Updated on December 23, 2022 by Sarina Tariq
In our house, a handkerchief is a staple, whatever dress we choose when we go out. Absentminded that I am, I almost always forget about the Kerchief or the hanky, as it is called. It is when you do not have a kerchief in your hand that you really need one (I know from sad, sad experience in the theater watching a sob story).
Though I do not have a penchant for carrying around kerchiefs, I love making them. The easiest and the cutest of all sewing projects. Who wouldn’t?
These embroidered kerchiefs also make the best of gifts. You can personalize them with a monogram or a logo relevant to the person you are gifting them to. A person’s initials embroidered on the kerchief will be very much valued. I absolutely love the appreciation I get when I present these little hankies.
Wedding handkerchiefs: Handkerchiefs are super special for weddings. The bride and the guests need their handkerchiefs to catch their happy tears. Some brides gift monogrammed hankies to all the guests in anticipation of their use. Handkerchief wedding invites are also popular (Those may be printed, though)
How to make a Handkerchief
Dimensions of the Kerchief
For a man, I would make a 12-inch square fabric though up to 18-inch square handkerchiefs are also done.
For a girl, any square piece of fabric above 8 inches would do ( I have seen tiny 5-inch hankies, though I thought they were too small).
Fabric for the Kerchief
If you have a linen cloth in white or cream, that would be perfect for making your hanky. You get handkerchief-weight linen in fabric stores. Muslin also would do. Cotton batiste fabric is also good for making a handkerchief. Satin handkerchiefs are adorable, but cotton is the way to go for practical purposes. For a wedding kerchief, have a go at satin, though.
Printed fabrics are also great. Those prints also bring nostalgic memories when getting your fabric from old clothes. Printed materials are ideal for embroidering only if they have vacant spaces you can embroider on; then they are perfect. Of course, there are the ready-made handkerchiefs – quick and easy to embroider on.
Cutting your handkerchief.
CUT 1/2″ EXTRA for whatever size you are making. If you are making a 12 inch kerchief cut a square of 12 1/2 inches. That is if you are having a roll edge finish.
If you are turning under and making a straight stitch on the edges you will need to add 1″ extra for all sides so for a 12 inch square you will need to cut 14 inch square.
Whatever cloth I am using, I always make it a point to prewash the fabric.
Square up the fabric : A good way to square up the cloth you have is to draw a thread from the sides , especially for large weave fabric like linen.
To do this, cut the square a little larger, say 2 inches larger all around. Pick out a thread from the side of one corner near where you have marked for the kerchief and pull it out completely. This is your cutting line.
My tweezers do double duty here. If you are using a large weave cloth you can do this quite easily. Do this for all four sides.
I am not recommending ripping the cloth to get the straight line as it can damage the cloth, but there are many who do it successfully. Some grains are not straight, and you maynot get a good square shape
You can also align a side to the selvage of the fabric, then cut it with the scissors. When you do that you almost always get it square.
If you have a rotary cutter and a mat and a transparent scale, you have your job easy. If you are using the scale to mark and cut with the scissors, you need to mark correctly to get a square piece of fabric (which is not skewed in any direction)
Hem the edges
Hand hem for your kerchief – Check out the post on 16 ways to make a hand sewn hem for more ideas on finishing the hem of your handkerchief. If you love the simple hand-stitched look and think that handmade should be that truly, Hem the edges with a whip stitch or an overcast stitch.
You will have to roll the fabric edges a scant 1/4 inch to the wrong side and do the stitches with a single strand of thread on the hand needle. Be thorough with the stitching as this hem has to hold several whiffs at the nose as well as numerous tumbles in the wash. Use enough thread to last stitching all around the kerchief, or else you will have many knots around the perimeter of the kerchief – unsightly.
A shell edge is another beautiful finish you could try on the kerchief. Checkout the tutorial to do a shell edge fabric finish.
Pin stitch hem.
Another great way to finish the hem of the handkerchief is a pin stitch hem. This can be done easily by using a thick needle on a fine fabric; When the stitches are made with the same color as the fabric, the holes will remain and look wonderful.
Follow the pictures for the steps to make this hem. You come down with the needle from the fold of the turned under hem and take 2-3 threads from the fabric near the fold. Because you are using a thick needle, it automatically makes a hole.
You have to come back once more to the same place and pull the thread. This will make the hole more pronounced. Now repeat the steps by going back to the fold.
