Once there was a generation of ladies who knew the talents of needlework, and those talents were often displayed in their handkerchiefs. In my collection are examples of crochet, both on borders and open work on corners.
The time and effort, as well as the skill, meant that many of these handkerchiefs never came near a nose. There was an old saying: "One for show and one for blow." The clever ladies in Japan sometimes had pockets in their kimono--the left sleeve for a less expensive, plain hankie and the right sleeve for the fashionable, elegant one intended only for show.
In the era of the coronavirus, we can identify with the mothers of the 1800s when teachers, placing more emphasis on hygiene, began inspecting the handkerchiefs children brought to school each day, requiring one that was fresh and clean. Mothers respected the idea of enforcing better hygiene, but sending their children to school each day with a fresh white hankie was challenging. Their solution--a clean white hankie for the teacher's inspection but another one in their pocket made from colored calico or other scraps of fabric less expensive and easier to wash.
Surprisingly, printed handkerchiefs date back to the early years of our nation. It is said that Martha Washington created a handkerchief to promote her husband. One collector has a handkerchief from England that is printed with King Edward's abdication speech.
My favorites are the white-on-white hankies, with the decorative changes in texture and subtle designs in various white threads. One in my inherited collection was even turned into a doll for gifting.
If you missed last week's blog, you may want to scroll back to it to see the elegant needlework of my grandmother, Maude Wilson Hawk.
You can click on images to enlarge.