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How To Use Vintage Handkerchiefs as Decor

By Rachel

Share this post. Share the Journey!

I’m sharing my newest collection and how to use vintage handkerchiefs as decor!

Come see the pretty hankies that have made there way into my life and learn how to use vintage handkerchiefs as decor!

I have, not once, in all my years of thrifting, come across a vintage hanky. That has all changed in the past two months. I’ve gone from having zero vintage handkerchiefs to amassing a collection of ten!!

These vintage hanky’s have stolen my heart. They are delicate and feminine, infusing the essence of a romantic cottage style.

Showcasing Vintage Handkerchiefs

You guys. I don’t know what’s happening. For some reason, people are getting rid of vintage hankies left and right and I’m the one finding them all!! Am I mad about it? Not. One. Bit.

I never knew I needed hanky’s in my life until I did. I’ve found hankies in all the pretty colors. Some made in Sweden, some with floral embroidery and others donning lace and scalloped edges.

Like everything else, I believe these old handkerchiefs found me, I didn’t find them. I’ve been busy figuring out what to do with each of them and have found a few simple ways of displaying hankies. Come along as I share how to use vintage handkerchiefs as decor!

a blue and white vintage hanky displayed with vintage decor in a bathroom

Where to Find Vintage Handkerchiefs

I realize that many of you reading this probably do not have any vintage hankies. That’s totally okay!

My hope in writing this post is to encourage you to go and find some. So, to start, I wanted to give you some ideas of where you can find vintage hankies.

a vintage green Swedish hanky styled underneath a enamel teapot with Ironstone

The best place I have found, which also happens to be the most affordable, is at thrift stores! Look all around and in every department. Hankies are kind of random items and tend to get lost easily, ending up in weird locations within the store.

I’ve actually pulled most of mine out from boxes that hadn’t even been unpacked yet. I’ve also found a few in the linens department as well as on shelves with other decor.

In my experience, old handkerchiefs from thrift stores will cost you less than $2 each.

a Spring vignette display with vintage decor and a vintage hanky with Tulips

Other places you can find vintage handkerchiefs include:

  • antique shops
  • estate sales
  • Mercari
  • Etsy

At antique stores, you will most likely see piles of vintage linens and textiles in many different booths. Spend time digging through those piles. I guarantee you will find some!

Whenever my husband and I go antiquing and he hasn’t seen me for awhile, he knows I’m probably on the floor digging through linens.

a lidless Ironstone tureen styled with a vintage linen

At estate sales, look for the room in the house where they are selling all of the blankets, towels and sheets. In my experience, that room will have the vintage textiles in it as well.

Now that you know where to find vintage hankies, let’s put them to good use and decorate with them!

Shop the Look!

How to Use Vintage Handkerchiefs as Decor

Vintage Handkerchiefs In a Bowl.

A super easy way to use a hanky as decor is to display it in a bowl. Any shallow bowl will work.

All I did was place one end of the hanky in a bowl and let the other end hang out the front.

a vintage embroidered hanky displayed in a milk glass bowl

If the hanky has decorative lace or embroidery work that you want to showcase, fold the hanky in such a way so that the pretty detail is showing.

For example, with the linen hanky below, I folded it in half lengthwise so it made a triangle, then folded both ends in. I was left with the white flowers showing in the front, which is exactly the look I was going for!

a small vintage vignette with a vintage embroidered hanky

In the vintage bowl below, I placed a delicate lace hanky with the prettiest edges I’ve ever seen.

All I did was simply fold the handkerchief in half. This is a no-fuss way to showcase the vintage textile.

To add a bit of height and texture to the display, try placing a book underneath the bowl. Here, I chose a vintage book in a teal color to play off the dark blues present on the bowl.

This is a super easy way to create a vignette in a small space!

a vintage lace hanky in a vintage blue and white bowl

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Vintage Hankies Sticking out Of a Cup.

Another fun way to arrange an old hanky is by placing it in a small cup, creamer, or sugar dish.

In the kitchen, I thought it would be cute to have this hanky with blue embroidered flowers sitting in one of my vintage copper creamers.

This method not only adds color to this dark shelf but the linen hanky also brings in a soft element, breaking up the metal and wood surfaces.

a vintage hanky embroidered with blue and yellow flowers

Another cool thing about decorating with vintage hankies is that you can mix and match them.

I paired the blue embroidered hanky with this green one on the same shelf. The two textiles are complementary to each other, creating a shelf display that looks and feels united.

a vintage green Swedish hanky displayed in a vintage copper creamer

Vintage Handkerchiefs Draped Over a Vintage Book.

I have found that, when paired together, vintage books and vintage hankies make for a lovely display.

For a minimal yet feminine look on the mantel, I used a sage green book down as a base. Then, I draped a white hanky with scalloped edges over it, making sure that some of the book color could still be seen.

The milk glass banana stand filled with Tulips ties the whole look together.

a vintage hanky draped over a vintage book on a mantel

Below, you will see the same mantel display as above, only I swapped the scalloped edged hanky for this lace one.

