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How To Make The Most Darling Vintage Handkerchief Angels

March 23, 2024

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Whip up a few vintage handkerchief angels in minutes with this quick and easy DIY craft.

Create handmade home decor using family heirlooms or thrifted finds without damaging the fabric.

Here's the complete show and tell.

Vintage Handkerchiefs

I'm a huge fan of old movies.

You know the kind, black and white melodramas.

Where everyone has a Park Avenue accent and the word dah-ling is tossed around a lot.

Oh, and handkerchiefs reign supreme. They're literally everywhere.

Well, except in Scarlett O'Hara's hand.

Heirloom Handkerchief With Flowers On A Table

She's apparently the only woman in the 1860's who didn't possess one.

Rhett Butler points that out when he says, "Never at any crisis of your life, have I known you to have a handkerchief."

How shameful.

Of course, today, handkerchiefs are considered passé.

Unfashionable. Unsanitary. And utterly unnecessary.

But for hundreds of years, up until about the early 1980's, they were still in use. I remember giving my dad a box for Christmas almost every year.

With so many centuries' worth of handkerchiefs floating around out there, you're bound to run into a few of them. In thrift stores or maybe even in your own home.

Pink Crochet Trimmed Floral Embroidered Handkerchief

Beautiful, vintage, handmade works of art that you won't be using this allergy season...and you wouldn't want to discard. I get it, I'm right there with you. I have a lot. 

And until this week, they've been tucked away in the antique bench that sits under our 1929 player piano. A fitting place for heirloom items, but they really should be on display.

My friend Ann from Apple Street Cottage, prompted me to bring them out and get creative when she suggested that today's Do It Over Designers blog hop be all about fabric upcycles. 

Right away, I knew what I was going to make and I was going to do it using these painted wooden balls  had in my stash.

Two white painted Wooden Balls in an hand

You see, my handkerchiefs are family treasures.

I didn't want to stitch them, glue them or cut them to damage them in any way. Yet, as I said, sitting in that bench wasn't doing them any justice.

Ivory Vintage Lace Handkerchief

Instead, I came up with a cute way to display them by turning them into handkerchief angels with a few supplies from my craft closet.

I'm a big fan of angels. Like...
I have many of them displayed in my house all year long.

Simple Handkerchief Angel DIY

Here's how I turned those hankies into angelic decor.

Supplies I used:

Wrinkled White Lace Handkerchief on a green blanket

I started by ironing each handkerchief.

Ironing Lace handkerchief with a black iron on ironing board

Nobody wants a wrinkly angel hanging around.

Next, I placed a small wooden ball in the center of the fabric to make the head.

A white lace handkerchief wrapped around a small wooden ball

I could've used a rubber band or a piece of wire to secure the handkerchief around the ball.

Instead I used a simple piece of ribbon and knotted it underneath the wooden ball. 

Ribbon tied in a knot under a wooden ball tucked under a white lace handkerchief

Then I tied the ribbon in a bow.

Super simple and I didn't need to stitch anything or poke holes in the delicate fabric.

Delicate Handkerchief Angel Ornament with bow around the neck

Originally, I considered ribbon wings, just leaving the angel in this state.

However, I'd been in the dollar store earlier in the day and grabbed these cute wooden butterfly cutouts to use as wings, like I did on my wooden junk angels.

A Package of Wooden Butterfly Cut-Outs

I knew they'd look great if they were painted to match.

So I painted one white and one in a cream tone and let them dry completely.

Painted Wooden Butterfly Cut Outs

To attach the wings to the angels, I took a thin piece of craft wire and tucked it underneath the ribbon that was on the back of the angel.

Wire tucked under ribbon on the back of  the DIY angel

Then I placed the wooden butterfly on the angel and wrapped the wire around it, securing the wings in place.

Handkerchief Angel DIY With Wooden Wings secured with wire

The last part of this crafty DIY was simply to add a ribbon hanger to the back of the wings with a tiny drop of hot glue.

Adding A Ribbon Hanger with a hot glue gun

Then I was done.

