Using Handkerchiefs


Hello everyone, today I am sharing my love of handkerchiefs. I may have offended or repulsed some of you with that opening sentence but don’t turn away now if you are one of the faucet noses or Rudolph’s of the world because handkerchiefs are nose savers! There are also other benefits to using them, like being better for the environment, pay once save later, being better for your nose, etc. But I want to get down to the details! I have been using hankies for two and a half years now and I can see myself using them well into the future. But prior to my adoption of hankies I thought they were unhygienic, dirty, and would ruin my laundry. This was not the case so I’ll explain the details of using hankies.


I’ll start off with the cleaning of the hankies. This is what I was most scared about when starting to use hankies because I thought they would muck up my laundry. But the reality is that they are usually cleaner than your socks at the end of the day. So when you think about it if your socks don’t muck up the laundry why would your hankies? I am basing this off of having at least a hanky per day if not more (if you have a cold count on having at least four per day). And because it is nicer to start the day off with a crisp clean hanky opposed to a crinkled one that has been in your pocket for a week. But that and the numbers are ultimately up to the user.


Second on the list is using the hankies in public. When I first started using hankies I was a bit embarrassed to be seen using them in public because I know people (including myself at one point) thought that they were unhygienic. But to be honest no one wants to watch others blow their noses anyways so the likelihood of them seeing you blow your nose into a hanky is very slim. And even if they do see you they will either be a stranger or a friend who might not want to ask, or you may be lucky enough to have friends and family that have joined you in the hanky using. Or if you are using a plain white hanky with no frills or embroidery on it people may think that you are just using a usual tissue. Or as a last result you may just duck into a corner to blow your nose. But overall basically what I’m saying is that you should get over it because it really isn’t an issue and if you do convert to the nose cloth you may even find yourself needing to blow your nose less! Let me explain.


Paper tissues are a new invention when considering all of history and they come with their own flaws, such as when you blow your nose small paper particles may rub off on your nose or be inhaled thus irritating your skin or going into your respiratory system. And the irritations may cause a runny nose or a red nose (and you may not even be aware that you have these irritations until you start using hankies). So when you make the transition to cloth you may find that your nose isn’t as red and that your nose doesn’t run as much because the tissue is no longer irritating your skin or respiratory system. Those are the main health benefits that I have discovered from using hankies.


As for the collecting, acquiring, or gathering of hankies to make up a useful collection I have a few suggestions. If you just want to buy them you can usually find them online or antique shops (they are very clean when you buy them second hand and most of them look like they have never been used). The online ones are usually made new and are made from printed or patterned fabric, whereas the antique shop ones are old and have beautiful embroidery or other finishing’s to them and are made from plain white or off-white fabrics. Or you can ask relatives if they might have hankies (the elderly ones who still have china tea-sets might have some). I personally have ones from antique shops and they are quite beautiful and always feel very luxurious when I am using them because they are beautiful.


But if you don’t want to buy them you can do what I did and make them. I recommend using a very soft cotton or if you want to go the extra mile silk! I have made a few rounds of hankies so I have used a few different methods and have produced different qualities.


I started off using the thinnest and softest cotton I could find at the fabric store, which was still thicker and rougher than the handkerchief linen that they are traditionally made from. But you can still buy it from some places but it would have meant buying the fabric online for me and I thought that was a bit excessive. Anyways moving along, I chose a white fabric with small flowers on it I then took it home and ripped it into even squares that were about the size of my face and a bit bigger than a normal paper tissue because I needed the seam allowance. Then I proceed to press the edges over and sew them by machine. This method worked well however it felt more practical and very sturdy. But they lacked the delicacy that the antique ones had and that I so craved.


So the second round of hankies that I made took a bit more effort and time but very almost as delicate as a feather but can survive the washing machine (because I think I would have gone quite mad if I started hand washing them). I used thin turban cotton that I found at my school’s art store, I would compare it to cheesecloth because I can hold the two cloths up together and barely tell the difference because it is so slight. I love this cloth because it is very thin yet absorbent and resembles the traditional handkerchief linen. Now for the finishing, I could have easily machine sewn the edges for these hankies however I want the extra mile to do a hand-rolled hem. Yes this took much longer and might have been an excessive amount of work but I do respect these hankies more than the machine sewn ones that I made. I also had a blouse that was very soft made of thin rayon that I no longer wore. So I cut into squares and hemmed to repurpose into something useful again! That’s my type of recycling!


As for the care of my hankies I toss them all into the washing machine and I air-dry them simply because I do not own a dryer. But I’m sure there wouldn’t be any issue in tossing them into the dryer as well. But since I air dry mine they come out very wrinkled so I do press mine, I don’t think this is too crazy since it takes just a minute to do them all. And lastly once mine are pressed and folded I stack them and place them in a rather over the top white and gold beaded box that I admittedly bought to hold my hankies. But that was my choice to indulge in and I never regret it because it always makes me happy to see.


Now hankies are wonderful on the whole but there is a time not to use them. And that’s nosebleeds, unless for whatever reason your hanky is the convenient brown colour of dried blood. But even then some staining may occur because blood is technically a natural dye/ fabric mordant (because of its iron content). Please use a paper tissue for a nosebleed because otherwise when you use that hanky forever afterwards you are reminded of that wonderful nosebleed you once had. Ladies you may e concerned with your makeup staining your hankies so I’ll say that perhaps your lipstick and mascara might stain your hankies (I personally don’t know because I don’t wear either) but I can assure you that your foundation won’t. I can’t think of other obvious things that might ruin your hankies so I will leave it at that.


I believe that covers the basis of using hankies. I hope that if you were thinking of converting that you do and if you hadn’t thought of it I have now planted a seed in your head. Until next time!

Sincerely, L. C. Cariou



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