Parts of this post appeared on this blog in 2015.
I love collecting colorful vintage handkerchiefs. You can find pristine ones with lovely colors and motifs at flea markets and occasionally at thrift stores. They make pretty doll scarves or you can sew doll aprons and other items from them.
I wash my vintage handkerchiefs in cold water with a small amount of Woolite laundry detergent. Lay them flat to dry then iron using medium heat and light spritz of fabric starch.
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 the biggest variety 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.
Vintage handkerchiefs make charming doll scarves but there are other ways to use and 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).