Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Hitting the Mother Lode

An unusual round handkerchief
approximately 10 inches in diameter 
Frequent readers know that I love searching for vintage linens in antique stores and thrift shops, and two weeks ago, I hit the mother-lode and at a bargain price.

Out of curiosity, I stopped at a local thrift shop to browse, and found three plastic bags stuffed with ladies handkerchiefs. Each bag was priced at $2. It didn't take me long to decide to purchase the bags.

When I got home, I sorted the handkerchiefs for laundering and checked them for condition. Some still had paper labels attached: "Oriental lace," "made in Switzerland," "made in Ireland." I threw the ripped and the very thin handkerchiefs away and washed the rest.
A multitude of screen-printed hankies. Because of the designs
and color, I think some were manufactured in the 40s or 50s.
While I ironed these lovely pieces of cotton, linen, and lace, I admired either their simplicity or their beauty. I have no doubt that some are from the 40s and 50s; some are clearly from the 60s.

Whoever owned these handkerchiefs was a mother. I can almost imagine a small child purchasing these as a special gift for his Mom with a handful of change.

These monogramed hankies have me puzzled. Did the "M" refer to "mother" and the "H" was her first initial or did these belong to two different individuals. I'll never know their story.

Can't you imagine the mother moistening her handkerchief and scrubbing a smudge or two from face of a child?

The collection included a LOT of white handkerchiefs with a touch of lace or embroidery in one corner, and a few colored hankies with some embellishment.

How many tears did these handkerchiefs dry?

This hankie is very delicate and reminds me of Victorian times with the multi-layers of lace. To me, it looks like Irish lace.

These two handkerchiefs had a paper label attached that said "Oriental Lace." I wonder if they were a gift from a son who was a soldier in the Far East.

If you've counted, there were 92 beautiful handkerchiefs in those three plastic bags; plus, some in poor condition that I trashed. Ninety- two handkerchiefs for $8: a wonderful bargain any day, and a much better bargain than the hankies I found on my trip in May.

For inquiring minds: Because my allergies are running amok this year, I am using the screen-printed handkerchiefs and stashing the white ones to admire from time to time. I am a very happy camper to have found this stash of hankies in wonderful condition at such a low, low price.

Would you have rescued these handkerchiefs if you had seen them in the store?


  1. What a find! I most definitely would have come home with all three bags, just like you. Another explanation for the M & H hankies is that one letter might have been for her first name and the other for her last name, assuming, of course, that all these handkerchiefs belonged to the same person.

  2. Oh my! What an exciting find. I adore handkerchiefs and I'm so glad these found their way to a good home. I certainly would have been kicking my heels up to find them too.

  3. You DID hit the mother lode! Awesome! And these are so beautiful. I recently bought a box lot of hankies at an auction for $7.50, and there turned out to be about 20 hankies in it! All lovely and beautifully kept. While I don't actually use hankies as they were meant to be used, I have projects in mind for them. I've recently been drooling over the gorgeous work that Cindy Needham is doing with vintage linens, and I want to give it a try. I bought the hankies to practice on before working on my family linens. Check out her website and is beautiful work! You just might think to try it with some of these hankies! :o)

  4. Wow! That's a great find. That round hankie is so beautiful.

    Enjoy your new hankies (hope the allergies quit soon).

  5. Absolutely I would have bought them. They are beautiful. What a great save. g

  6. i adore antique linen of any kind, back in the 90's a group of friends and i had craft nights, and one of the ones i was in charge of were these adorable hankerchief angels, with the sythetic hair, and metallic wings, what a wonderful collection you have

  7. Amazing treasures! The last two photos remind me of my grandmother's lace hankie that I carried at my wedding.

  8. Prior to this post... no. But now, I'm thinking thrifted hankies are the small gift wrappers of the future.

  9. Wow. What a beautiful collection. I've never seen such a beautiful round handkerchief, and the screen printed ones are stunning. The lace ones are exquisite. What a find!!

  10. Yes ma'am I would have rescued them. I have quite a stash of hankies too and I have a plan.

  11. What a find! My Grandmother had hankies that my mom had for quite a while, but I don't know what became of them.

  12. I have a box of hankies that were my Mom's and these remind me on them. I don't collect them or use them so no I wouldn't have bought them but glad you found them so they can be injoyed and admired.

  13. I MAY have bought them, but I hardly ever iron......that may have put me off.
    SO GLAD you rescued and recovered them. They are lovely as you show them

  14. In a heart beat, and pranced out the door before they could change their minds. I have the mother lode of a stash in my linen closet also. My Mom started collecting old linens before they became so popular, and she always picked up some for me.

    Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams

  15. I cannot believe you found that many lovely hankies, and for only $8??! Lucky you! But they will find a very happy home with you.

  16. Awesome find! Have you thought about using some of them to make a quilt? I saw a wonderful quilt once made from flowered hankies...... Just a thought.

  17. Wow! That truly WAS the motherlode! They are all so different... your collection will have a good smattering of variety now. Even though I don't collect, I probably would have had to purchase them at that price, too. Old hankies make wonderfully interesting quilts.

  18. Wow! You really got some gorgeous treasures. I'm sorry about your allergies - but glad you have such lovely hankies to help you through. BTW, have you tried acupuncture for your allergies? I tried it a few years ago and haven't needed any medication since!

  19. Oh yes and what a bargain! That round one is beautiful and unusual!! I have hankies that were my Grandmothers and some that were my husbands Grandmothers..I have shared some with brides in the family and tied them around their bouquet holder.
    You did good..and you ironed them all:)

  20. I certainly wouldn't be able to leave them behind!

    On Monday at the Opshop I work at we had a box of table linen come in. It was labelled Grandpa and Nana Taupo. I don't think the items had been out of the box for many years. The most glorious Damask. I bought them home, soaked and washed, them. Now I have to iron them and have them ready to go back on Monday.
    Top quality. I am struggling with the desire to buy them.


  21. Wonderful hankies. I remember giving hankies to my mom when I was in elementary school -- many of them looked like the lace ones you have. I have ten or 15 of hers. At one time I was going to make a basket quilt with the corners of the hankies hanging over the basket. There are some wonderful quilts you can put these in. Or just look at them too. I'm not sure I would have bought them but you are giving me ideas!

  22. What a gold mine! Absolutely I would have bought them, too. One of the joys of stumbling upon something old is imagining the who, when, and where. This is a delightful post that brings back pleasant memories of my childhood. :)


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