How to make hankies into an heirloom quilt

What do you do with all those hankies that you inherited? They are pretty, but what do you do with

What do you do with all those hankies that you inherited? They are pretty, but what do you do with them? We recently came across a group of hankies that we found at a garage sale that we decided to transform into a quilt.

The First Look

I brought the hankies into the shop and they went straight in to the washing machine. If they could not survive the washing machine, then they weren’t going into the quilt. Next we ironed them. Then we sorted them. There were just a few dark coloured hankies and we decided not to use those in the quilt.

We all decided that we are delighted with the invention tissues. The next step was figure out how to make the quilt cool.

The Hankies


We wanted to show off the hankies on our quilt in a way that was not static or boring. That meant we rejected just laying the hankies flat on a single standard size block.

First, we began by playing with the hankies. We folded them. We picked them up and set them down. We sorted them by type. We refolded them. Our conclusion: each hankie has its own personality. So we looked at each one as an individual and folded, draped or left whole as dictated by the design and stains on each.


We had long discussions about what colour to use behind the hankies. My older employees wanted white fabric while the younger ones wanted coloured fabric. I was making this quilt with a younger woman in mind, thus I chose the coloured backings. I also thought that this would let the unique designs and settings of each hankie show up better against its background.


Hankies used in a quilt

Each hankie was folded or left whole and we found a great coloured block to put behind it. Since we make T-shirt quilts, we used excess T-shirt material for the background colour for each hankie. We tried to highlight the designs on the hankies by how we folded them. The folded hankies were then pinned onto the coloured block of fabric.

Hankies made into a quilt


Each hankie was then sewn down onto its fabric block. Some of the hankies were sewn down more extensively while others were only partially sewn down. We generally used white and off-white thread to sew them down.

The Quilt

After the hankies were sewn to their background block, we made the quilt exactly like we would any quilt.

The Result

Everyone liked the quilt, but some of the sewers here still complained about the coloured backing blocks. They felt like the hankies were out of their element on the colourful blocks. They wished we had used white background blocks for the hankie, making a more grown up style quilt.


So, I went to eBay and searched for “vintage hankie lots”. Plenty to choose from! So I purchased two lots and we made another hankie quilt – this time with white background. We followed the same procedure – wash, iron, fold, pin, sew down and make into a quilt.

The Difference – Wow

These two quilts were made with the same procedure and turned out totally different! I still like the coloured quilt better, but Dana and Barb love the white quilt.

The white quilt feels more antique like. The quilt needs to be looked at up close because it’s more difficult to distinguish the individual hankies from a distance. I wouldn’t want to let this quilt be used much because it is white and it would get dirty easily. It looks more important. This might be a quilt to hang on a wall or use on a spare bed that does not get visited by a dog or cat.

Hankie quilt colorfulHankie quilt on white background

The colourful quilt is more approachable. I would use this quilt and enjoy the hankies. If I were making a hankie quilt for a young girl, this is how I would make it.

I would sum up the differences between the two quilts as the white quilt is like your grandmother’s china, and the colourful quilt is like your day-to-day dishes.

We can make a hankie quilt for you! We would want to know what colour you would like for the background of the hankies. The cost of hankie quilt is the cost of a normal quilt of that size.


This article was originally published here.

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