Tag Archive for handkerchief

In praise of the pocket handkerchief

As a child, I remember that there were two things that my father always kept in his pocket: a penknife and a hanky.
Maybe I am too urban, but I don’t carry a knife. I do, however, almost always carry a hanky. And it is amazing how often this comes in handy.


One thing you should know about me is that, almost every day of my life, I do at least two sets of rapid-fire sneezes so a hanky is of particular value to me (oops…now you will think I am very weird and never read this site again). But, even if you are not weird like me, I promise you will find one useful (especially with kids and food around).

Although recycled tissues are now quite widely available, I am a firm believer in cloth handkerchiefs. They are less resource- and energy-intensive, kinder on the nose, more versatile and generally a most satisfying addition to life.
And for those of you who are squeamish: you don’t have to wash them separately, nor at very high heat. They do just fine on a 40C quick wash in my household (and nobody seems to get sick as a result…).

I am pretty traditional and prefer a crisp cotton handkerchief (the type that you might see poking out of a breast pocket). But I am also willing to iron my hankies which – I recognize – puts me in a minority. Unironed (after line drying) they might be a bit stiff and unruly.

hankybook lots

If you are a non-ironer, there is help at hand as many of the organic handkerchiefs now available on-line are made from cotton jersey (non-fraying, stretchy and soft) rather than traditional cotton.
An interesting option, that is in my pocket even as I write, is the hanky book.

This is akin to a kids’ cloth book (minus the stuffed cover). It is made of 4 sheets of organic cotton jersey sewn down the middle (so 8 pages) plus a coloured cottton `cover’. It is small (3″ x 4″ when folded closed). The idea is that you open it up, blow your nose on one of the `pages’ and then close it. That way your bag/pocket/hand doesn’t get contaminated by terrible things from your nose.

You have probably gathered that I am not squeamish about hankies, so this is not a big deal for me. However, the things works quite well and it’s a neat idea, especially if it converts some tissue users to the cause. Hanky books cost $5 if bought in packs of 3 and $6 if bought separately. They ship to Canada at no great cost. If you are any good at all with a pair of scissors and a sewing machine, you could also make your own for much less (assuming you can source the cotton jersey).

hanky owls

Another, more traditional option comes from a company called Hank & Cheef. These are sewn in Vancouver using organic cotton from Turkey. I love the designs but my gripe is that the nicest ones occur on the regular-sized hankies which are really too small (8.5″ square: a real handkerchief should be at least 10″ square: dainty ladies’ versions have never cut it with me). They sell only one 12″ hanky and this is significantly over-priced (in my view) at $9.75. After all, you need at least 5 in your drawer to keep you covered.

So there you have it. In Canada, at least, it is tough to find regular hankies in the stores. Maybe that is not the case in Europe. I would hope not as I would really hate to see these items die out altogether. For now I have raided the back-up supplies of both my mother and my mother-in-law so I am in good shape….but they won’t last forever (sadly: because I lose them, otherwise they pretty much do).

Right now I need all the hanky (and help) I can get as I have a lousy cold.

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