What makes my handkerchiefs with folded hem so beautiful? It’s a combination of a couple of things: quality fabric, attention to detail, and making time to handcraft each handkerchief that will be delivered to your home. Today, I am revealing the multiple steps required to make a handkerchief with folded hem!
It may seem simple to sew a small fabric square… And yet, when you want it to be beautiful and durable, it takes quite a bit of time and love. Ready to go behind the scenes with me? Follow me!
Step 1: Pre-wash the fabric
This first crucial step allows the fabric to shrink before assembling the handkerchief and will ensure that it does not warp after you start using it and washing it. So, whenever I get new fabric, I run it through the washing machine on a warm cycle (30–40 degrees). Then—if the fabric will tolerate it—I toss it in the dryer to shrink it as much as possible. Otherwise, I hang it out in the sun to air dry.
Step 2: Cutting the fabric and considering the grain line
Once the fabric is dry, I lay it out on my cutting table and, using a pattern, I roughly cut the amount of fabric needed to create the handkerchief design I intend to make. In this step, it’s very important that the grain line is parallel or perpendicular to my cutting lines, so that the handkerchief does not twist after a few uses (the grain line is the vertical direction of the threads on a fabric, and it must be followed for the fabric to hang well once the hanky is sewn together). In other words, you have to cut along the right “direction” of the fabric!
Step 3: Ironing the fabric
When this first cut is done, I always iron the fabric on both sides—making sure I spray it with a little water if it’s too wrinkled after washing. This ensures that the fabric is taut and straight so that it can now be cut with precision.
Step 4: Trace the handkerchief
Once my fabric is smoothly ironed, I take my pattern and trace the outline of the handkerchief with a pencil or chalk. For a handkerchief with folded hem, my pattern will be larger than the finished product, since I need to count extra fabric that will be folded twice in order to have a nice finish. Again, I am careful to follow the grain line when tracing the pattern.
Step 5: Trimming the handkerchief with precision
It’s now time to trim the piece of fabric that will become a pretty handkerchief—with great care and attention to detail. At this stage, if the cut doesn’t perfectly follow the grain line or if the sides aren’t straight, the final product won’t look nice. Yes, rushed or botched preparation always leads to disappointing results! So it’s crucial to prepare well if you are attempting to create a handkerchief that is close to perfection.
On a gridded cutting mat, using a large ruler and a special exacto, I cut one side at a time, making sure that each edge is perfectly perpendicular. I press hard on the ruler so that it doesn’t slip, and I make sure I have a new blade that won’t resist the movement and will cut the fabric in one clean stroke.
Step 6: Folding and ironing two opposite sides
Now I can fold and iron two of the sides that will be folded and stitched. This is also a step that should be done very carefully, since a fold that is not perfectly straight, will give an uneven finish… And of course, it won’t look very nice. You also have to make sure to fold them equally on both sides so that they are symmetrical!
Step 7: Pin each corner
To make sure the corners don’t move during assembly, I pin each one in place before sewing the side. This allows me to sew gently back and forth so the hem doesn’t come undone with time, without fear of moving the folded fabric and ending up with a twisted corner. Discovering this pinning trick was a EUREKA moment for me, as it is what gave me enough confidence to make this model myself and deliver handkerchiefs that really lived up to my expectations.
Step 8: Assemble each side
Once the first two sides are pinned, it’s time to sew them together. To have a straight seam (extremely important when you have red topstitching on a white handkerchief, for example!), it is, of course, necessary that the folding has been well done beforehand, but it is also vital to use a visual guide so that you keep a precise distance between the needle and the edge that you are sewing. You also have to accompany the fabric with your fingers, so that it doesn’t get pulled in all directions by the machine!
Step 9: Fold and iron the other two sides
Once the first two sides are assembled, I repeat the folding and ironing steps with the two remaining sides.
Step 10: Pinning each corner
I pin the remaining corners, so that they come out exactly right once they are sewn in place!
Step 11: Joining each side
And I make the two side seams, making sure they are perfectly straight.
Step 12: Applying the labels
Finally, it’s time to sew on the labels! The first one is a red woven label with the TSHU logo. It goes on the bottom right-hand corner of the handkerchief, unless the handkerchief needs to be embroidered—in which case, I place it on the left to make room for the embroidered initials or name on the right.
When I place the label, I make sure it is the same distance from the handkerchief’s folded hems to the right and the bottom, so that it is visually harmonious. I also make sure to choose red thread that matches the label perfectly, and a bobbin thread that matches the colour of the fabric on the reverse side, so it’s as subtle as possible. I also reduce my stitch width, in order for the label to hold perfectly in place.
Then I’m ready to put on my nylon care label! Since this one is eventually going to be cut or unsewn, I use a much wider stitch, which will be easy to remove. I change the thread to use white on the front, and a thread that matches the fabric on the back.
Step 13: Cutting extra threads
When everything is in place, it’s time to cut all the little threads that might be sticking out! There are always some left on the corners and sometimes a few small threads stick out of the folded edges. It’s important to be careful with this step, because if you cut too much, the seams can come undone!
Step 14: Brush the handkerchief
That’s it! The handkerchief is almost ready. Before ironing it, I brush it to remove the little threads or fluff that might have stuck to the fabric during the making. Yes, in our house, we all have tiny bits of thread stuck to our socks, no matter how many times I vacuum, every week!!!
Step 15: Ironing and folding the handkerchief
I then iron the handkerchief one last time on both sides, before folding it in 3, then in 3. Ta-daaaaaaaa! The handkerchief is ready to meet his new parents!
So, did you know that there are so many steps in the making of a simple handkerchief? Do you have any questions about how I work? Don’t hesitate to ask!