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How To Use Vintage Handkerchiefs as Decor

By Rachel

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Last Updated on March 14, 2024 by Rachel Granholm

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.

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.

a lidless Ironstone tureen styled with a vintage linen

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How to Use Vintage Handkerchiefs as Decor

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

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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Rachel from The Antiqued Journey blog

Hey! I’m Rachel!

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

Here on the blog I love to share my excitement, knowledge, and ideas about all things antique, vintage, and thrifted. Let’s journey together!

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