What To Do With Grandma’s Hankies

By A Guest Writer – 19 Comments

Guest Post by Veronica Smith.

So the time has come, your grandma or mum is aging. You can see her once all seeing eyes deteriorating, her beautiful hands that she nursed and hugged you with getting less agile with age. Everything she ever made you is more precious than it has ever been. What happens now? Well you keep using it of course, that is why she made it for you. When she passes you will have lovely memories around you.

However – my grandma was exceptionally good at crocheting very intricate boarders around hankies, some were up to 2 inches (5 cm) wide – truly magnificent, finest thread I have ever seen. The whole family used them because we had hundreds, many are still in use. As I saw her aging I had her make 3 more hankies for my children. At the time I did not know how many children I would have, I only had one at the time. She has left us now and I have only had 2 children so they are both covered. I haven’t given them to the girls yet, the eldest is soon to be 21 and I will hand the precious heirloom to her then. They have seen them and appreciate that they have a part of her. Of course there are many sundry items I have that she has made and so has my mother, they will inherit them as well when the time has come.

Back to my title, what to do with grandma’s hankies. I think I might get them professionally framed. They don’t want to use them, I mean they have been using the ones I have had for many a year – but these are new. They would only sit in their draws in their house and maybe get lost in moving, or picked up and used. Framed, this perfect piece of intricate crochet that boarders 2 inches (5 cm) on each side will be there forever.

It also brings me to the next stage in our family. Do I make something for my children that will endure, they have many handmade things from me but maybe I should make them a fine cotton bed spread? When and if they have children who gets that – there will be only one bedspread. Do I make multiple ‘some-things’ and they can lay in wait for grandchildren that I may not have the opportunity to crochet for?

Do I make an heirloom now?

Veronica is 44 years young. She has a hubby, 2 daughters, 2 goats, 2 dogs, 2 guinea pigs, several fish – and 7.5 acres backing on to a state forest in semi-rural Queensland Australia to house them all! Feel free to learn more about Veronica by visiting her blog.

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  1. Paige says:

    Interesting question. I struggle with this very thing. As a moderate minimalist/unclutterer I know the struggle of what to do with ‘heirlooms’ that are not useful or to my taste. I don’t want my children to be burdened with too many physical mementos that they feel they have to keep just because I made them. On the other hand, I know they might like one or two things that remind them of their childhood or of me after I’m gone. I do make sure to stress to them (all the time, lol) that they are never to feel guilt over decisions they make about my things after I’m gone. My things are not me. Thanks for the post.

  2. Leslie says:

    I have a bunch of old hankies from a friend and thought I would iron and starch them and then use them as a valance in my bedroom. I’ve also got a bunch of vintage gloves and thought I’d combine the gloves and a hankie or two to make pillows for my bed.

  3. Sandra says:

    If the hankies are white or light enough, you can scan them onto your computer & print them out to use as beautiful writing paper. If anyone else still writes letters. lol

  4. Margaret Marks says:

    How about incorporating them into a quilt? I made several quilts using old hankies and doilies from many grandparent collections and followed the inspiration of a great lady from Mildura, Australia. Her booklet was ” Calico and Lace quilt; creating an heirloom “/ by Valarie Robinson. Email me if you should like some more details…I am not sure whether the booklet is still available.

  5. JeanneS says:

    I believe it’s never too early to start making heirlooms! When I was in my early twenties and had only been crocheting a couple of years, I made granny-square blankets for my firstborn and my sister’s firstborn, who were just toddlers at the time, personalized with their names. The kids are in their twenties now, and still treasure their blankets — even though the blankets are MUCH worse for wear, but that’s okay, because (like the Velveteen Rabbit) something that looks well-used is proof that it’s well-loved!

  6. Paula says:

    I, too, have a similar conundrum. When my grandmother was alive, she wore signature head scarves to prevent the wind from blowing her hair out of place. When she passed away, all of the grandchildren were given mementos. I received two or three of these head scarves. I don’t wear headscarves and I’m not sure I want to use her scarves in this way anyway. I’d like to do something else with them that works them into a decorative item for the house. Her scarves wouldn’t necessarily work as quilt blocks because they are sheer. Any ideas?

  7. Doris Green says:

    My Mom left several hankies which had been gifts and never used. I crocheted edgings around several, putting three together for a dresser runner and single ones for side table covers. Colorful additon to any bedroom. Gave them to my granddaughter whom I taught how to crochet and knit. We enjoyed ‘needling’ together on several projects.

  8. Barb Blank says:

    This is a wonderful and touching story!!

    Thank you

  9. Charlie says:

    Veronica, How about puting them in a fan shape and add a picture, and little mementos with the hankie.
    I’ve been busy making an afagans for the 4 of my grandchildren. Have finished one for my oldest granddaughter, and have been working on the second one. Have 3 girls and 1 boy to make for. This is my gift to them this year as their birthdays roll around. Only one has been instred in learning how to crochet. Leaving each a special something is letting them know how much they are loved.
    Maybe make something that intrest them, and put it up for the right time. Know it will be special what ever you make.
    I’m 61 so trying to make something for each of them now. God Bless.

