Handkerchiefs Are Freakin' Fantastic

Handkerchiefs get a really bad rap.  I understand why, because I used to think the exact same thing everyone does in our culture.  Just, ew, right?  You blow your nose into a piece of cloth... and then you're supposed to blow your nose into this goopy cloth again?  Ick.  Gross.

But this reaction is dead wrong.  And it's impossible to really know how wrong it is until you actually try to use hankies yourself.  When all you've experienced with blowing your nose is the goopy wet mess of the tissue right after you've used it, how could you know anything else?  I had a couple friends try to get me to use hankies for years, telling me that they were wonderful, and I never believed them.  I always had this visceral shudder roll through me at the idea.  It wasn't until I was living with someone who used them (and let me borrow one when we didn't have any tissues in the house) that I realized how awesome handkerchiefs really are.

The key piece of missing information is this: snot is mostly made of water, and that water evaporates quickly from a hankie (within a few hours).  If I blow my nose in a hankie and then go to use it a few hours later, I usually just give it a quick snap with my wrist to unfold the hankie completely, and it's often hard to tell that it was used at all.  Slowly, it's true, there will be a residue left (either a thin dry film or small hard knots where boogers have dried), but that's the point where you just throw that hankie in the laundry and grab another one.  It really is astonishing just how not-gross the hankies are for quite a long time with repeated use.  Another tip for non-icky hankie use: fold over a couple inches of the top of the hankie, and then blow your nose into the double layer of fabric.

Reasons to use hankies:
Speaking of making sure your hankies are sufficiently soft: the source of your handkerchiefs is very important.  If you buy them new from the store, they will most likely be stiff - those ones are not easier on your nose than tissues.  In fact, I'm betting if you tried those ones, you'd be cursing my name and calling me a liar, because they can be quite uncomfortable at first.  One solution is simply to wait it out with time and wash them a lot until they soften, but that can take a loooong time and be uncomfortable in the meantime.  Instead, I recommend these methods of obtaining soft hankies:
One caveat with using hankies: when you are actually ill and need to blow your nose constantly, you have to have a lot of hankies in order to make it not be really gross.  I find that when I have a bad cold, I probably need at least five hankies, if not something more like ten, in order to have the first hankie be dry enough to use when I need it again.  So if you're just starting your hankie collection, don't have enough clean hankies when you get sick, or you have new hankies that haven't softened enough yet (stiff hankies will hurt your nose if you use them constantly during a cold, just like tissues will eventually hurt your nose with repeated use), you might need to buy a box of tissues to get through being sick.  I did that for a while, until I discovered that the PTO shop had soft hankies that I could stock up on.  Now, of course, I realize just how easy they are to make myself, so I doubt it will ever be a problem again.

On to making hankies: it's really easy!  I just made twelve handkerchiefs.  DeForest had an old, well-used, very soft flannel pillowcase that had a couple holes worn in it.  I don't remember what he was going to do with it - it was sitting on his project shelf in the craft room, waiting to be made into something.  I looked at it a few days ago, and thought it would make great hankies (another friend of mine makes her hankies out of old flannel).


Artistic angled photo, ooo...

I didn't have a set size I was aiming for - just kind of cut it up into whatever sizes fit around the holes.  I'm actually curious as to which sizes I will like best.  The hankies I have picked up from thrift shops have ranged from roughly a square foot to a square... maybe eight inches?  (I'm not going to go measure - this is ballparking it from memory.)  

12 hankies, spread out on the floor!

After cutting the pieces into rectangles on my cutting mat, I used the iron to turn the edges over twice and pinned them.  I just turned them over the smallest amount I could comfortably do, which was about a quarter inch each turn.  I then sewed the edges up with a simple straight stitch, and ironed them again.  Bam, nicely hemmed edges.

Backside of one of the hankies, so you can see the hemmed edge.

I hope I've convinced a few more people just how easy and wonderful it is to use hankies.  The disposable paper hygiene industry (paper towels, paper napkins, tissues) is completely unnecessary in most situations and is incredibly wasteful.  When I switched over to using cloth towels, napkins, and hankies, my trash reduced dramatically.  More on cloth towels and napkins another day, I think.  :)  Happy hankie using!  ~Kelly

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