Thursday, November 7, 2013

Kristen: Civil War Handkerchief Tutorial

Busy busy busy!

Another day, another tutorial! I've been in a teaching sort of mood lately (ha-I'm a teacher and I play one on tv!) Hopefully I am inspiring others with my beautiful writing. If not, then at the very least I've spent 20 minutes relaxing while I write!

I actually had a hard time with this one. At first I had thought Civil War handkerchiefs were those small, dainty things. Yet there are not many people making/using them in the hobby. I keep nearly a dozen little cloths that serve a handkerchief's purpose, but they don't look very ladylike (or clean at the end of an event!) My research has taken me to a few different places, which I will share with you below:

The Workwoman's Guide: 1840
Pocket Handkerchiefs
These are made of French cambric, fine lawn, Scotch cambric, cotton, or silk; the former are chiefly worn by ladies, and the latter by gentlemen; lawn and Scotch cambric are used by young persons and children; cotton handkerchiefs are confined to the working classes.

Ladies' pocket handkerchiefs are usually eleven or twelve nails square; they are purchased woven on purpose with borders. Sometimes very fine cambric may be procured eleven nails wide, which many persons prefer to the bordered handkerchiefs; these are often made with broad hems, half or three quarters of a nail deep, and a row of open veining worked at the bottom of the hem, or a narrow edging of lace is sewed all around.
(Please note that a nail is 2.25 inches)

From 1858, a little snippet from Godey's. No mention of size though...

Searching through the sewing academy (, most handkerchief sizes seem to lie within the 18-30 inch category. Not so much the dainty little things I find in the thrift store so often!

Without waiting any longer, here is my quick guide. Please forgive the wrinkled fabric-no matter how hard I try, my clumsy fingers muss up everything! I used 100% pima cotton, a fine recommendation from the great Glenna Joe Christen herself.

 1.  After cutting my 19x19 inch square, I rolled all of the hems under, making the border about an inch around. Pin down (be careful not to poke yourself, your blood will clash with the cotton).
 2. You will now begin an invisible or hidden stitch. First, pull your thread from the inside of that rolled hem. It should poke through like so...
3. Next, you will take your needle and pick up only a small thread, but not too small! You don't want it to show through but you also don't want to break it.
 4. Take your needle through the tunnel created by the roll of your hem. Poke it through the other side (this will take practice-don't get frustrated, as your sweat will clash with the cotton).
5. Pull through and hook on to another thread, repeating the process! When finished, it should look mostly like this on the inside(minus the wrinkles).
6. The outside will look as if there is no thread. The joke's on them! There is thread there, but it is so small that no one will be able to see it.

These handkerchiefs make the perfect little accessory or gift. You could also embellish them for mourning, though I've yet to have time for that! It seems that all the beautiful, fashionable young ladies are wearing handkerchiefs these days...
 A fine example of womanhood!
That handkerchief sure compliments her overall awesomeness
**Thanks to Mr. Giorlando for photos that have contributed to my inflated ego

I've already completed a few of these lovely accessories, and will be adding them to my etsy shop very soon. So if you are one of those people that simply MUST have one, but lack the sewing skills, I will oblige you with the opportunity to buy one (I've really not seen any for sale, though I'm sure they exist). On that note, I must leave you for another project!

Coming Soon-A lovely post about another lovely project by a lovely author...


1 comment:

  1. kristen, I am a Civil War storyteller/living historian, now author of Civil War novel based on family memoirs and official records. Occasionally, I get very caught up in the story and breakdown and weep real tears, now the nose needs my sister made me a thin linen handerkerchief with the initial of my character embroidered in the corner. So now, I use the kerchief whether or not I shed real tears or pretend tears. Thank you for the instructions and the various fabrics you use. Our mother was a teenager in the 1940's and carried a handkerchief all her days. She crocheted and tatted lovely lace patterns into the edges. Hers were smaller than your Victorian ones. She tucked hers into the cuff of her left sleeve. Such a lady who looked like the actress Jennifer Jones. Thank you for keying up these memoires with the Facebook share.



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