And while the back of my angels weren't very finished looking, they were just darling from the front.

Handkerchief Angels DIY Craft two angels on a table next to one another

Each one with its own unique personality.

The colorful, cheerful, embroidered handkerchief angel.

Embroidered Handkerchief Angel Ornament Ribbon Tutorial hanging from kitchen cabinet knob

Perfect for spring.

And the dainty lace angel.

Elegant, understated and completely cottage style.

Heirloom Lace Handkerchief DIY Angel hanging from a kitchen cabinet knob

Of course both of these lovelies would look fabulous on a holiday tree or as a gift topper.

For now though, they'll be hanging around my kitchen.

Which is much better than hiding out in a dark bench.

Don't you agree?


Do you have any old handkerchiefs hanging around?

Handkerchief DIY Angel text over photos of handkerchiefs and angels

And now it's time for that fabulous fabric hop!!

Stop by each blog, say hello and tell them I sent you! 

Do It Over Designers Blog Hop Graphic
Happy Hopping Friends!!
Kim Signature

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  1. These have to be the prettiest little upcycled angels ever! The fact that you didn't have to cut or damage the handkerchiefs make this project a huge win. They are adorable, Kim!

    1. Thanks Ann! I really wanted to be able to display them without sacrificing them. I figured this way, I could just undo the bow and they'd be useable know, in case handkerchiefs ever came back in style...because by now I know to never say never! 😉 Thanks for hosting another super creative hop!

  2. What a cute way to preserve these sweet handkerchiefs. I have a few and might take your inspiration and make one for our Christmas tree this year!

    1. Thanks so much, Patti! Mine are in the kitchen now, but you can bet that when the holidays roll around, they'll be on the tree!

  3. These are sweet! I'd love to see these on your holiday tree this year too! I wish I had some kerchiefs from my grandmother, but these are fun to thrift too.

    1. Thanks Sara! With your fabric designing talent, you could make your own!

    2. Ha, you’re right! I’ve been wanting to try some embroidery projects. Might have to do that!

    3. A two in one craft! I'll be on the lookout for it!! ☺️

  4. This brings back such memories! We had pretty little handkerchiefs that we would tuck into our little purses for church on Sunday's. I remember my step-grandma showing me how to fold and roll them to make a little mouse, or a baby in a blanket. The perfect quiet activity to keep a little girl sitting still in church. :)
    I don't have any old handkerchiefs around, but if I happen to run across some I'm going to pick them up. Just adorable!

    1. Oh I’m glad this post made you smile, Mari! I remember giving my dad handkerchiefs for Christmas each year when I was little. He always had them folded neatly and tucked in the top drawer of his dresser. My mom had a collection, as well. Such different times, so many fun memories. I was happy to be able to display these, knowing that with a pull of that ribbon, they’ll be right back in their original form, if need be.

  5. These are adorable, Kim. I remember giving handkerchiefs as pressies too, but I don't think I've ever seen ones as lovely as the two you used to make your angels. No wonder you wanted to keep them stitch and glue-free. Using wire to attach the wings is genius.

    1. Thanks so much, Michelle! I had these tucked away for so long, I'm glad I stumbled on them and was able to find a way to display them. Thanks for stopping by my friend.

  6. Like Mari, this brings back memories for me, too! My mother had a dresser drawer full of handkerchiefs. She would place one in her dress pocket everyday! She would only buy dresses that had pockets for her handkerchiefs. And if a dress didn't have pockets, she would take it to a seamstress to sew on pockets! I kept a few of her handkerchiefs but donated most of them to Goodwill. Your handkerchief angels are quite sweet and adorable, Kim! And a lovely way to use them without harming the fabric!

    1. Thank you! Your comment is making me smile, Gail! I love it when one of my posts prompts a few sweet memories. Your words have me thinking about my grandmother who always had a handkerchief tucked under her watchband. They were such a staple, I'm glad I could find a way to honor these heirlooms.

