Thursday, 2 July 2015

Handkerchief Memories

On the requirements list for the  CQ Summer School workshop with Isabel Dibden-Wright, besides paper, drawing and sewing materials and black and white fabrics   was a handkerchief ' for artwork' .
I thought it might be used to mount a piece of textile work but its purpose was far more intriguing.
On the Friday evening, Isabel showed us a selection of handkerchiefs ( plain, embroidered, vintage, new)  and we had a brief discussion about what they're used for and  memories  associated with them.  Our challenge  was to decorate/ alter  the handkerchief we'd brought with us in any way we chose with a 'grand reveal' on Sunday afternoon 

 The  handkerchief I brought was one of those liberated  when I converted Ian to tissues  from revolting  ' Manky Hankies' ( of course the downside is tissue lint  in the washing machine... ).   Apart from  a  dainty small hankie I use with Olbas oil,  my main use of these large mens hankies is for  wiping eyes when I cycle; removing smears and fingerprints  from my glasses;  around my hand when using a trekking pole to absorb sweat and as an impromptu paint rag. So my decoration, continuing the mark-making theme of the class and inspired by my 'Human Marks' workshop with Dorothy Caldwell  involved fingerprints of  ink using a piece of felt and a  photo  printed on fabric  of my inky finger, tacked on with quilting thread.  This photo was a trial run for my  'Inky Digit' quilt - I'd brought it with other black and white fabrics. Ruth had suggested I should do nostril prints but lets not go there....   
The  'grand reveal'  was very moving as apart from the ingenuity displayed in  working with the handkerchiefs (3d origami structures, bags, hats, text , stitch), how handkerchiefs are used and who they belonged to had triggered   hidden and powerful  memories and honest sharing  of the difficulties in caring.
 At the time, my main memory was as a child   buying  boxes of them for my Dad  as presents  and finding them all  intact  as they were 'too good' to use.  He persisted in continuing to wear  a very tatty jumper and hat in the garden despite new replacements for the same reason.
Then when I got home I remembered  the stories about  Dandy the Delinquent  Dalmation, the dog we had when I was a toddler , who besides chewing up  anything in sight including heirloom silver napkin rings, used to jump up and snatch the hankies from mens jacket pockets and eat them!  
Who knew that a small hemmed piece of fabric  could unleash all this - thanks to Isabel for the suggestion, more than just a creative exercise.


The Idaho Beauty said...

This makes me think of my mother who saved so many worn or wornout things because of the sentimental memories they invoked. I've always found it fascinating that everyday things can trigger such strong memories. Aa for handkerchiefs, I inherited my grandmother's collection, some obviously used, some so crisp they probably never saw the light of day let alone touch a nose or sweaty brow. Some I imagine were embellished by her sisters with embroidery and crocheted or tatted lace (I have other crocheted & tatted items I was told were made by them). I've always meant to do something with them but what?

This has also reminded me of an aunt who visited for long stretches when I was growing up. She was allergic to so much & had the perpetual drippy nose. Thus she always had a handkerchief on her person, usually stuffed in a sleeve. She too switched to kleenex which we weren't sure was an improvement. We were forever finding used ones in the furniture as these did not seem to stay up her sleeve as well as the cloth ones!

The Hanky Dress Lady said...

@Idaho Beauty - regarding your comment about your family hankies, "I've always wanted to do something with them, but what?"
You are not alone in making this comment. I had heard so many women say, "I just love vintage hankies, but what do you do with them?" It was in response to this that I created Hanky Dresses. They are a decorative piece of art and a great way to preserve your hanky memories.
I am simply addicted to creating with vintage handkerchiefs and continue to create new ways to display and appreciate them.

The Idaho Beauty said...

I've taken a quick look at your blog, THDL, and see you have surely found your niche! Your hankie dresses are quite delightful - I'd not seen that use of hankies before. The type of folding that you do surely shows off the best parts. I did run across a pattern awhile ago that also used folding but to turn the handkerchiefs into butterflies - a little more my style although I've not pursued it yet. Thanks for chiming in here. At least you've got me thinking again!