Recently I decided to clean out the master bedroom closet. It is a long narrow walk in closet and the coldest place in the house in the winter. It was now or wait until spring.
I began with the usual – going through the hanging clothes and then the shoes and last the boxes that never got unpacked from the last move. That was when the fun began!
When I opened a small box of handkerchiefs I could almost smell the lilac fragrance my grandmother was so found of. There was a stack of my mother’s and grandmother’s beautiful handkerchiefs I had forgotten about. Both women loved the femininity of the embroidery and lace on batiste and fine linen fabric. They never went anywhere without a clean ironed square in their purses.
Finding those handkerchiefs got me to thinking about handkerchiefs in general and I did a little research. It seems that King Richard II of England, who reigned from 1377 to 1399, was responsible for the original squares of fabric for nose blowing. His courtiers made notes about this. They were widely used in Shakespeare’s time.
The fabric, especially during the Victorian era, denoted the bearer’s social status. People with more money used the more expensive decorated fabric and of course their handkerchiefs were more about style than practical use. Cotton, silk and linen were the fabrics of choice. Children used to carry small items in them and for a time messages were sent to others by the type of folds used.
It’s almost a shame that we don’t see people using handkerchief anymore. They have such an interesting history. I’ve seen beautiful vests, quilts, placemats, valances and cuffs made from vintage hankies. I’m going to be carefully pressing and listing these heirlooms on my vintage etsy site. Watch for them! www.etsy.com/shop/brittdesign and perhaps you will come up with your own ideas of using them. I’d be interested in them so please share.