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Beyond the T-shirt

Hankies Made Into an Heirloom Quilt

March 16th, 2020

By Andrea Funk

Hankies made into a quilt.

Hankies ready to be made into a quiltWhat do you do with all those hankies that you inherited from you great aunt? They are pretty, but what do you do with them? We recently came across a group of hankies that we found at a garage sale that we decided to transform into a quilt.

The First Look

I brought the hankies into the shop and they went straight in to the washing machine. If they could not survive the washing machine, then they weren’t going into the quilt. Next we ironed them. Then we sorted them. There were just a few dark colored hankies and we decided not to use those in the quilt.

We all decided that we are delighted with the invention of Kleenex and other facial tissues. It must have been gross to have to use one hankie all day. Icky. The next step was figure out how to make the quilt cool.

The Hankies

hankie mini quiltWe wanted to show off the hankies on our quilt in a way that was not static or boring. That meant we rejected just laying the hankies flat on a single standard size block.

First, we began by playing with the hankies. We folded them. We picked them up and set them down. We sorted them by type. We refolded them. Our conclusion: each hankie has its own personality. So we looked at each one as an individual and folded, draped or left whole as dictated by the design and stains on each.


We had long discussions about what color to use behind the hankies. My older employees wanted white fabric while the younger ones wanted colored fabric. I was making this quilt with a younger woman in mind, thus I chose the colored backings. I also thought that this would let the unique designs and settings of each hankie show up better against its background.


Example of how a hankie was folded and used in a quilt.Each hankie was folded or left whole and we found a great colored block to put behind it. Since we make T-shirt quilts, we used excess T-shirt material for the background color for each hankie. We tried to highlight the designs on the hankies by how we folded them. The folded hankies were then pinned onto the colored block of fabric.  


Each hankie was then sewn down onto its fabric block. Some of the hankies were sewn down more extensively while others were only partially sewn down. We generally used white and off-white thread to sew them down.

The Quilt

After the hankies were sewn to their background block, we made the quilt exactly like we would any T-shirt quilt. 

The Result

Hankies made into a quilt

Everyone here liked the quilt, but some of the sewers here still complained about the colored backing blocks. They felt like the hankies were out of their element on the colorful blocks. They wished we had used white background blocks for the hankie, making a more grown up style quilt.


So, I went to eBay and searched for “vintage hankie lots.” Plenty to choose from! So I purchased two lots and we made another hankie quilt – this time with white background. We followed the same procedure – wash, iron, fold, pin, sew down and make into a quilt.

The Difference – Wow

These two quilts were made with the same procedure and turned out totally different! I still like the colored quilt better, but Dana and Barb love the white quilt. 

The white quilt feels more antique like. The quilt needs to be looked at up close because it’s more difficult to distinguish the individual hankies from a distance. I wouldn’t want to let this quilt be used much because it is white and it would get dirty easily. It looks more important. This might be a quilt to hang on a wall or use on a spare bed that does not get visited by a dog or cat.

The colorful quilt is more approachable. I would use this quilt and enjoy the hankies. If I were making a hankie quilt for a young girl, this is how I would make it.

I would sum up the differences between the two quilts as the white quilt is like your grandmother’s china, and the colorful quilt is like your day-to-day dishes.

The third quilt here was made with a pastel color palette. It fits right between the bright colored and white quilts. 

Hankie quilt colorful

Hankie quilt on white background














Hankies made into a quilt on a pastel background

How to Have a Hankie Quilt Made

We can make a hankie quilt for you! Here's what you need to do

  • Please wash and iron your hankies before you send them to us. 
  • Let us know what color palette you would like for the background of the hankies.
  • Then follow the directions for having a T-shirt quilt made. Here's how...

The cost hankie quilt is the cost of a T-shirt quilt of that size. There is an additional small fee per block to cover the extra work to sew each hankie onto the background material.

To get started with us making your hankie quilt, click here to link to the direction page.

Andrea Funk

Andrea Funk is the inventor of T-shirt quilts made with multiple blocks sizes. The modern method of making T-shirt quilts. In 1992 she founded Too Cool T-shirt Quilts. Her life has been immersed in T-shirt quilts ever since.