When my dear mother passed away, I inherited her entire 'collection' of magnificent hankies that included those of my grandmothers (both paternal and maternal). Since the advent of Kleenex and throwaway paper products to wipe one's tears and one's drippy nose, the lady''s hanky has become fairly 'extinct'. But years ago, a lady's apron pocket ALWAYS contained a lovely hanky with which to wipe drippy children's noses, perform 'spit baths' around the mouths of messy children, and wipe away the tears of those same children. They were used to clean one's eyeglass with a 'huff' of breath applied to the lenses before wiping with the linen hanky. I can remember in the late 1940's when as a Valentine, Easter, or Christmas gift from a friend, one might get a lovely card with a fine hanky enclosed in the card. They were so lovely. The finest were made of Irish handkerchief linen and Swiss cotton so fine that it is translucent. Others were in lovely cotton lawn and other finely woven cottons so wispy that a breath would make them gently waft. Some had lovely open work all done by hand of the finest thread. Some had lovely embroidery, and fine tatted edgings. But all were exquisite.
A bride's trousseau over the centuries ALWAYs contained a lovely white hanky trimmed in exquisite fine laces and embroidery. With the advent of Kleenex, that tradition has all but vanished. and gone out of fashion. How very sad.
These 'fancy' hankys were usually for carrying to church, or when company came, or to weddings, etc. My grandmother always said the fancy hankys were "showers not blowers", indicating they were meant to show off not blow into. LOL
Now, how does this relate to miniatures. Well, I have found that the 'hand' (feel) of the lovely fabric used in ladies hankys, and also in fine 'tea napkins' is absolutely wonderful for miniature linens. The plus is the wonderful embellishments and hemming that are already on the hankys or tea napkins. They add to the beauty of the miniature linens made from these wonderful and exquisite antique/vintage items.
So, I went on e-bay and found an absolute plethora of vintage hankys and tea napkins for insanely reasonable prices. (I haven't had the nerve to cut-up too many of the ones from my family, but plan to use some of them in the linens for the Thornhill) I look for the ones that are Irish handkerchief linen or fine Swiss cotton. You can tell from the photos in the e-bay ads if they are translucent or not. Then I look for ones with fine hand hemming, openwork, and fine lace (the more delicate the better). For the last dollhouse I constructed I 'stocked' an entire linen press with lovely miniature linens made from hankys and tea napkins. I filled it with lovely Irish linen sheets, pillowcases, tea towels, and table linens. They are also very useful in making wispy kitchen curtains that allow the light to permeate their translucency. The hemmed edges make perfect pre-sewn 'rod pockets'. Pillowcases made from hankys are sweet and delicate and soooooo Victorian.
If any of you are interested in making linens from hankys, e-mail me and I will go into detail how I repurposed the vintage hankys into miniature linens.
Some of the hanky's are just the right size already to use as tablecloths. The fabric is so wispy and fine that they drape beautifully. Then one can find another hanky of the same fabric and cut it into tiny napkins that one can hand hem. I even use ones I buy at yard sales and auctions that might have holes in them. I cut around the holes and use what is good.
I always hand wash all of my cotton and linen hankys in OxyClean. (NEVER use OxyClean on protein fibers such as wool or silk) But OxyClean brightens and freshens cotton and linen like nothing else. Then I dry them and press them.
Here are some photos of some of the hankys and tea napkins I inherited from my mother. The first photo is one set of 4 are tea napkins, and the individual one is on the right. They have a very interesting symetrical cutaway border that doesn't show up very well in the photos.
This one below is particularly lovely. All of the openwork was done in a Wedgewood blue thread. It is a very small hanky being only approx. 6" across. It is vry fine Irish linen.
The machine lace on this hanky is just lovely. The center is Irish linen.
This does not show up too well, but this hanky is beautifully embroidered (albeit by machine). I plan to use this one in the Thornhill. The embroidery is very small and delicate in appearance.
Madeira linens such as hankys, tea napkins, tea tablecloths, etc. are wonderful for miniature repurposing. If you are very lucky, you might even find a genuine Marghab tea napkin,. fingertip towel, or tea table cloth. These hand made linens made in Portugal are the finest in the world. I will not bore you with all of the Marghab 'history', but if you are interested, you might peruse the following link:
If you are ever in Brookings, SD plan to visit the museum. It is on the campus of South Dakota State University.
So, happy hanky searching
Peace and love