Sew a blanket stitch along the hem – finish the corners in the following way.
Sewing machine hem
Checkout the tutorial on the fabric edge finishes using sewing machine . My absolute favorite is the rolled edge finish.
I have hemmed my kerchief in a candy pink coloured thread with a rolled hem foot on my sewing machine. I have used a zig zag stitch; you can use the straight stitch as well. Check out the correct method to use the rolled hemmer foot
That contraption gives me so much joy – the way it spits out perfect rolls after taking in the frayed ends of the cloth! Remember to hem with the wrong side up when using this foot. You can also turn under the edge or apply lace as explained below.
Turned under finish – If you like the machine turn under finish for your handkerchief , it is simple enough. Just turn under 1/4 inch twice in each corner and sew a straight stitch or a zig zag stitch.
How to make a mitered corner.
If you can make a neat mitered corner, it is great on a handkerchief. Just draw a line 1 inch from the fabric edge on all four sides. Fold one corner in so it touches the corner of the lines you have drawn inside.
Turn in once more so that the raw edge is hidden. Press in place. Now Turn under the side edges. You will see that the edges meet in the corner perfectly without any bulk.
For a better tutorial for this finish checkout the tutorial on making a mitered corner here.
Checkout the post on 9 best ways to transfer embroidery designs on to your handkerchief.
1. Simple Embroidered Handkerchief
For this handkerchief I have used lazy daisy flowers and some straight stitches for the grass.
You can make simple bullion roses as detailed in this tutorial or make french knot sprays, Or Blanket stitched flowers . Any simple embroidery would do for a small handkerchief. Draw the design or copy it so that it is at least 1 inch above the hem. Mark with a pencil or a disappearing ink pen or trace it.
Thread your sewing needle with 2 strands of embroidery floss and start your work.
Here are 10 very easy to do flower embroidery designs
Checkout the post on how to embroider flowers to find about 20 ways to embellish your handkerchief with floral designs.
2. Monogrammed Hand kerchief
Embroidered initials of a person’s name are a nice personalized touch on the handkerchief. Write the monogram onto the Kerchief directly or copy it from another place (make your monogram using the computer and print it out). Trace it to the Kerchief with tracing paper and a carbon sheet. Ensure that it is the proper size for your hanky before tracing. And not wonky like mine (I drew freehand and it shows).
A heavy braided chain stitch also is a good idea. A padded satin stitch (work the stem stitch or back stitch on the letters, then do satin stitch over it ) can be used if you want a raised effect, which I have done in the Kerchief above.
Related post: Basic hand stitches with pictures.
Did you know that traditionally monograms on a man’s Kerchief were always less than 1 inch and on a woman’s Kerchief, bigger than that?.
For more details on embroidering letters or initials checkout the tutorial and for information on Monogram Checkout the post on Monograms for details on How to create monograms and 4 ways to add them to your hankies and placements and simple monogram rules to follow.
3. Lace edged handkerchief
Checkout the post on the different types of lace trims you can use to edge your kerchiefs
When adding the lace to the fabric, the only difficult part is the corner. I will explain how I have created a mitered effect.
Start by doing a zig zag stitch on the fabric edges.
Place the lace on top of the zig-zagged fabric edge. Pin in place. Start stitching. Start from one side just short of 1/4 inch from that corner. Do not stitch till the next edge. Stop 1/4 inch from the next edge.
Fold the lace backward from the edge. The fold should be level with the edge. Sew a diagonal stitch ( by hand or by sewing machine) as in the picture below.
This will give you a mitered corner. Continue stitching and do this to all corners
4.Crochet edged handkerchief
If you know to crochet, you can do a crochet edge to your handkerchief. You will be attaching the crochet thread ( Use a thin crochet thread) to the handkerchief hem with a crochet hook. If you do not know crochet, you can find crochet lace and attach it to the handkerchief edge with buttonhole stitches or by sewing machine. The crochet lace I have is not good, but if I find a more delicate and beautiful one, I will be hooked on this.
Then there is also the option to do machine embroidery on the handkerchief. Checkout this detailed tutorial to embroider a wedding hanky using an embroidery machine. Get your stack of hankies done fast.
The Pinterest board – Embroidered Handkercheifs will give you more inspiration pictures of beautiful embroidery designs and techniques.