The Hankie Gift

Uta's box of hankies
Uta’s box of hankies

Gretchen’s letter floated off the shelf in my studio and landed at my feet.  It was from January and although I remembered the box of neatly folded hankies, I didn’t remember Gretchen’s name or what the note said.   When I read it again, I thought Gretchen was so right.  She wrote:

“I could not give these to just anyone.  Call me corny, but I think they were meant to go to you.  Even if you can’t use them, I am sure they are where they should be.”

I don’t have those  hankies anymore, but they are where they should be.  They were my first scarves and they’re scattered all over the country being worn and seen and appreciated. And since then, I keep getting more hankies.   Sometimes they are someone’s life time collection,  I’ve gotten boxes with 100 or more.  Sometimes I get one or two in a plastic baggie that someone found in a drawer or at a garage sale or that belonged to a friends mother or grandmother.  Sometimes I make them into scarves and send them back.  Other times we make a trade, they choose the hankies they want me to make into scarf out of for them and I get to keep the rest of the collection.  I always try to give something back when someone sends me hankies, a scarf, some potholders, a pack of Jon’s note cards.  But sometimes I let them be gifts, because it seems right.

Karen sent a few hankies with the Day of the Dead Cat pillow that I bought from her.  ” I added a couple of hankies” she wrote ” I know you’ll get some use from them.”

Nancy told me in a letter that she has lots of treasures packed away in her attic and every once in a while she’s able to connect one of her treasures with someone she meets.  So when she recently found a stash of hankies she thought of me.  She got our address from Jon and he told her I would want to do a trade.  But in her letter that came with the hankies she wrote ” You both have inspired me and many others to embrace our creativity and pursue our artistic hopes and dreams.  I think that is a wonderful trade, don’t you?”  Boy, did I cry over that one.

Helen send a box of hankies, embroidered linens and hand made lace.   Some of the pieces in the box are from Russia, before 1918 and other from Belgium before 1951.   She signed the letter “from the woman you told, it was alright to cry.”  And I did.

Uta’s hankies, came in a shoe box covered in flowered shelf paper.   My first sewing kit was a shoe box covered in shelf paper that my grandmother gave to me.  I still have it.

Every time I get  hankies from someone, weather it’s been in their family for 5o years or they just bought them at a flea market, I feel I’ve made a connection with that person.  Then, I make the hankies into a scarf and make a connection with the person I sell it to and the hankies go back out into the world.  The hankies seem to tie us all together, a long story of hankie being passed from person to person starting with the original owner and ending in a place and with a person I’ll never know.

These hankies, such a personal object, being held and touched and stitched and sewn.  Often used in very  intimate ways, kept safe and cherished, forgotten and reclaimed.  And now  everyone one of us who touches one of them is  closer to each other, even if just by a very slight thread.

The hankies an lace and linens from Helen
The hankies an lace and linens from Helen


8 thoughts on “The Hankie Gift

  1. Beautifully stated, Maria. You have such a poetic way of expressing yourself and your artwork. I know when I receive my scarf from you that I will immediately feel the special connection…through the threads and fibers and the hands that have worked it.

  2. Maria,

    When I read this post I thought of Indra’s net and the interconnectedness of all things:

    Far away in the heavenly abode of the great god Indra, there is a wonderful net which has been hung by some cunning artificer in such a manner that it stretches out infinitely in all directions. In accordance with the extravagant tastes of deities, the artificer has hung a single glittering jewel in each “eye” of the net, and since the net itself is infinite in dimension, the jewels are infinite in number. There hang the jewels, glittering “like” stars in the first magnitude, a wonderful sight to behold. If we now arbitrarily select one of these jewels for inspection and look closely at it, we will discover that in its polished surface there are reflected all the other jewels in the net, infinite in number. Not only that, but each of the jewels reflected in this one jewel is also reflecting all the other jewels, so that there is an infinite reflecting process occurring.


    1. Thank you so much for this story Janet. I heard it for the first time a few months ago and it rang so true, it has stayed with me on some level. Hearing it again just reinforces how I feel about it. And you are so right, I wasn’t thinking about it at the time, but It’s what I feel with the scarves. It is the effect of the jewels reflecting the other jewels that is ineffable to me and so powerful.

  3. I feel so lucky…….reading your blog……seeing this Hankies and their stories. I love what you do with them.
    Art……… give the Hankies and their stories new life and share it beautifully. Thank you !
    Hugs for you & Minnie too.

  4. The hankies that you have pictured on top are from my childhood almost 70 years ago, maybe some little girl will enjoy them too perhaps in a pillow or in a quilt.

    1. They are wonderful Uta, I know they are not right for a scarf, but I was thinking a pillow or quilt myself. There’s one that looks like it has a werewolf story, I just love it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Full Moon Fiber Art