How to Make Cotton Handkerchiefs

Updated July 20, 2017

A handmade cotton handkerchief is an ideal craft idea for the new seamstress. The steps to make one are basic, and you can focus on your hand-stitching skills. Handkerchiefs are small and square, so they are easy to hold on to, and you will not have to worry about manoeuvring your needle and thread around tricky shapes or edges. Despite its simplicity, you can certainly add your own touch to any handkerchief by choosing fabric with a unique pattern.

Choose fabric with a pattern you can follow as you stitch. This will make the process easier and will ensure that your stitches stay a consistent distance apart. Cotton shirting fabric is an ideal choice, as it is a nice weight, machine washable and can be ironed. Do not worry if your fabric is not perfectly 12.5 inches-by-12.5 inches. Some irregularity will add character to your handmade handkerchief. Wash the fabric before you sew to avoid any shrinking.

Select a spool of hand quilting thread. Choose a colour that contrasts with the fabric pattern for added flair or match the fabric perfectly. Put your personal stamp on your handkerchief.

Roll the outer edge of the fabric inward to make a nice rolled hem. To do this, hold the fabric with the wrong side facing you. Use your thumb and index finger to tightly roll an outer edge toward the middle. Roll about ΒΌ inch of fabric. Make sure to roll the fabric tightly, so it will hold up in the wash.

Thread your needle, so there is enough to go around the hem of the entire handkerchief. You will need approximately 55 inches of thread. Place the needle in the rolled edge and come out about a quarter inch ahead in the body of fabric. Insert the needle back into the roll a few threads to the left of where you previously came out. Continue making stitches along the entire length of one side of the handkerchief. When you reach a corner, roll the perpendicular edge of the handkerchief just as you did with the first side. Repeat for all sides. Make stitches small and close together if you are using thread that perfectly matches the fabric. For thread that is a contrasting colour, make the stitches a bit larger to be part of the decoration.

Secure the thread by making a small knot nearly underneath the rolled edge so that it is not visible. Do this twice, to ensure the hem is secure. Cut the thread off as close to the knot as possible.

Things You'll Need

  • 12.5 inches-by-12.5 inches cotton shirting fabric
  • Hand quilting thread
  • Needle
  • Ruler
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About the Author

Living in Syracuse, New York, Jessica Purchiaroni has been producing local television news since 2006. She is responsible for creating interesting newscasts daily. Her shows were honored with Associated Press awards in 2009 and 2010. Jessica holds a bachelor's degree in broadcast journalism from the SI Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.