Whether it's a garage sale find or Grandmother's treasured heirloom, vintage handkerchiefs can be framed and displayed in the home. Grouped with old photos and other family memorabilia, vintage handkerchiefs can be a reminder of past generations. Proper cleaning, correct framing with acid-free mats and under glass can help preserve these heirlooms for future generations.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Vintage handkerchief
- Mild hand-washing detergent
- Cotton swab
- White paper towel
- Pressing cloth
- Unbleached muslin or linen
- Fine needle and silk or cotton thread
- Acid free backing board
- Acid-free mat
- Linen tape
- Frame with glass
- Brads or staples
Test for colour-fastness of any embroidery before washing. Wet a cotton swab with warm soapy water and gently wet one coloured area at a time. Blot with white paper towel after five minutes. If colour transfers to the paper towel, the threads are not colour-fast and the item will need professional cleaning.
Hand-wash the handkerchief. Fill a small basin or sink with warm water and add a detergent made for hand-washing. Submerse the handkerchief, gently move it through the suds without twisting or wringing the item. When clean, rinse thoroughly in cool water and lay flat or hang to dry. Iron gently with a low to medium iron. Use a pressing cloth to avoid scorching delicate fabrics or embroidery.
Fold the handkerchief to display any embroidery or decorative images. Stitch the handkerchief to the muslin or linen with a fine needle and thread. Use tiny stitches and hide them in the folds or lace trim.
Stretch the backing fabric with the handkerchief over an acid-free backing board. Secure the backing fabric to the back of the mat with linen tape. Place a multilayer decorative mat over the handkerchief.
Assemble the frame with the backing board with handkerchief, mats and glass. If necessary, place spacers between the glass and the handkerchief to prevent the glass from touching the item. Secure the elements in the frame with small brads or staples.
Tips and warnings
- Washing is essential to remove any food residue or oils from skin or perspiration that can, over time, damage the handkerchief or attract insects.
- Wash the unbleached muslin or linen at the same time you wash the handkerchief.
- Most embroidery floss made after the late 1800s was colour-fast, but there is no way to determine the age of the embroidery floss used on an item.
- Regular mat boards contain acids that damage textiles. Acid-free mat boards do not pose the same hazards to fragile textiles.
- Space between the glass of the frame and the handkerchief is necessary to prevent mildew from forming if condensation occurs on the glass.
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