Cotton hankies and bandanas are inexpensive and charming pieces of fabric that quickly add a cottage, farmhouse, or vintage vibe to your decor.


Bandana napkins

Bandanas, or kerchiefs, are versatile little pieces of fabric. Their charming design and durable cotton construction make them ideal napkins for casual meals, picnics, and tailgating. For a buffet setup, wrap silverware in the center of a bandana and plunk it into a drinking glass (we used Mason jars). Corral the glasses on a tray.


Bandana quilt

The uniformity of bandanas make them perfect elements for a country-style patchwork quilt and their large size means you don’t need a lot to cover a bed. Use a limited palette as we did with our mix of blues or go wild with a jumble of hues—bandanas come in every color of the rainbow.

Gather your materials

  • Bandanas in coordinating colors
  • Backing fabric (we used a chambray cotton)
  • Matching thread
  • Sewing machine
  • Lightweight quilt batting
  • Binding fabric
  • Basic sewing tools

Calculate how many bandanas you will need to make a quilt that fits your bed. Bandanas average about 22 inches square. Ours is four rows by five, (20 bandanas) for a queen-size mattress.


Sewing bandana quilt

With right sides of two bandanas together, sew a ½-inch seam down one side. On the opposite edge of the first seam, add another bandana,, and continue adding until you have a complete short row.

Sew your short rows and press all seams. Place two short rows right sides together, pin, and sew a ½-inch seam down the edge. On the opposite edge of the first seam, add another short row, and continue adding until you have a complete quilt top. Press all seams.

Cut a piece of backing fabric the same size as your quilt top (or sew together three strips of narrower fabric to make a piece in the correct size). Cut a piece of batting the same size as your quilt top. Stack the pieces together, trim as needed to square the quilt pieces, and pin.


Detail of bandana quilt

Choose a quilting pattern (we selected an allover paisley to match the bandanas) and machine or hand quilt the pieces together (a google search on hand quilting will point you to many instructional videos), starting in the center of the quilt and working out to the sides. Or, if you prefer, take your quilt to a professional long-arm quilter to complete the quilting.

Sew strips of binding (again, search online for detailed instructions if you’re new to quilting) or use binding tape to finish the edge of your quilt. Stitch the binding to all sides of the quilt, mitering the corners as you go. Turn the binding and hand-stitch all around to complete the quilt.


Hankie flowers

Stitch up a permanent floral bouquet with a few simple supplies.

Gather your materials

  • Several hankies
  • Needle
  • Thread
  • Scissors
  • Iron, ironing board
  • Wire florist stems
  • Floral tape (optional)

Cut a small hankie in half or cut 4-inch strips from a larger hankie (when cutting strips, focus on the decorative areas of the fabric).


Stitching hankie flowers

With right sides together, sew a 1/4-inch seam at one of the short edges. Press the seam. Fold the strip in half lengthwise and press.

With a needle and matching thread, sew a gathering stitch along the raw long edge, Leave a tail of thread at the end.

From the top of one short edge, fold the corner down toward the raw edge at a 45-degree angle. Gently pull the gathering thread and while doing so, twist the hankie into a floral shape.

Insert a wire stem into the gathered end of the hankie and wrap the tail of the thread around the stem and tie. Finish with a wrapping of floral tape if you wish. Make several more flowers and arrange in a pretty vase.


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Frame boldly patterned hankies and hang on the wall in a symmetrical grid for high impact artwork. Metal LP cover frames are the right size and depth for framing the graceful fabrics.


Sewing machine and hankies

Here are some other easy ways to use handkerchiefs and bandanas around the home:

  1. Tie them to a tension rod to make a super-simple window valence.
  2. Use the patchwork technique from the quilt above to create gauzy curtain panels using thin cotton handkerchiefs.
  3. Using Sealah tape, wrap a lampshade in color-coordinated hankies.
  4. Wrap a small gift with a hankie or bandana.
  5. Using spray adhesive, attach a hankie to the backing of a frame; center a photograph on the hankie and attach with adhesive. Place the backing in the frame.
  6. Tie a bandana to your luggage handle to make it instantly identifiable at the airport baggage claim.


© Caruth Studio

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