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How to Make a Vintage Hankie Quilt

Today I’m going to show you how to make a Vintage Hankie Baby Quilt. It’s a great way to use up some vintage handkerchiefs taking up space in your closet! I think this quilt makes such a sweet keepsake for a new baby!

Vintage Hankie Quilt Pattern

I love to collect vintage linens, the unique styles, colors, and prints that you can only seem to find in vintage linens. My sister had a baby girl and I decided to use up some of my stash of vintage hankies to make a quilt for her sweet baby girl.

Vintage Hankie Quilt Pattern

(and here is that sweet baby girl many years later)

Vintage Hankie Quilt Pattern

Vintage Hankie Quilt Pattern & Tutorial

Vintage Hankie Quilt Pattern

One of the things I love about this quilt is that it’s incredibly soft, totally one of a kind and perfect for little ones to snuggle up in! It’s extra soft since I backed it in chenille (if you use chenille DON’T forget to prewash).

I’m very happy with how it turned out. It’s made from Twelve 9″x9″ blocks. I’ll share with you a little about how I made it.

Where to Find Vintage Hankies

I can usually find vintage hankies at local thrift shops for less than a few dollars apiece. You can also find them on Etsy. When I was picking out ones to use in this quilt, I looked for red or turquoise ones to hopefully tie the colors of the quilt together.

Just a note before we get started. I have received A LOT of emails telling me that I should not EVER cut up or sew vintage linen.  I understand their perspective. However, I would argue that these hankies are much better used (and remembered) in a quilt.  Seriously, otherwise, they’re just sitting in a box in a closet, and who gets to enjoy that?

Vintage Hankie Quilt Pattern

Okay to make the quilt…


Vintage Hankie Quilt Pattern

My Quilt is approximately 25″ x 34″

  • 12 Vintage Handkerchiefs – try to get them all close to the same size; if you can’t find 12 the same size, I’ll talk about handling that.
  • 1/2 to 1 Yard of a Lightweight Cotton like a Voile or a Lawn (Liberty would be great for this!)
  • Quilt Backing: 1 yard of fabric – I used chenille, but you can use whatever you’d like.
  • Binding: 1/2 yard
  • Quilt Batting to fit quilt size

NOTE: I normally do not pre-wash my fabrics, but since your hankies have been washed (let’s hope at least!) already, you want your other fabrics to be washed as well. Wash and dry on low your voile fabrics and quilt backing.


Step One: Decide what size Squares you want to work with

Measure your largest hankie then subtract 1/2″ from each side. So if you have a 10 1/2″ hankie, you’re dealing with 10″ squares.

If you only have one large hankie and the rest are small, I recommend going with whatever is the most common size. Assuming you’re ok with trimming your largest hankie down to size. 

So if most of your hankies are 9 1/2″ squares, and you have one that is 10 1/2″, I’d trim the 10 1/2″ one down and work with a 9″ square as your base.  Adjust based on what you have on hand.

On your largest hankies, trim the hem off of the hankies so that they are 10″ x 10″  (Or whatever size you’ve decided to work with).

Step Two: What to do with Small Handkerchiefs

Vintage Hankie Quilt Pattern

Cut one piece of Voile or lawn for each of your small hankies.  Center the hanky on the square, and stitch the hanky to the square leaving the original hem on. You will stitch right on top of the existing hem.

Vintage Hankie Quilt Pattern

Step Three: Assemble the Top

Arrange your squares into 4 rows of 3.  I like to use a quilt wall to help me decide on a layout. It makes it much easier to visualize.

Stitch each of your rows together, and press the seams to one side. I like to press my even rows to the right and odd rows to the left.

After your rows are sewn, stitch the rows together.

Step Four: Quilting

Vintage Hankie Quilt Pattern

Make a Quilt Sandwich and stitch the quilt using straight seams.  I think the easiest thing to do since you don’t want to cover up the hankies is to do a “stitch in the ditch.” This means to stitch quilting lines into the seams between the squares.

To see how to make a “quilt sandwich” check out this tutorial. 

This post was published previously. It has been updated with additional information and instructions.

More Fun Vintage Hankie Projects:

Baby Burp Cloths Made from Vintage Hankies

Things to Make from Vintage Linens

DIY Bookmarks Made with Vintage Linens

Similar Posts


  1. That quilt is beautiful and timeless. It will be a family heirloom I am sure. And yes, she is a beauty, those eyes!

  2. My grandmother recently tried to give me a bunch of similar hankies, and as beautiful as they are, I couldn’t take them because I didn’t know what to do with him. This is a GREAT idea! Thanks for the inspiration!

    1. Among my step-mother’s belongings were a lot of hankies. Her daughter, my half sister, is building a new house. I want to use those hankies to make a quilt for a housewarming gift. She will treasure it, I know.