It’s a little switch yet creates a totally different look!

a vintage lace hanky draped over a vintage book with milk glass on a mantel

So, if you are wanting to change up the feel of a space but don’t want to move around all your decor, simply swap or add linens.

I promise you will notice the subtle effect! It’s the easiest way I know to style linens and how to use vintage handkerchiefs as decor.

a vintage lace hanky draped over a vintage book with milk glass. How to use vintage handkerchiefs as decor.

Vintage Hankies as Part of a Vignette.

You probably know by now that I love to create vignettes. It’s so satisfying to pack many fun decor items into a small space, creating a story within that display.

vintage green and white butter pats with other vintage dishes for Fall

Incorporating vintage decor and hankies into vignettes helps to establish soft layers.

a vintage blue and white hanky used in a bathroom vignette

In the hall bath, I like to use this towel rack shelf to display pretty things.

I always choose a color theme, which helps keep things cohesive. The vintage blue and white hanky that you see here was the inspiration for the theme this time around.

I used the hanky as a base layer, creating contrast between the other elements. In a way, having the handkerchief on the bottom helps your head to move in a circular motion, allowing your eyes to slowly move from one piece to the next.

a vintage blue and white hanky used in a Spring vignette

The vignette below was an early Spring display. I utilized a vintage hanky to add a pop of color to the middle of the arrangement.

If your home decor tends to sway more neutral, using a few colorful hankies here and there will help create drama and interest.

a Spring vignette with vintage decor and a vintage handkerchief

Closing Tidbits on How to Use Vintage Handkerchiefs as Decor

I hope you found helpful ideas on how to use vintage handkerchiefs as decor! These old textiles are such treasures. Vintage decor, especially hankies, exude an old-world charm and tell stories ages old.

By using and incorporating old handkerchiefs within your existing decor, you are infusing that charm into your home. Be encouraged to continue to tell the story of old things, giving timeless vintage decor a new life.

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Leave me a comment! Do you have any vintage hankies? How do you use them? I love hearing from you!

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a vintage embroidered hanky displayed on a vintage book

If you are new here, I’m Rachel, the writer and content creator here at The Antiqued Journey. I’m so happy to have you! I encourage you to stop by the ‘about me’ page to get to know me a little more. Here on the blog, you will find loads of inspiration for decorating with vintage and antique decor, simple DIY crafts and many thrifting adventures. If that interests you, I invite you to sign up for my e-mail. You will receive a free digital download as a thank you!

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36 Comments. Leave new

  • Debra@CommonGround
    May 11, 2023 1:33 pm

    I love how you’ve displayed your lovely hankies, Rachel. It’s such a charming custom. Kleenex really changed how ladies carried them in their purses as a matter of fact. Maybe not as convenient but much more personable. I love the lacy edges that are works of art in the older ones, and the fun graphic embroidery of the 40’s and 50’s. Such a fun post near Mother’s Day.

    • Rachel Granholm
      May 11, 2023 2:46 pm

      Hey Debra!
      Thanks so much!! I know..they don’t just remind you of simpler times?? They have been so much fun to find and I look forward to finding more!! Thanks for stopping by today…have a great weekend ahead!

  • I’ve also recently discovered the beauty of hankies. They add so much softness and style to vignettes. Thanks for thinking to write about them and all your great ideas.

    • Rachel Granholm
      May 11, 2023 3:31 pm

      Hi Robin!!
      You are so welcome! Oh yay..that’s so fun!! They do…I’m just in love with how they look and the best part is I can use many of them year round! I’m so happy you found encouragement here today…thank you so much for the lovely comment. I appreciate it!!

  • Love, love, love these vintage hankies, Rachel! Especially, the one with the forget-me-knots because it’s one of my all-time favorite flowers. They really do add such a soft layer to your home decor and would be so special to frame too! Hugs, CoCo

    • Rachel Granholm
      May 11, 2023 6:17 pm

      Thank you!!! I’m so happy you enjoyed it. It’s been so much fun finding these pretty things!!

  • Esmé Slabbert
    May 12, 2023 11:24 am

    Oh wow, love all those vintage hankies you have here. So much beauty
    I visited you via FARMHOUSE FRIDAY 299
    If not already part of SSPS, and are interested, find my entries: 37+38, and then navigate toward the bottom of my page for the Senior Salon Pit Stop linkup, we hope to meet you there virtually.

  • How can anyone go wrong when these little cuties are $2 each??? You did a great job creating charming vignettes with these hankies. I love all the embroidery on them. Fabulous job Rachel.

  • Collecting items can be so fun! I really enjoyed seeing your collection of hankies! I love how you paired them with the different colors of vintage dishes you own! So pretty! Now whenever I see a vintage hankie I know I’ll think of you!

