Saturday, May 23, 2009

Whatever happened to handkerchiefs?

In the process of switching the winter clothes upstairs and the summer clothes downstairs, I found that some of my handkerchiefs were in need of ironing. That was a quick project, and scattered through this post you will see some of the results. (The Christmas hankies are just going to wait till around November.)

I realize that I may be a bit of an oddity in that I don't exactly "collect" handkerchiefs -- I actually use them. I do usually have a box of tissues in the house, but I don't normally carry them around unless I have a really horrible cold. Otherwise, handkerchiefs do the job just fine. Also, they are not only reusable almost infinitely, but they do not do awful things if one forgets them in a pocket before doing the laundry.

You can't necessarily see it in these pictures, but some of my handkerchiefs are a little the worse for wear. In fact, some probably ought to be thrown out or perhaps made into some kind of craft project, they are so tattered. That isn't surprising, since most of them are 50-60 years old. Nearly all my handkerchiefs were acquired at my old church's annual Rummage Sale, during the years when the church ladies who were then in their 70s and 80s were clearing out their homes in preparation for moves to smaller quarters. One of them told me that when they were young women in the 1940s and 50s, handkerchiefs were a common gift for occasions such as the Women's Federation Christmas party, or were brought back as souvenirs for friends when one had taken a trip. I'm sure some of these were also gifts from children, as I can remember buying handkerchiefs for my mother at Woolworth's (when I wasn't getting rosewater-and-glycerin lotion). For several years I bought all the handkerchiefs I could find at the sale.

Just before starting this post, I checked out "ladies' handkerchiefs" on the Internet. Uh-oh! New ones might cost $37.50 apiece at one place; vintage printed handkerchiefs seem to start around $7.00 apiece and go up from there. That's a little rich for my blood. Still, my new church is having its annual "Clothing and Linens" sale soon -- maybe there will be some hankies there at a more reasonable price. I hope so. I don't want to give them up. They remind me of all those elders who were so welcoming to me and provided so much love and wisdom over the years; and of a simpler time in my childhood when the teacher checked each morning to see that we had clean hands, clean teeth, and a clean handkerchief.


lookoutlady said...

I have two handkerchiefs from my Grandmother(who has been gone~20 yrs. They became so tattered on the edges, that I sewed them into
bags just the right size to hold folded cash inside my bra(for traveling). Everytime I take one out I remember my Grandmother and the trips.

Crimson Rambler said...

In some circles at present a handkerchief is a thank you gift e.g. for the minister who officiates at a wedding...I have some nice new ones on that pretext -- with "Thank You" embroidered on them, no less!

Mrs. M said...

Auntie K, I both collect and use them. I love how soft they are on my nose, and that they're reuseable.

Of course, I'm also the only woman in her 20s I know who uses fountain pens and sends snail mail, so perhaps I'm not a good example of anything.

Anonymous said...

I love linen hankies! Especially the embroidered ones. Your collection is lovely. (I have a collection of white gloves. I used to buy them at yard sales and once bought a pair with a woman's notes for her thank-you speech written in ink on the fingers.--There was a story to those gloves!) Thanks for the memories.

Nancy Martin

Vicki Lane said...

Love the hankies! My mother and grandmother always carried them but I use worn old bandannas or retired raggedy cotton napkins when I have a cold -- I can't imagine blowing my nose on the pretty little wisps of sheer linen and scratchy lace that I remember.