How to Make an Heirloom Lace-Edged Hanky for the Bride-to-Be

comments (12) February 17th, 2016     

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JenniferStern Jennifer Stern, contributor
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My embroidered initial was an opportunity for a little something blue.
Youll be surprised how easy it is to make mitered lace corners!
My friend Pam sends this sweet note off with each hanky she gives to a bride-to-be...
My embroidered initial was an opportunity for a little something blue.

My embroidered initial was an opportunity for a little something blue.

Photo: Jen Stern
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Among my repertoire of handcraft techniques, heirloom sewing holds a special place in my heart. It seems to me that the only time I delve into my box of french laces, batiste, and fine cotton sewing thread is when I'm making something extra special...for someone else. My favorite projects have been the christening gowns that I've designed for my girls and my sisters' children, each an heirloom that will be handed down to their children. Another project I love to make is a lace-edged hanky for a friend who's getting married. I can pick my laces, stitch them together to create a fancy band, and use it to trim a plain square of cotton batiste in a single afternoon (unlike the christening gowns that are "slightly" more involved!). An embroidered initial of the bride's first name adds a final personal touch. I'm going to show you how to make a simple "fancy band" of french cotton lace, but feel free to get as fancy as you want. It's therapeutic to sit in front of the sewing machine and lace together, so you may want to add a few more rows. I machine-embroidered my first initial in the corner of this hanky...I might be needing it in the near future! If you don't have an embroidery machine, you can hand-embroider a simple initial.

One of my super-talented friends, Pam, sends a sweet note with each hanky she gives to a bride-to let her know that the lace hanky can be stitched into a baby bonnet. When her daughter grows up and gets married, the stitches can be taken out and she can carry the hanky down the aisle with her. If she had a son, it would make a lovely gift for his bride.

Here's what you'll need:

  • A 16-inch square of cotton batiste (I've put links to the Martha Pullen Co. above-excellent selection of fabric and lace!)
  • 2-1/2 yards of cotton lace insertion (both sides are straight)
  • 2-1/2 yards of cotton lace edging (one side is straight and the other side has a pretty edge)
  • Spray starch (I use Niagara, which you can get at the grocery store)
  • 60-weight white fine cotton sewing thread
  • A size 10 needle
  • Embroidery supplies and thread of your choice (I used wash-away stabilizer and baby blue rayon embroidery thread)
  • A CLEAN iron and ironing board (If you haven't looked at the sole plate of your iron in a while, check it out to be sure it's not dirty. You'll be amazed how easy "stuff" can get on white fabric and lace. If the board has seen better days, like mine, put a piece of white cotton fabric over it.)

Rip a 16-inch square of batiste. Press and lightly starch the fabric. Instead of cutting across the fabric to make your square, clip in 1/2 inch along the edge and tear the fabric.

rip on grain
Lightweight fabrics such as batiste will tear along the grainline; that way, the weave of the fabric will be straight across your hanky.


trim off edges
Press the square and use a ruler and rotary cutter to trim off all the little "hairs" that are left by tearing the fabric.

Lightly spray starch on the laces you will be using. Let it dry, then press it flat-don't rub back and forth with the iron because you'll stretch it out of shape. Set up your sewing machine to sew lace-to-lace:

  1. Wipe off the flat-bed surface of your sewing machine with a little Windex on a paper towel so it's nice and clean.
  2. Put in a size 10 needle.
  3. Wind a bobbin and thread the machine with 60-weight fine cotton sewing thread.
  4. Select the zigzag stitch. Set the width to 2.5 mm and the length to 1.5 mm.

To sew the insertion lace to the edging lace, butt the headers together (the header is the narrow woven edge along the straight side of the lace). Lace edging only has a header on the straight side, while insertion lace has one on both sides; that way, you can sew as many insertion pieces together as you want before adding the edging lace. Center the lace strips under your presser foot. I'm using an open-toe foot so I can see where I'm sewing. The goal is to zigzag back and forth into each header to join the two pieces of lace together. It takes a little practice, so just go SLOW. If you "miss" a spot, don't worry; you can go back and fix it later.

sew lace together
Starching the lace makes it behave much nicer!

Press the fancy band flat. If you want to make a wider band, you can choose wider lace or add more rows of insertion lace before you join it to the batiste.

Press lace band
The zigzag stitching disappears as it wraps around the two headers to join the laces.

Shown below is another example of a fancy band that I'm working on for another project. The insertion lace that has the holes running down it is called beading. You can weave a 1/4-inch satin ribbon through the holes in the lace.

fancier band

Position the fancy band along one of the edges of the square. Leave a tail that is 1/4 inch longer than the width of the fancy band (to make mitered corners). Match the raw edge of the fabric with the header on the lace insertion. We are going to use the same zigzag stitch as we did to sew the laces together. The difference is we are going to sew through the header and edge of the batiste as the stitch "zigs." As the stitch "zags" over, we are going to sew just off the edge of the fabric.

Sew band to bastiste square
See how the needle just misses the edge of the fabric (on the zag)...


whip and roll
...then it swings back, stitching through the header and fabric as it zigs.

The seam between the lace and the fabric will look identical to the seam between the two laces.

leave a tail when you trim off excess lace
Sew all the way to the opposite corner and then trim the fancy band, leaving a tail that is 1/4 inch wider than the width of the band.