  3. She is a beauty, and what a special quilt. I’m sure it will be treasured for years to come. BTW, I have also learned the same lesson with chenille. 🙂

  4. so so pretty! I have some vintage hankies of my mom’s and grandma’s, but I’m saving them up and can hopefully make a little collection. This is such a great way to put them to use! 🙂

  5. too funny! I just wrote on my blog about vintage hankies, and here I see you have made a blanket! Well done too 🙂 I have so often wanted to make one of these myself.

  6. This is one of the best ideas that i have seen in a really long time. I have piles of vintage hankies that belonged to my grandma. Thanks for the inspiration. Your blog is awesome.

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  8. I have my grandmothers hankies. I guess there are at least 30 of them. All sizes and colors. I plan on making a quilt with them. That is if my daughter ever has kids (she’s 32 and engaged).

  9. My mother gave me her old hankies. So I made them into a quilt for her. Only one year befor she passed away. Two of her great grandaughter now share the quilt. Need to make one more. They are so nice, will stay in the family for a long time. Also made a nice lable for it.

  10. I just saw this quilt, along with your burp cloths made with the vintage hankies. I loved them! I have been collecting hankies for years, and some have been passed down from my Grandmother. I loved the pairing of White Chenille that you used for the backing of this quilt, I have been looking for just the right fabric to back one with. I agree with you on using stitch in the ditch as to not to detract from your hankies. Again thanks for great ideas. When I finish mine, I will send you a picture.

  11. When my grandma moved into a nursing home because of Alzheimer’s, I was given a box of hankies. I found out that she was in an exchange back in the 1940’s and 1950’s. There are hankies from all over the US. Most of them have the name and city, state of the lady that sent them to her. There is even 2 from Paris, France from the 1920’s. I have tried to come up with something to do with them besides just sitting in a box. This may just be the thing. Maybe not a baby quilt per se, but possibly a quilt to hang that displays the hankies.

    1. What a treasure!! That is an amazing keepsake to have of your grandmother. The hankies sound beautiful from what you’ve described. Have you thought of framing the hankies? I’ve seen that done before and they are beautiful hung on the wall.

  12. I was looking for a way to make a hankie quilt for are newest to be grandbaby due AUG. looks like I can do this been saving hankies thanks for the ideal yours look great

  13. I love this little quilt. It makes me want to raid my sister’s collection of antique hankies and run to my machine…Sadly, s
    he would object to me taking them.

  14. Question – when you backed some of the hankies with the printed voile, did the print of the voile show through? If it did, did it matter? Some old hankies are very thin, as you know. Hope you can help me. Thanks

    1. Yes, On some of them, but it wasn’t enough to be very noticeable or bothersome to me. I tried to pick voile fabric that was close in design to my hankies in case it did show through.

      1. Melissa – thank you so much for your response. I should have come to you first!!! It would have saved me so much time on searching. I will look for some voile now and begin. Wish me luck!! Laurie

  15. Love it! I have a huge pile of hankies that were my grandmothers and great-aunts and I have been wanting to make them into a quilt. I didn’t want quilt lines in them and that has been detouring me. 9 inches seems big are to not quilt, have you had any problems with the batting shifting-or does that kind not do that?

    1. I gave the quilt to my niece and I have not heard from my sister that it is a problem. I think you could research the batting a bit, I’ve made several quilts with 9″ blocks that are only stitch in the ditch quilted and not had any problems with batting ever bunching up. I always use 100% cotton batting, usually quilters dream cotton.
      Hope this helps!

  16. I am love Minky Dot and to me this would make the MOST perfect backing. I have a minky dot quilt and sleep with it, not only that I have one in every room to snuggle with.

  17. I always have thought hankies would make a cute quilt. Even bandana would be cute. Will have to try and make one of these. So cute!.

  18. GREAT…I’m just starting this quilting thing (I think I caught the bug from a friend) and NOW I have to start scouring farmers/flea markets. Will it ever warm up so they open and I can get started..lol

  19. If you don’t have access to children’s handkerchiefs, check at your nearest Amish store. They usually have quite a number of different ones, as well as ladies’ handkerchiefs. I’ve made 8 handkerchief quilts using vintage ladies’ handkerchiefs–3 for sons & their wives, 2 as 50th anniversary gifts, 1 as a wedding gift, 1 for ourselves, & was hired by a friend to make one for her using her handkerchiefs, & it was for her only granddaughter. I have put all of them on 19″ square blocks of white & hand-sew them, then use sashings & corner posts to set them together. Sometimes I’ve used 1930’s fabrics for that. Three of them were “themed” in that I used only handkerchiefs containing purple/lavender in one, blue in one, & red in another–the favorite colors of the recipients.
    Handkerchiefs have always fascinated me & I especially like “calendar” hankies. Years ago, in TN at a flea market, I found a calendar hankie of 1960–the birth year of one of our sons! Paid way too much for it but knew I would never see another–& I haven’t!
    I have also designed & made a quilt using ladies’ gloves, which is rather unique, but it was a lot of fun!
    I’m from the era when ALL ladies carried dress gloves & a hankie. Guess that’s the reason for my interest in those two items!
    Kathy East