  • […] some softness, I placed a white and blue striped linen napkin in the […]

  • […] Since the cloche is round, I arranged my shells in a circular shape on top of the linen. […]

  • Loved this post! I have been collecting vintage hankies for decades. Being a Southerner, I carry one in my purse at all times, and have given them away at funerals and weddings. It is a lovely thing, and I am pleased to use them. New ones are usually printed (oh, the horror! lol) and do not invite one to touch them as do the vintage ones with their embroidery and lace!

    • Rachel Granholm
      August 9, 2023 1:19 pm

      Hi Beth!
      I’m happy to have you here! My middle name is Beth 🙂
      I’m so excited that these old textiles excite you as much as they do for me. The lace ones are my very favorite and get so excited when I find one out thrifting or at an antique mall. Thanks so much for the lovely comment!!

  • My mom had many beautiful hankies, some that she had embroidered the edges. Now instead of sitting in a drawer, I can display them for everyone to see.

    • Rachel Granholm
      August 9, 2023 8:50 pm

      Hi Kathy!!
      That’s so amazing!! I’m so happy this inspired you for ways to display them. They are special and so pretty! I hope you find joy in them when you see them around your house 🙂 Thanks so much for stopping by and for the lovely comment!

  • you have such nice ideas, I just found your site and love it. Moved into a new house and these ideas will be perfect. I miss the old quality items from my mom’s era. I will be checking
    in often.
    Thank You

    • Rachel Granholm
      August 10, 2023 1:07 pm

      Hi Peggy!
      I’m delighted to have you! I joke all the time that I was born in the wrong era because I love all the things that are way older than me 🙂 I hope you have so much fun decorating your new home! Glad these ideas were helpful for you. Thanks so much for being here!

  • I love the way you have used your hankies & this might just convince me to get both of grandma’s hankies out. Now I ordered the “vintage” hankies from Amazon. I swear I saw my inspiration on a Pioneer Woman’s show. I live way past the back woods & boondocks, so there is no need for curtains. What I saw in that flash, was using cafe curtain rings & Amazon hankies to make a valance for my 2 kitchen windows. When the hankies fade I’ll just order some more.

    • Rachel Granholm
      August 10, 2023 9:19 pm

      Hi, Laura!
      Thanks so much for your comment!! I’m so happy that this post was encouraging for you. I think a cafe curtain with hankies is going to look lovely!! I totally love that idea! Thanks so much for stopping by today!

  • […] know I’m a vintage loving girl at heart and I really wanted this shelf to embody all of the vintage things that I […]

  • […] coordinate with what’s happening in my hutch. To break up all the hard lines, I draped this vintage lace hanky across the top of the book. Isn’t it so pretty?! Another thrift store […]

  • […] decor is my favorite. Try draping a delicate lace-edged handkerchief over a vintage book on a shelf or fold a small tea towel and place it in a vintage […]

  • I have a bag full of pretty antique handkerchiefs. Thanks for giving me ideas on how to display them.

    • Rachel Granholm
      October 23, 2023 3:59 pm

      Hi Joyce!
      That’s amazing!! I’m so happy you can bring them out of the bag and display them! They are so much fun to decorate with:) Thanks for the lovely comment!

  • I have a pretty white wicker kind of flat basket with my lovely vintage handkerchief’s lying in the basket. Makes a nice soft bedroom dresser decor. My most lovely handkerchief’s will be showing their fancy borders beautifully! I also have a pretty vignette with vintage pearls lying on a gorgeous ‘kerchief’. I always like to keep a beautiful one in my purse and it always evokes a conversation when i show it …

    • Rachel Granholm
      October 23, 2023 5:48 pm

      Hi Peggy!
      How nice! It sounds like you have a beautiful collection of these pretty linens. Thanks so much for sharing with me!

  • Hi Rachel,
    How do you recommend cleaning linens, especially spot/stain removal?

    • Rachel Granholm
      November 7, 2023 10:22 pm

      I use the powdered OxiClean…usually the version for whites. I put warm water in a bucket or sink, depending on the size of the linen, and leave it to soak for a few hours. If there are stubborn stains, I spray it with OxiClean spray first. Hope that helps!!

  • […] linens are another item that is up there on ‘my favorites’ list, vintage handkerchiefs in […]

  • […] creamer was sitting on a shelf in an antique mall, amongst some other vintage kitchen decor, just waiting for me:) At $5.00, I did pay more than I should of for this because […]

  • […] 4. How to Use Vintage Handkerchiefs as Decor […]

  • […] Then, the forest theme comes into play with the Pine trees and pinecones. To add my own spin on it, vintage decor is infused […]

  • […] beloved vintage treasures such as milk glass and transferware and paired them with colorful books, hankies, and linens. Decorating your home for the seasons, especially Spring, is […]

  • […] always on the hunt for new pieces of vintage decor such as copper, milk glass, creamers, or linens. I also look for craft supplies, useful or needed household items, and vintage […]


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Hello I’m Rachel.

I’m so glad you are here! Old things are my jam. Antique malls and thrift stores are my happy places.

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