  7. These angels are so sweet and I agree, it's so nice that you didn't have to cut them up!

    1. Thank you, Tania! I was determined to keep them in one piece. Glad you like them.

  8. Hi Kim. What a joy to jog my memories. My mom always had a hanky somewhere on her person but I don't ever remember her using it for what it was intended for. It always smelled of her perfume. My dad was a different story. He did use his then my mom had to launder them. Gross!! I have a few that are also sitting in a drawer somewhere. Yours are exquisite and so charming. Great idea for the butterfly wings. I love them..Happy Spring..xxoJudy

    1. Thanks so much, Judy! It's funny to think about them being used, but I guess back then, before tissues, it was better than nothing. I'm not sure if the ones I have were just for show or not, the crochet trim is in perfect shape. I wonder how that would do in the machine? Not that I plan to find out! Haha! Happy spring my friend!

  9. Your angels are so lovely. What a great way to repurpose some handkerchiefs while keeping them in tact. I'll be on the lookout for thrift store hankies now to create some angels of my own for this coming Christmas. Although angels are great decor anytime of the year.

    1. Thank you, Tuula! I'm sure you'll find a few, I see them all the time at thrift stores. If you make a few I hope you'll let me know. I'd love to see your angels!

  10. Kim,
    I just adore these!! So pretty!! Thanks so much for stopping by and thank you for your prayers and sweet words....Life can change in an instant....We need to live each day to the fullest...
    Debbie-Dabble Blog

    1. Thanks so much for taking the time to visit me, Debbie. Sending you prayers and hugs.

  11. Oh Kim I think this may be the best craft so far. I love angels and these made out of vintage hankies are so pretty. Of course I love the white one with lace. Just beautiful. Bravo you hit it out of the park on these. Hugs. Kris

    1. Thank you, Kris! I know how you love angels...and I do, too. I have them displayed year round and I knew that those pretty hankies would make darling angels for my collection. Now I need to find some red and green adorned ones for the Christmas!

  12. Wow - you hit on quite a few subjects here! First of all, old black & white movies. When my Mom was alive, we watched a lot of AMC movies. And once in a while I will still watch one. But what I never realized was even then, back in the 40's and 50's, they made movies about tough subjects: anti-semitism, alcoholism, unwed mothers, divorced women. And these movies were riveting! Okay, about those hankies. Both my parents used them, but I especially remember my mother washing and ironing hankies, and how my father's were monogrammed with his initials and stacked in a dresser drawer. I have no idea where they are now, but thank you for stirring up some very special memories. Your angels are clearly happy living a second life, all dressed up in bows and butterfly wings!! Your creativity is amazing!

    1. Oh, my mom and I always watched black and white movies together. She loved old classics and she shared her passion with me and you're right, they really did cover all the topics we think we so taboo back then. The dialog and stories were riveting, indeed. My husband and I watch them all the time now, we still love the oldies. They're the best!

  13. I love this! My southern mother raised me with to have a hankie always in my purse and I carry one to this day. I had a favorite great aunt’s hankie framed when it was sent to me after her demise. It’s a beautiful work of art. I upcycled my mom’s vintage miniature spoon holder and put hankies in the notches that had held spoons. It became a the holder for our grangirl’s little dolly “blankets”. Hankies blankies. And I’ve made handkerchief church babies for baby shower gifts. But I never saw anything cuter than these angel hankies. ❤️ adding them to my to do list this summer. Pamela

    1. Pamela, thank you for sharing all your sweet hankie crafts and memories with us. I love that you were able to hold on to them and treasure them in such a special way. Hankies blankies...that's adorable!! I'm hoping that someday my girls will be able to use them for wedding or babies, that's why I didn't want to damage them in any way. So glad you like my angels! If you make some, I hope you'll let me know. I'd love to see them.

  14. I do have beautiful handkerchiefs, like yours, sitting in a safe place. What a darling idea! I love this - they are able to be enjoyed, like they need to be! Great idea Kim, thanks so much!