Press the fancy band away from the fabric.

Press lace flat
Don't rub or press hard with the iron, or you'll stretch the edge out of shape.

Repeat the steps above to sew lace to all four sides of the hanky.

Now it's time to make our mitered corners. Place the hanky wrong side facing up on the irong board. Start by folding the top tail at a 45-degree angle as shown (the bottom header should be in line with the top edge of the hanky). Press the fold to create a crease.

Mitered corner step 1
Flip the lower tail to the top, and fold it over the same way going in the opposite direction.


step 2
The folded edges should butt up against each other after they are both creased.


step 3
Fold the hanky in half (corner to corner). Pin the creases together, then draw a line along the crease using a wash-away marker.


step 4
Trim off the excess lace, leaving a 1/8-inch seam allowance.

Adjust the zigzag stitch to "whip and roll" the lace edges together. Reduce the stitch length to 0.8 mm and lengthen the width to 4.0 mm. Tighten the needle tension to 5 or 6. The sewing technique is the same as the one we used to sew the lace to the edge of the batiste. We are going to zig onto the blue line and zag off the edge of the lace seam allowances. The difference is that we hiked up the tension-as you sew off the edge of the lace, the thread will actually roll the edges of the lace, finishing them as you go! (Whip and roll is a great way to sew and finish edges in one step if you're working with lightweight fabrics!)

step 5
Start stitching right at the tip of the batiste, and whip and roll your way to the tip of the lace.

As you stitch off the outer corner of the lace, don't panic as the lace disappears under the presser foot-it'll come out nice and neat. (I'm always amazed at how cool this technique works for stuff like this!)

action shot
Don't worry as you stitch off the outer corner of the lace.

When the corners are done, give your hanky a final press. If one of your corners didn't come out perfectly, squeeze a small dot of Fray Check into the corner for a little invisible reinforcement.

fray check the corners.
A little Fray Check can provide some reinforcement.

If you want to embroider an initial in the corner, fold the hanky and press to create creases to use as a guide. First, fold on the diagonal to find the center above the corner. Then fold the corner in toward the center of the hanky (lining up the first crease on top of itself as you fold). Crease the second fold when you've positioned it where you want to center the embroidery.

embroider an initial
I positioned the center of my embroidered initial 4 inches away from the corner.
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posted in: , diy bride, hanky, something blue diy, wedding diy, brides

Comments (12)

kaykay7c writes: Did you pre-wash your batiste? I got mine from Martha Pullen. I went to another fabric store for other supplies and the lady there told me batiste didn't need to be pre-washed.
Posted: 3:30 pm on May 12th
Cteleisha writes: Just lovely....I'm so happy to find your post! Thank you
Posted: 9:59 pm on February 6th
BoHolm writes: Was just wondering if you wash your lace before you starch and sew it onto the hanky. Do you use any stabilizer between the lace and fabric when sewing
I made 2 hankies but was not happy with my mitred corners. Your instructions are clear however I am I wondering if there is another way to get a crisper mitred corner. Any tips you are able to offer would be appreciated
Posted: 9:31 pm on June 24th
kobochan writes: i love the idea... ty ty ty...
Posted: 1:30 am on June 29th
Lilyangel writes: *first attempt....
Posted: 1:07 pm on January 21st
Lilyangel writes: Needing to make a bride's hankie for my dil...just wondering, did you hem (rolled or otherwise) the hankie before you added the lace? I can't tell from the pictures and it doesn't say in the tutorial...Fist attempt here so I want to make sure I know what I am doing!! lol
Posted: 1:04 pm on January 21st
NeedtoSewBlog writes: Absolutely lovely! Just the perfect gift this time of year.

Thank you!
Posted: 1:45 pm on June 5th
tsailee writes: Brayden, I was able to find this online and thought it might help:

Martha Pullen also sells handkerchief bonnet kits at her store: Look at the menu on the left under "Kits".

These are also great gifts for older men who prefer monogrammed hankies to Kleenex. Just serge the edges instead of adding lace.
Posted: 1:22 pm on May 27th
Sweet_Dee writes: I am always looking for ways to make heirlooms, I love this! I love the words in the poem and the whole idea! LOVE THIS HANKY!
Posted: 9:21 pm on May 17th
Brayden4 writes: I love the hanky with the 'blue' initial embroidery. I will be doing that for my daughters wedding.
Does anyone have a pattern for a brides hanky that turns into something for a baby? I can't remember what it was, but I loved the idea, any suggestions would be helpful!!!
Posted: 10:31 pm on May 16th
JenniferStern writes: Hi Meredith, I like to use Aqua Mesh wash away stabilizer--it looks like paper (not the clear stuff). After the embroidery is done, I trim most of the stabilizer away and then the rest washes away. I almost alway use 505 Temporary Adhesive Spray to hold the fabric in the hoop--It makes it much easier to get the embroidery positioned exactly where I want it! (Never too many questions... :>)
Posted: 5:12 pm on May 16th
MeredithP writes: I love heirloom sewing, but really have no use for it. I like this idea very much. I assume you used a wash away stabilizer when you machine embroidered? What type do you like for this purpose? Did you use temporary spray adhesive to secure the hankie to the stabilizer, or perhaps sticky wash away? So many questions...:-)
Posted: 9:39 am on May 16th
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