Making Handkerchiefs for Xmas Gifts

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

Wednesday, December 2, 1914: Am making handkerchiefs for Xmas presents. They are to be real nice and fancy, with edging of my own makings on them.

tatted handkerchief

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


The handkerchiefs sound lovely. Do they have a tatted edging? Tatting is so delicate and beautiful. I have vague memories that your married sister Besse showed you how to tat last summer:

Besse was trying to teach me tatting today. Am awful stupid about it, but still I persist in trying to make the stuff. It takes some patience.

June 11, 1914


36 thoughts on “Making Handkerchiefs for Xmas Gifts

  1. So ladylike to have this in your handbag. Now we have disposable Kleenex, boring. I’ve seen really cute drapes pieced together with colourful vintage hankies. The white ones are pretty too. Especially that not too many North American’s know tatting now a days.

    1. Until I read your comment, I’d never heard of using vintage hankies to make drapes. What a fun idea!

      It seems like tatting is rapidly becoming a lost art. I don’t know anyone who can do it.

  2. Another domestic art form that I find enchanting. Were any passed down thru the years? I have my own grandmother’s efforts: crocheted pot holders. But I think they were from the 1940s.

    1. I think that finding items that have been lost or forgotten is the most rewarding part of de-cluttering. I’d never thought about the process that is used to make hankies– It’s interesting that it can be tricky.

  3. I immediately thought of tatted edges! Although I learned to crochet and knit, I never learned to tat. Our home ec teacher told us that it was very difficult to learn, and I think that planted the idea in my head that I couldn’t do it – and never even tried to learn…perhaps I should try now…???
    Wouldn’t you just LOVE to have one of Grandma’s handmade handkerchiefs?

    1. It would be wonderful if I had one of her handmade handkerchiefs! I’ve also thought that it might be fun to learn how to tat–but then I remember that I sometimes find knitting and crocheting challenging, and think that I probably should stick with them. 🙂

  4. Vintage linens–yay! I have about a zillion beautiful old hankies like the one pictured and I keep trying to come up with an idea to use them. They are all gorgeous and I love to think of girls like Helena working on them. I do try to pass one on to young female friends when they marry, to tuck into their wedding dress as “something old.”

    1. I love how you give brides an old handkerchief to tuck in their wedding gowns. What a wonderful momento that they will be able to keep over the years!

    1. I can’t remember ever seeing Grandma tat when she was an older woman–though I can remember my maternal grandmother (my other one) tatting,

  5. Some of my greatest treasures are items tatted by my grandmother. I’d kill whoever tried to use one of those dishtowels or pillowcases. I do use some of the dresser scarves she embroidered and tatted however. Love having things like this from my family.

  6. At one point in my life I had a whole box of items I had crocheted or decorated with crocheted edges, including white handkerchiefs with white or colored edging. I never did learn to tat. The crocheting was done mostly when I went with my mother to Ladies Aid Society meetings after school (grade school). They were a church function, but met in people’s homes. I wish I knew what happened to that box. It would probably be of some value now with people’s renewed interest in stuff that’s old.

    My funniest adult story about crocheting is the vest I made for my daughter when she was a little girl. I had done the first half when I was at home, working full time, full time mother, full time Italian (by marriage) housewife. The second half I did on vacation in Vermont. The part I did in Vermont came out about four inches longer than the one done at home. So what does that tell you about the effect of stress?

  7. I’ve always liked the look of tatting, and appreciate the effort that went into making all the pretty things with it.

    1. I also like the way tatting looks. I can remember having pillow cases with tatted edges when I was a child. I always thought that they made my bed look beautiful .

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