  15. I only have my husband's hankies in the house now but I clearly remember taking a handkerchief to school every day in elementary school. Your hanky angels are absolutely darling, Kim! You must smile each time you pass them and I know they are happy to be brought out into the open. Maybe sometime you'll find a purpose for bringing back white gloves--if you already haven't. I wish they'd come back, and proper hats on women and men. And little girls for Easter.

  16. What a darling idea! A young man saw a stack of my Dad's handkerchiefs and asked what they were. My sister replied that they are old-fashioned Kleenex! Of course, my dad's hankies were not pretty like yours. - Briana from Texas

  17. Love the Angels. Unfortunately even though I have quite a few handkerchiefs. Yes I know they may be considered unsanitary but I got fed up of spending hours removing white tissue from clothing because I had inadvertently left a tissue in a pocket hence the regression to cotton ones. I will definitely be on the look out for pretty ones from now on though. Thanks. - Liz from Wales UK

  18. What a great idea. I have a few handkerchiefs that I use. :-) My favorite has a chickadee embroidered on it.
    My friend Lori just made a curtain using vintage aprons.

    1. Chickadees!! Your handkerchiefs sound adorable, Carla. I'm always on the hunt for vintage linens, but they're usually out of my price range. I need to keep hunting, because now I want a apron curtain, too! ❤️

  19. These angels are just adorable. I love how you've not damaged the vintage hankies so they can be disassembled if you ever wanted to and used in some other way, that's so clever.
    My mum and my both nans were never without a hanky tucked up their sleeves (in outfits without pockets!) My Mother in law still uses them :-)

    1. I think hankies are just so delicate and feminine. I think they harken back to a more civilized time. I'm glad I was able to find a way to display my collection without damaging them. You know, in case they come back in style! Haha!

  20. This is the perfect idea Kim when you do not want to damage vintage hankies. I have several, and have tried different things with them, but nothing ever stands out to me. I do not think we can ever have too many angels in our home, so this is a wonderful idea. I would not have thought of the butterfly wings, good idea.

  21. Your handkerchief angels look super sweet! I especially like the colorful one. That's wonderful that "there was no damage in the making" lol so you can use them again in the future. They're so pretty!

  22. This takes me back to times when I had many dainty handkerchiefs, as did my dear mum and Gran :)
    I do like these angels, such a lovely idea.

    My good wishes.

    All the best Jan

  23. Oh my goodness! I gave my Dad hankies too. They were the simple white on white subtle plaid ones! Boy did he use them. I have a collection from my Grannie somewhere. I also have a blue embroidered one that was my “something blue “ from my best friend Annie. I still remember her coming to meet me as the limousine arrived in front of St Mary’s to give it to me before I walked down the aisle. You have inspired me my girl! It looks like you hit a chord with a lot of people…but then that’s what you do!❤️

  24. These are so adorable! Vintage hankies are so pretty.
    PS - I don't know if it's just my laptop, but the photos on your site are taking a long time to load. There are so many ads - especially pop-up ones - that they get in the way of reading your blog and I think that's probably what is slowing down the loading of photos, too. Thought you'd want to know! <3

  25. Oh Kim, I’m totally in angelic love with these darling hankie angels!!! I remember making some in the 80’s as Christmas gifts, but yours are so pretty with the vintage hankies. This is a great project.
    P. S. My late beloved hubby and also my dad always had a handkerchief in their pocket, and they came in handy!

  26. This is such a beautiful way to use those old hankies - I will be making one for my Christmas tree this year. Thank you for the great idea!

  27. I have old hankies that my late godmother crocheted the edges on; what a great way to pass them on to my children; they would not be appreciated as a handkerchief! My mother taught us kids to use the mangle by starting us on dish towels, hankies, and pillowcases. As a young married in '73 I could mangle my husbands work-shirts and have them looking pretty good. Now I hand iron (and starch) linens for my vintage booth! Hankies always go quickly!

  28. These ARE darling, Kim! Thanks for sharing at Vintage Charm!

    1. Thanks for hosting! I know it’s a lot of work, but always fun to share there. ☺️