This step-by-step sewing tutorial will show you how to make a handkerchief so that you can reduce single-use waste and save the trees by using a reusable tissue. No need for single-use tissues when you can simple pop your homemade hankies in the washing machine along with your laundry to use again and again plus they don’t fall apart in your pockets or after you blow your nose in them.
What is a handkerchief or “hanky”?
A handkerchief is a hemmed square of fabric that is used to blow a nose, wipe sweat from a brow or serve as an accessory in a person’s breast pocket of a suit. It’s a reusable tissue!
Why reusable tissues/hankies are better for the environment
They can be used again and again, you just need to wash them.
Around 40% of all deforestation is caused by the paper and pulp industries.
A single hanky could save you from using around 500 single-use tissues.
Hankies are the zero-waste alternative to paper tissues.
They are plastic free and have no packaging.
How often should I wash my handkerchiefs and are hankies hygienic?
Think of your hankies the same as underwear, it’s okay to use them all day but you need to wash them at the end of it. If it gets wet, change it sooner and if you’re not well, change it immediately.
You’ll want a rotation of at least seven hankies so that you can use a fresh one every day.
If you do have a cold or a viral infection then put your hanky in the laundry basket after one use and wash your hands after handling the hankies to avoid transferring germs.
Where do I put my used hankies when I’m out and about?
You can use my laundry bag sewing tutorial to make a smaller drawstring bag to store your used hankies in until you can put it in the wash.
Why you should make your own hankies
You can personalise them with your own choice of fabric
They’re a cute gift idea
You can make larger ones and use them as reusable wrapping paper
You can also make a larger one as a headscarf, bandana or neckerchief
They’re really easy to make – all you need to know is how to use a sewing machine!
They will save you money if you make them yourself – the purple gingham fabric I used was only £3 ($4.15) per metre and one hanky measure 12×12 inches
How much fabric/material do I need to make a handkerchief?
A standard hanky measures 12”x12”
What fabric/material is best for making a hanky
If you are intending to use your homemade handkerchief as a reusable tissue then cotton is your best option. It will be soft on your nose and wash well in the washing machine between uses, plus you’ll be able to get all sorts of printed and patterned cotton to make them as personal as you like. Cotton is also a more cost effective material and organic cotton is better for the environment as it is farmed without toxic chemicals.
Brushed cotton is a particularly good fabric for making a handkerchief as it’s an incredibly soft material and will be very gentle on noses.
If you are making a decorative handkerchief as a pocket square for a breast pocket of a suit then of course silk or satin would be much more luxurious.
This super handy video shows you 12 ways you can fold a handkerchief to accessorise a suit pocket.
What you need to make a hanky
12.5” x 12.5” square of fabric (see above for which type), 0.5” is seam allowance
Snips (optional for cutting threads – you can use scissors)
How to sew a handkerchief
1. Iron out your fabric to smooth out any creases.
2. Cut out a piece of fabric measuring 12.5”x12.5” (0.5” is seam allowance).
3. Use the iron to fold in and press 0.25” seam allowance along one raw edge, then turn under and press another 0.25”. Pin to secure before sewing.
4. Repeat step 3 for all 4 edges
5. Take your hanky over to your sewing machine (which should be set up with your bobbin and thread ready to sew) and sew along the folded under edge of your handkerchief, close enough to trap the folded under edge under your stitching.
6. Sew around all four edges and backstitch at the end to secure your stitching – trim your threads.
7. Take the hanky back to the iron and press it out – you just made a handkerchief! Yay you!
I’d love to see your homemade handkerchiefs! Tag me @gabriellawisdom on social media so I can share them and drop a comment on this blog post to let me know if you find this hanky tutorial useful.
The fabrics I used to make these two hankies are
Motel printed cotton from Liberty of London
Lilac gingham from John Lewis
Do more on & for the planet, Gabriella