This is one of eight lap quilts made with cotton and linen handkerchiefs.
This is one of eight lap quilts made with cotton and linen handkerchiefs.

In December 2013 a client brought her collection of old handkerchiefs to me and requested that I make as many quilts as possible. I began with the lap-size projects for her grandchildren and finally made one for a queen-size bed with the whites and off-whites.

Some of hankies before washing
Some of hankies before washing

The initial step was to get them clean and machine washing was not enough. The old-time method of simmering on the stove was the best solution. There are different recipes for “scouring” linen and cotton, but I used the one for cotton so I would not have to separate them in to too many lots (I was dealing with colors and whites, and ultimately over 200 pieces. General recipe for “scouring”: in 2 gallons of water dissolve 1 T gentle soap and 4 t washing soda; bring to simmer and add hankies so they are loose and can more; simmer for at least an hour, stirring gently and often. Remove hankies and rinse well in fresh water.

Dirty wash water after scouring hankies
Dirty wash water after scouring hankies

Above is a photo of the nasty water from one batch of hankies. Care must be taken with the colored pieces, some will lose color. There were a good number that had holes from use and/or stains. Some stains never came out. I was able to use parts of the damaged ones as setting triangles or for patchwork.

 

Patchwork with scraps
Patchwork block with scraps. This is the third quilt pictured below.
Small triangles used with on-point lay out.
Small triangles used with on-point lay out. This border is in the sixth quilt pictured below.
Simple layout with nine large hankies, wide sashing, and wide borders; before quilting
Simple layout with nine large hankies, wide sashing, and wide borders; before quilting.
All these hankies are the same size, with the mostly white ones around the outside edges. Not quilted yet.
All these hankies are the same size, with the mostly white ones around the outside edges. Not quilted yet.
Three different sizes of handkerchiefs were used in this layout. Not quilted yet.
Three different sizes of handkerchiefs were used in this layout. Not quilted yet.
Same top as in previous photo, quilted on a longarm machine.
Same top as in previous photo, quilted on a longarm machine.
An on point layout uses the good parts of hankies in the triangle pieces along the edges.
An on-point layout uses the good parts of hankies in the triangle pieces along the edges. Quilted on a longarm machine.
Another on-point layout. Not quilted yet.
Another on-point layout. Not quilted yet.
These nine linen hankies were sold as one piece of fabric, to be cut apart an hemmed. I cut them apart and added the red sashing and a vintage fabric as the border.
These nine linen hankies were sold as one piece of fabric, to be cut apart an hemmed. I cut them apart and added the red sashing and a vintage fabric as the border. Quilted on a longarm machine.

 

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