slightly in size, but each of the backing squares measures 16" x 16".
The wonderful long-arm quilter who did the work on my first hankie project was sidelined by health concerns. 
My search for another long-arm quilter struck gold when I found Diane Selman at
Her site is so easy to navigate!
I followed the very clear and simple directions, packaged up my quilt cover, quilt back and edging fabric and mailed it off.  Two weeks later, as promised, my quilt came back...

It was wrapped like a special gift!
Inside was a beautiful throw, quilted in the all-over pattern I had selected from the many design choices offered by

 The task remaining was to turn over the edging and stitch it down.

Here is the finished edge.

And here is the finished throw.  I immediately washed it to soften the iron-on pellon.

It came out beautifully!
Best wishes with your own quilts, and please feel free to share your ideas for working with vintage hankies in the comments section.


  1. great quilts! i am just starting my first, but not last, hankie quilt. my challenge is that my pieces are many different sizes. I have floral fabric to frame them with but these outside frames will be different thicknesses. I ill be a crazy hankie quilt

  2. Oh your hankie quilts are amazing. Beautiful. Oh. My. Gosh. A few years ago my Aunt sent me a small box of hankies from her mom, my paternal g-mother. I ironed them and put them into my fabric stash waiting for inspiration. This past weekend my mom gave me several hankies from her mother, my maternal g-mother. I'm not sure how many I have right now, but I'm hoping I've got at least 24. I'm going to use your instructions and brilliant idea and make two quilts. One for me and one for my sister. I'm not a quilter, but I'll find someone in my area to do the longarm work. Thank you a million times. Terry V.

    1. What a great trove of hankies - you have struck gold. And your quilts will have the extra warmth of holding family memories! Best wishes with your project,

  3. Hi my name is Carolyn O'Connell and I just want to thank you for this tutorial! I got my Mom's hankies and made a quilt of them for my daughter for Christmas. I know she will love it. Thank you again for this.