Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Hanky Primer #1: Antique Monogrammed Hankies

Photos are copyrighted and may not be used without my permission!
I've spent alot of time drifting on my blog--you get whatever is happening in my life.  However the purpose was to share my knowledge--or what I like about antiques.  First and foremost is my love of antique textiles.

Not many people understand my fascination with hankies--except other hanky lovers.  To me they are fine works of art on a 10" x 10" square of the finest linen.   To purchase a hanky with the same level of detailed hand-embroidery would cost you several hundred dollars today.

While hankies were made all over the world, my favorite workmanship are hankies made in Belgium, Switzerland and Madeira.

You don't have to be a hanky collector to appreciate a nice hanky.   The non-collector purchases a hanky most often for a gift--a bride being the number one recipient.  Brides often buy from me, and use the hankies as gifts or part of a gift basket for bridesmaids, in addition to using the hanky for "something old" and "something blue" if it has blue embroidery on it.

If you see a fabulous hanky damaged, make a sachet out of it.   Don't let the fine embroidery go to waste.

I've attempted to categorize hankies in a way that you'll understand and encourage you to spot a fine hanky.

Applique & Shadow-work Hankies
Madeira hankies must have invented the use of applique and shadow-work.  Applique is when they take a piece of fabric and stitch it on top of the hanky--hence "applique".   Shadowwork is when they put the fabric underneath, or stitch underneath, to create a "shadow" on top.  I don't think I've seen a Swiss hanky that has this.

The blue flowers are the applique-work on this hanky.
Note that the L is made up of embroidery and shadowwork, making a large monogram.
White version of the L hanky
Like the L hanky, the W below was made by the same manufacturer.

same hanky in pink
Below are some variations, possibly by the same manufacturer.
A variation of the L hanky

A pink variation of the B hanky above

Note the flowers are the same for the last 3 hankies compared to the earlier ones.
The embroidery on the hankies with the applique letter can become more elaborate.
Rather than applique, this hanky has the letter done in shadowwork and embroidery

Similar to the D above, only in white shadowwork

Don't forget to click on a photo if you want to see the enlargement.
This is another variation of a spring bouquet around the monogram.
 The hanky below is a real favorite of mine.  It has pale grey embroidery and a separate organdy flower with loose petals not attached to the hanky.  This design with the flower is a whole collecting category by itself--which I will share with you later.
Note the attached organdy flower on the corner.

Hankies can also have the letter be an applique, instead of embroidery
M hanky with a nice drawnwork hem, in a medallion of delicate stitching.  It has a 40's look to me.

Doesn't this hanky remind you of the 50's monogrammed sweater (the "L" on LaVerne's sweater?0
While this is simple, notice that the appliqued fabric is enhanced with embroidery

Below are some appliqued monograms that are more elaborate.  The K in this hanky has leaves that edge the hanky.  

The hanky below has the label "Madeira" and has some wonderful bellfowers accenting the somewhat modern-looking angular H.

The hanky below is an M done in a french script style.  I love the detailed embroider surrounding the M.
Click on photo for enlargement.  Notice the applique flower has some openwork, buratto I believe.

 Lastly, I'd like to share my favorite applique monogram, complete with embroidery and a lace edge.
This next section of applique work shows applique flowers in combination with shadowwork and french style script monograms.
The bows are shadowwork, the R is french script in heavy padded satin stitch, with an applique flower in the corner.

Another example with applique flower in the corner.

Applique flowers in the corner

 The next group shows hankies with applique flowers surrounding the monogram--making more of a "medallion".
The applique flowers are a creamy satin - interesting texture.

One of those unusual hankies with the all-white applique.
I hardly ever see red in a monogram.  I love the contrasting grey stitching.  The flowers are applique.

Applique flowers make a medallion.

Unusual V Hanky--V's are hard to find.  White creamy applique flowers.
Simple medallion with one applique flower, shadowwork and embroidery.  I like the pink G monogram

The lavender monogram looks great, I think all these flowers are shadow-work.

Most of the shadow-work tends to be colored, although not always.  They are Madeira hankies, I don't think I've seen any good Made in China knock-offs. Below are two examples of P Monograms.

Below are more examples of shadow-work.  Don't forget to click and view a photo if you want to see an enlargement.

Simple shadow-work making up a medallion.

I totally love the brown embroidery. I can't seem to keep any of the blue, brown or grey in stock, everyone loves them for weddings.
I t
This hanky is unusual with the flowers on one side of the B monogram.  I love the applique and shadow-work flowers

The shadow-work bows are really sweet.  Great for a wedding hanky.
Another example with grey shadow-work, some cutwork and pale aqua contrasts beautifully.

I love the brown on this hanky!

Applique medallion with shadow-work leaves.  Great aqua blue embroidery

Isn't it interesting that they managed to have such a classy combination of grey complementing the pink!

Great wedding color, don't you think?

I love the shadow-work medallion on this monogram, plus a shadow-work edge on the hanky.  Beautiful!
Organdy Flowers
The hankies below are really special.  They have organdy flowers/ butterflies attached to create a 3-D effect.  The organdy is light and delicate.
Butterflies look like they landed on the hanky for the photo shoot!

Note the petals of the organdy flower are not attached.  Hanky has Madeira label.

Fabulous hanky with loose organdy leaves surrounding this R monogram.
Monogrammed Hankies - in a Circle Medallion
The hankies below are all hand embroidered with a french script style monogram, padded satin stitch.  There are various designs, all circular.
Shadow-work medallion of circles

Simple delicate blue embroidery makes an elegant statement

A bit of shadow-work, and wonderful Madeira flowers.

A small medallion of flowers and scrolls enhance this B

The C monogram is on an organdy insert, enhanced with the grey scroll embroidery.

