On a recent trip to the thrift store I spied a wonderful array of colorful vintage handkerchiefs. Most appeared pristine with lovely colors and motifs to choose from. Its rare to find so many at the thrift store, so I bought a handful of floral ones to sell/use as doll scarves for my Garden Party Girl dolls. I want to try making doll clothing from a few of of the bigger ones.
Once home the hankies were hand washed in cold water and a small amount of Woolite laundry detergent. I laid them flat to dry, then ironed them using light fabric starch. Now their colors really glow!
Colorful vintage hankies in good condition are not hard to find, but you do have to do a little searching. Many women were given hankies for occasions such as Mother's Day or birthdays and never used these beauties, preferring plain white or monogrammed hankies for everyday.
I most often find colorful vintage handkerchiefs at flea markets. The seller usually has cleaned and ironed them prior to the market which bumps the price up a little. You can also find them on Etsy and Ebay. Depending upon condition and the complexity of design, they range in price from $4 - $15 each.
Plain white, crochet edge and monogramed hankies often end up at the thrift store for $2 - $5 each. Damaged or slightly stained hankies usually cost less. If you have hankies from a relative that you would like to keep but they are lightly stained, try washing them in cold water and hanging them on a laundry line to dry. Sunshine will often fade problem spots although it also fades colors.
Decide if it matters to you that your hankie be pristine. If you are cutting them up for crafts you might be able to work around damaged areas. For more tips on laundering vintage hankies, see this post.
I listed some of my recent purchases in my shop because they look charming as doll scarves. Others will be turned into doll clothing once I figure out exactly what I want to do with them. But there are other ways to use/display vintage hankies:
If you are hosting an engagement party you could wrap the napkins with vintage hankies so each bridesmaid gets her own for happy tears on the wedding day.
You might frame really pretty handkerchiefs for a girl's bedroom or hallway.
They can be folded over a cord and stitched together to form triangular bunting.
You could drape a tray with one when you serve iced tea and crackers to your girl friends (see photos below).
If the weather is nice I like to put the finishing touches on my dolls outside on my back patio, especially at this time of year when the peonies are blooming. A color coordinated hankie on a tray with a snack and a book makes taking a break that much sweeter.