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Handkerchiefs - A Source of Fine Fabric and Trims for Miniatures


Range of printed and embroidered handkerchiefs suitable for miniatures and doll clothing.

Printed and embroidered, handkerchiefs offer a wide range of fabric types and designs suitable for dollhouse miniatures and fine doll clothing.

Photo © 2013 Lesley Shepherd

A widely available source of fine fabrics with a range of embroidered edgings, insertions and fine print designs can be found in vintage handkerchiefs. While some handkerchiefs are collectibles in their own right and should be preserved as an art form, others can be found inexpensively in thrift shops. The range of fabrics, from rayon organzas to silks, linens and fine cotton lawns, makes them ideal for dolls house miniatures and small scale doll clothing where fine details and softly draping fabric in small amounts can be readily used. One handkerchief will make an elaborate quilt and pillow set for a dollhouse baby basket. Plain or woven designs with edgings work well for dollhouse table clothes. Fine lawn or small embroidered patterns can be used to make a blouse for a doll using the instructions for sewing a simple shirt. The printed georgette and organza designs from the 1930-s to 1950s work well for dollhouse aprons, kitchen curtains and other soft furnishings.

Things to Look For When Choosing Handkerchiefs to Recycle For Miniatures

  • Try to find designs with small trims or borders which can be used alone or as insertions for other projects. Small fault or unravellings in the edgings may be acceptable if you will be cutting up the handkerchief for your project.
  • Choose fabrics with the correct drape for your project. Stiff fabrics (linens) can be more difficult to tailor in small scales.
  • Choose scale prints which can be trimmed and edged for other purposes - look for designs with blocks in the center which can be made into smaller items, a tablecloth to match kitchen curtains made from the edging print for example.
  • Look for embroidered details which can be used to trim or decorate scale projects. Often handkerchief corners can be used as a detail on a dollhouse bed quilt, or for pillows or throws. Embroidery this fine is hard to come by for such a small cost.
  • Look for fine fabrics which are not too sheer - cotton lawn in handkerchiefs is often thin enough to work well for small scale doll clothing. Remove any sizing before cutting out your clothing pieces.

    Cost and Availability

    Handkerchiefs are available in most local thrift shops for $3 and up, depending on their age, fabric and the quality of their edgings or embroidery. Many are still in their original packaging as they were a popular gift, often stored away 'for good'. Designs range from simple florals to elaborate ethnic patterns. Keep an eye out for any with children's prints suitable for bedding or curtains for a child's room in a dolls' house.

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