Old-fashioned Tatted Hankderchief Pictures

17-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Saturday, December 14, 1912:  Made some handkerchiefs this afternoon. Of course they weren’t very fancy ones, but good enough for me.

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Source: Ladies Home Journal (December, 1912)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Was Grandma making the handkerchiefs for herself –she might have needed them since she’s had colds for much of the Fall—or as gifts for someone else?

In the old days people made lovely handkerchiefs. Some had tatted or crocheted borders . . others beautiful embroidery.

(An aside—Does anyone know how to tat anymore?  It is so delicate and beautiful.)

Grandma said the handkerchiefs weren’t very fancy. Were they actually plain or did she just think that she wasn’t very talented at making handkerchiefs.

From one yard of handkerchief linen six squares may be cut and trimmed.

Ladies Home Journal (December, 1912)

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39 Responses

  1. Perhaps she took a practical approach to handkerchiefs when they were for her own use — with tatting, crocheting, and embroidery reserved for gift handkerchiefs.

  2. my mom used to tat, and I have her instruction book, but it never appealed to me, but I like to embroider.

  3. I’ve always loved the way tatting looked, especially on fine linen. The last time I saw a really nice piece of antique tatting, it was priced at over $500/yd. I particularly appreciate the ease it can be used in framing pictures or works of art that you want to give an antique look. Of course, I’m not going to use antique tatting for that unless it’s a really special piece.

    • Wow, I had no idea how much high-quality tatting was worth. I love the look created by tatting. You’ve got me curious about how it might be used in framing.

      • Sheryl – I decided to frame several items I had of an elderly friend that I knew as a youngster growing up. After she passed, I happened to be visiting my father when her estate sale was held. I picked up several mementos and took them to a specialty frame shop that I’d used for restoration on another project and it was amazing how they put everything together to tell a story. I had a handmade handkerchief embroidered with lace edging, small hand held fan, white kid leather gloves, a dance card, a hand-written letter from her to me congratulating me on an accomplishment, and a 3×5 black and white photo of the two of us when I was maybe 5 and she was maybe 60 or so. The framer used pieces of tatting I had to layer into the actual matting – it’s an exquisite piece.

        • What a wonderful tribute, and beautiful way to remember a special person. I never can figure out how to display my mementos. I should think about doing something similar.

  4. Hankies always remind me of my grandmother… she always had one with her and they were all beautiful. I buy all different kinds of hankies at thrift stores & antique stores and tuck them in purses I make for gifts or with dainty old tea cups. They add a homey-warm feeling to the gift.

  5. We have three beautiful pieces of ancestral tatting, matted and preserved behind glass. They are cherished family pieces. Now I like that idea of buying hankies at thrift stores!

  6. Hi. I have quite a collection of handkerchiefs, some with lace edges. A lady once tried to teach me to tatt. I still have the little bobbin she gave me but there is a transfer of the ‘loop’ from one thread to another that I just couldn’t get the knack of…. Jane

  7. I love handkerchiefs–just not using them. One of my aunts tatted me a cross for my Bible

  8. My dad used to carry and use handkerchiefs when I was little, but eventually he came around to using facial tissues. They weren’t as lovely as these, though. I suppose handkerchiefs have gone the way of cloth diapers for most of us, but it would probably be better for the environment if more of us went back to them!

  9. I have a little collection of vintage hankies, and also memories of having one tucked in my purse when I went to church. My grandmother showed me how to make “2 babes in a cradle” by rolling the ends, folding it, then somehow turning it partially inside out–to keep me from being bored while the sermon droned on (to me :)). But never learned to tat, crochet, knot, nuthin’ ! Didn’t have the knack or patience.

  10. I tried tatting once but couldn’t get the hang of it. I’m just sticking to the knitting and sewing!

  11. You are very blessed to have your Grandmother’s diary. I have a lot of handwork from my grandmothers, but I don’t have the stories behind the pieces. I am now working on a quilt with hankies from both grandmas. I am sure many of the ones I have are handmade even though they don’t look like it because of the beautiful tatted edging. One of my great-grandmas did beautiful tatting.

  12. I have a collection of old hankies. Love them!

  13. I found out recently that there was a lady in Muncy who used to do tatting and taught it, but I think she passed away and with it went the lost art. I would love to learn.

  14. my maternal aunt used to do wonderful tatting but she lived a long way away…no idea how to do it.

  15. My grandmother had a collection of handkerchiefs. The often had lace edges. My parents also have a wonderful pair of them in frames that are decorative. The timing of your post is interesting Sheryl as I was considering writing a post about them!

  16. Can you imagine the work that went into them. Too pretty to use then. I’ve seen some really cute ideas on Pinterest using old hankies, very collectable these days

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