    1. Thank you so much for the tips. I didn’t even think about sashing with corner posts, but I think I might try that one next. Once I dug though a whole box of vintage hankies looking for one with my birth year. I LOVE those hankies, you’re so lucky to have found them. Thanks for the tip about the Amish stores, we have a few here in Kentucky, I’ll have to keep my eye out.

  20. I used a book called,”Hanky-Panky” Crazy Quilts by Cindy Brick about 15 yrs.ago. They are really 18″by18″ with a boarder & binding. My hankies were my mothers, aunt & g-mothers most of them have tatting or a crochet edging,beautiful.The hardest part for me to do was to cut them to fit & follow directions. I also decorated with a few meaning full embellishments. One of the hanky was my g-mothers last crochet hand work before she died. There was a note saying this,I put it on her hanky. On one of my mothers I put her mothers ring etc. I made this for my sister, she lives in TX. I wrote a complete story & put it in a pocket on the back. When she passes it is to be given to one of her daughters. I’m not choosing,LOL. I still have lots more, I like your idea. I do agree with some other comments, 8-9″ is quite a space to leave not quilted. Happy quilting.

    1. Thanks for your suggestions, I’ll have to check out that book. You’re quilt sounds wonderful since they were hankies that really meant something to you!.

  21. I collect vintage/antique hankies. It pains me to know you all are cutting them up. Children’s hankies are even more rare. They were used roughly sometimes, never as plentiful, the child often had only one, they got lost. You get the idea. Vintage Style Hankies, with these same prints can be purchased from China on EBay in lots of 30 or more so cheaply that it makes more sense to use these for quilts, tablecloths or whatever your heart desires. Once the actual “vintage” hankies are gone, there aren’t any more. The Vintage Style hankies will be there for crafting as long as we want. Please reconsider using your Heirlooms for crafts. You copy your pictures before using them in projects This is similar. Thanks.

  22. I was glad to see a handkerchief quilt and how it would look finished. It is very pretty.
    I had quite a few handkerchief of my own but have bought more to make a quilt. I will be putting the handkerchief on a
    fabric square because my handkerchiefs are different sizes. I have every thing ready to do for 2 years. This makes me want
    to get started on this quilt. Thanks for sharing.


  23. I can’t wait to start on this handkerchief quilt, can you please tell me how much of the voile was needed?

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  26. I love this project! I have been saving/collecting hankies for many years. Probably have enough to make two king size quilts. I might make one king and many baby quilts. I’m a beginner so your article was great! Some things I need to look up to define like…. Anna Maria Voile and white jelly roll. I don’t have a clue as to what these things are.
    But thank you for your post I am super excited.

  27. I’m sorry to hear that you were told not to cut up or use vintage linens!
    I do it all the time, and sell things I’ve made sometimes, too. I look at it as giving things that were lovingly made (but now are damaged) a new life. I believe it honors the maker more than storing them in a box and forgetting them!
    I’ve made wall hangings from hankies that are cut in basket shapes.
    Thank you for this post about the quilt!

  28. I have some beautiful hankies from my grandmother and mother just sitting in a box what a great idea to make a special way to enjoy them !

  29. HI! What a stunning quilt! Do you remember what kind of fabric lawn you used for the small squares? I love that vintage plaid look and would love to find something like it. Thanks!!

    Amy P

  30. Great idea! Have a box full from my mother, aunt , and grandmother. Now I’ll go through my drawer for mine. Better I do something with all of them before someone throws them all out. Thank you for sharing.

  31. You did not say how you finished the edges, is that bias tape or something else? Also, what is the purpose of the voile?

  32. Oh, so sorry, I just went back and read the materials list and found the binding tape mentioned. I’m working on a quilt now, I haven’t washed the chenille yet though. I hope it comes out okay after washing. This was a good idea.

  33. So beautiful! I, too, have boxes and drawers full of hankies from my grandmothers, aunt, mother and from rummage sales. I’ll put a quilt like this on my future project list. Right now I’m making a rail fence quilt from my 3 sons’ colorful boxers…. long live repurposed fabric,! Our grandmothers and their printed flour sack garments and qui,ts are smiling down on us!

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