A double row of padded satin stitch makes a great enhanced script monogram.  love the daisies, french knots and scrolls.

This is too cool!  I love the cicular design around the H!

Unusual D hanky with eyelit embroidery making a cicular medallion with pink embroidery

Another great pink/grey combination.  The french script R stands out in this circular medallion of scrolls.

A great hanky with cutwork border, lots of padded satin stitch and Madeira forget-me-nots.

Unusual find, a triple monogram hanky in a medallion of flowers and scrolls.
The next 4 hankies are still a circular medallion, but the monogram is not the heavy padded satin stitch--the monogram is done with embroidery making the letter wider.
This A monogram has a border with cutwork.

This monogram is a combination of padded satin stitch and embroidered fields filled with tiny french knots.

This F monogram is great--I love the double circle of embroidery.  Notice the detailed embroidery  on the bell flowers.

The bright blue monogram combined with the white embroidery really makes the monogram jump off the  hanky.
The two hankies below I've owned years apart.  They are the same, made to look like a rose petal, with the outer leaves out of organdy.  Beautiful!
Great W monogram

M Monogram with organdy leaves inserted and cut out to make them sheer.
Organdy medallion, cutwork on the border, shadow-work bows and flowers.

Square and Oval Medallions

Square R Medallion, original label.

Probably my favorite "square" medallion.

The next 11 hankies are monograms surrounded by a heavy square of embroidery.  I have noticed there is a distinct style of hanky that is filled with scrolls and flowers.  It is likely the same manufacturer.

Looks very much like Victorian Whitework embroidery

Talk about scarce, an "I" monogram.

This is one with the scrolled embroidery I was talking about.

Has some shadow-work leaves

Distinctive Madeira forget-me-not flowers surrouning this F monogram

Another heavy whitework Victorian hanky

Scrolls and flowers make up the medallion

Unusual green F monogram

I can't resist the field of flowers on this hanky!

Hankies with Double-Wide Monogrammed Letters
Some of these hankies don't have huge monograms, but the embroidery on the lettering is extra detailed.  Some of them are two-color, for a shadow effect, and others are letters filled with embroidery.
Hanky reeks with quality embroidery.  OK, reeks is not a good word, but you get the drift.

Wonderful French style script monogram.

The embroidery is delicate on this hanky, but has a wonderful effect with the bouqet.

OK, I threw this in as a  test.  This hanky is NOT hand-embroidered.  It is NOT antique, err, at least by my standards.  It's still not bad for a machine made hanky. Check it out, you need to know how to tell the difference!

Can you see the quality difference in this hanky vs. the last one?   This one is a fabulous hand-embroidered hanky.

Another unusual hand-embroidered hanky.  It is not Madeira, but still wonderful!

Your red Christmas "I" Hanky.  Wonderful!

The double lines of the R add to the graceful look of the monogram.  The ribbon intertwined with flowers is unusual.

There are 3 colors of embroidery.  Doesn't it add to the beauty of this hanky!

Simple forget-me-nots enhance this monogram.

The colored embroidery is extremely high quality--look at it closely!

All white embroidery, tiny french knots inside the monogram.

Great looking whitework!

Go back and check out a B hanky earlier in the post.   Very similar to this one.

This was as 13" hanky, huge, wonderful embroidery!  Open cutwork in the monogram.

I think that the previous W hanky was made by the same manufacturer.  The grey pencil lines underneath the embroidery suggest that it may have been made in China.  At least that's what I think when I see them.

Great blue ribbon border with those Madeira forget-me-not flowers .   The H is a french script  double-wide on the right.

I love the detail on this hanky.  Great design.

The green embroidery is a very unusual find!

Check out the quality on this hanky--isn't it wonderful!   I don't think I've come across a pink lawn hanky.

OK, another test.  this is a machine made hanky.  The colors were fun so it got purchased.

This is an English Victorian Whitework  Hanky.  

Looks like a design from the 50's or 60's.  Still great.  The embroidery is an extremely fine quality.

This blog is so big, I'll continue this later with Hanky Primer #2.   So what is your favorite hanky that I've shown today?  

Here are the links to all of my hanky articles:
Hanky Primer #1 Monogrammed Hankies
Hanky Primer #2 More Monogrammed Hankies
Hanky Primer #3 Embroidered & Petitpoint Hankies
Hanky Primer #4 Appenzell & Appenzell Style Hankies

You can find me from time to time selling antique linens on Ebay: antique-monograms-- I need to share some of my fabulous finds, I don't have room for more!


  1. wow unreal! i love the circle monograms, but i love so many others too! what a fabulous story!!!! wow.

    thanks so much for your kind comment today on my blog.
    cote de texas

  2. I'm delighted that you came over to visit, and that you appreciate the beauty of these! There's more to share on the subject, I hope you have a chance to read part II.

    I love your blog, I can't tell you how much it brightens my day.


  3. Lovely post! Do you know if there are craftsman in Madeira still embroidering by hand today?

  4. gorgeous collection! If anyone needs monogrammed handkerchiefs you can find them here:

  5. If you are planning to install a classy timber floor, you are at the right place.
    Timber flooring is an art form itself; one can see the desired result only if it is done by professionals.
    Concrete Floors Brisbane | Affordable Floor Sanding Brisbane

  6. This pleases my heart to see all of these beautiful hankies.My mom was a lady who had dozens of them, so I grew up with a huge appreciation of them. They are simply works of art. I couldn't choose a favorite as yet, but I like Madeira and French Script. I think my tendency is to lean towards white on white. That to me is most elegant. Love your blog.

  7. The designs are excellent the best hankies I have seen. Really very artistic work.

  8. Beautiful hankies.....is these all hand done?

  9. Absolutely Beautiful Work! Are any of these for sale? Can you direct us to where to buy these or something similar?