  10. Gig says:

    There are numerous patterns “out there” to make old hankies into Christmas Tree angels. Vanna White has a pattern in her collection. I have one I like in my stash. They are pretty simple, new sewing, and don’t need to damage the hankie.

  11. Rebecca says:

    What a beautiful story! It has made me think of my mother-in-law who is gifted and skilled in many crafts including crochet. My husband and I treasure all the things she has made for us over the years and have many of them hanging on our walls as art.
    Other readers have posted so many wonderful suggestions as to how you can display your grandmother’s hankies, but I have a suggestion for heirlooms you might want to make. How about small decorative pillow covers made from the fine cotton thread? You can get as intricate as you want with the designs and they will not take forever to finish. And your daughters and future grandchildren will have many choices of places in their homes to display them.

  12. Peggy says:

    My sister, a fellow crocheter, inherited a great collection of hankies from her mother-in-law, along with some from our Mother. She’s planning to make a bedcover of some kind with them. I’ve enjoyed going over suggestions offered here for their reuse.

    The author of this piece might consider keeping a few and either selling or donating the rest to someone who could use them. The stationary idea is a really interesting one for any of us who have lacy hankies.

    I also have a good number of my Dad’s, most of which aren’t that decorative but are quite useful. I’m definitely keeping ones with his initial/s, but not sure about the rest — other than perhaps using them as hankies.

  13. Lil says:

    What an inspirational story. I too, recently lost my mom and inherited all her wool, crochet hooks, knitting needles and sewing things. She was an avid crocheter, knitter and a dressmaker by trade. She made many beautiful sweaters, afghans, and crocheted runners made with fine thread. Some of the runners were shared between my daughter and son, both of whom were very close to their grandma. I still have many crocheted runners and was trying to think of something to do with them. I was inspired by the idea of photocopying them and onto letterpaper. Since we rarely write letters, I am thinking of phtocoping her crocheted runners and perhaps use it as background for the old time photosI had made for her on her 80th b’day. As for the hankies, I was planning on making more runners but your suggestions for angels was brilliant. My mom had made several crocheted little dresses for my daughter when she was small and she now has them.and is only waiting that her daughter grows into them to wear! As for the baby blankets she has safely put them away for her future grand-daughter. I recently made baby blankets for my nieces’ daughter. She was absolutely thrilled since nobody on that side of the family knits or crochets. With the great stash of wool and crochet hooks that mom left me, I think it is a sign for me to crochet afghans and sweaters for my own grandchildren to pass on that are less fortunate. Since I have retired, I have plenty of time to improve on this craft. Unfortunately stores here no longer carry wool or material and it seems that people are learning this craft less and less. Thanks for the ideas!

  14. Sarah says:

    I use mine as decorations (shabby chic). I have one hanging over the edge of a picture frame on the top of my book shelf. I have also used lace edge linens to line baskets for bread. One, I wrapped around a Christmas tree ball tied with a ribbon and hung from our Christmas tree. One is on the back of my toilet under the tissue box. I have a few older pieces that I would like to protect and I am thinking of going to Michaels and getting a shadow box to display them. At one time I had a coffee table with a glass top and I displayed some needle point items there. More recently I lined a basket (for my DH to drop his keys and change into) with a few of them. Oh, and I actually like having a real handkerchief to use for a tissue in my purse! But I am a romantic at heart.

    Great topic!

  15. Metta says:

    I have a friend who pieced old hankies together in a quilt. She has it hanging on a quilt rod in her guest bedroom and it looks great! She just did tuft quilting rather than the small stitching used in regular quilting, but she did hand stitch the hankies together.

  16. Nancy says:


    My mom always used a hankie – when she passed away, my sister and I used the “interesting” ones and sewed them onto a linen valance on a shower rod over our curtains. Seeing the hankines as I pass my the restroom reminds me of all the times I’d seen her with one in her hand or pushed up her sleeve. Guesses seem to enjoy them too. I turned some of the square one on point and hung them like a “diamond” to create a bit more interest. We had a lot to choose from so we were able to make one the went our decor.

  17. Helen says:

    I love all of these stories – I would like to purchase some of these hankies that are plain so that I can add my own edging and possibly put something decorative in the center. Does anyone know where I can purchase them either in dept sores or on line. I would appreciate any comments or possibly some interesting edging patterns. I am somewhat of a beginner so keep it simple.

  18. Barb says:

    I love all the suggestions for using the hankies..about ten years ago, I collected over 120 vintage hankies and made a king size coverlet with most of them…since the hankies were sheer, I used a pretty pale pink blanket under the coverlet and that added to the beauty of all the hankies..I also made hanky curtain panels for the window and a small table covering…with the few extra hankies, I put them in frames and hung them on the wall behind the bedstead..the look was magnificent to say the least..a smile comes to my face whenever I go into my old fashioned bedroom…

  19. Varsha suraiya says:

    I started on a stole made of triangle patches that are joined together and the result was stunning. it took me more than a year and lots of patience to complete it.A year later I thought of making another one so I could leave one for my daughter in law and the other could be for my daughter.Both are in dull gold so they can be used in western or ethnic Indian wear too.Well I enjoyed making them a lot!

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