Who Needs Tissues? How to Sew a Handkerchief

Cold and flu season is certainly here, isn’t it? There are some nasty icks going around right now, and all of those stuffy noses mean lots of boxes of tissues, right? The trouble with tissues is that after your nose-blowing is done, that paper goes right to the landfill. You can’t recycle used tissues. Before the winter cold or flu hits you, check out how to sew a handkerchief, so your runny nose won’t use so much paper!

Related Reading: 5 Natural Cold and Flu Remedies

Hankie Basics

If you’re new to handkerchiefs, there’s definitely a grossness factor to get past. Use the same cloth to blow your nose multiple times? EW!

Think about eating a messy meal, though. You don’t use a new napkin every time you wipe your mouth, right? You just find an unused part of your napkin to do the trick. It’s the same with a hankie. Once you get the swing of it, it’s really not too gross, and you can sew up multiple hankies, so you can swap them out when you reach your threshhold with one.

Once I got used to using cloth, I liked it so much better than paper. Paper hankies always leave your nose so raw and painful, and cloth is much gentler on your skin. Plus, it saves a lot of money! Instead of buying box after box of tissues, you just toss those hankies in the wash, and they’re ready to use again!

You can use the video tutorial on the next page to make a hankie of any size, and it’s a two-ply deal, so it’s much more absorbent than the flimsy little hankies you’re used to seeing. Ready to get sewing? Check out the tutorial on the next page!

photo by Becky Striepe

How to Sew a Handkerchief

OK, guys, I will let you in on a secret now: handkerchiefs are just cloth napkins using an assumed identity! This reversible napkin tutorial is perfect for making a super absorbent, durable hankie for cold and flu season. All you need to make your handkerchief are:

two pieces of fabric – these can be the same or you can mix up your fabrics to have a little fun! Choose something absorbent like organic cotton, hemp, or linen

  • sewing machine
  • iron
  • pins
  • thread
  • fabric scissors
  • measuring tape

Here’s the tutorial:

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Val M.
Val M.2 years ago


Mary Beth M.
MaryBeth M.2 years ago

I love cotton hankies, so much softer & gentler. With allergies, they get used year round. But when anyone is sick here with a cold or sinus infection, we do use tissues. I buy the ones made from recycled paper. Even though they do end up in the landfill. With the sheer volume used when someone is sick, can't imagine having that many hankies and having to keep washing them. But always something to strive for.

Colleen Maranda
Colleen B.2 years ago

I don't agree with ditching tissues (mine are made from fast growing sustainable trees). Nor do I agree with "cold and flu season" and "all those stuffy noses". Three years ago I found that we suffer poor immunity (and chronic conditions) due to toxicity and also widespread deficiency in critical nutrients, especially minerals (depleted soils) . Two of the main ones - magnesium and boron, which must function together - are affordable and readily available in their pure and natural form (although corporate interests strive to sabotage our access to these).

My household no longer suffers colds and flu (nor stiffness, lethargy, or dozens of other common conditions). Magnesium is most efficient and effective when applied to the skin (or added to a foot soak) in the form of "Magnesium Oil" (which is actually condensed seawater). See Dr Carolyn Dean's website or the product information website of Global Light Network.

Boron is best consumed in its natural and pure ionic form, which is marketed as "Borax". For details about dose, etcetera, see the website of Walter Last and read his 2012 article titled, "The Borax Conspiracy".

Jude Hand
Judith Hand2 years ago

I've gotten a lot of satisfaction out of using hankies sent me by my mom's partner after she died over a decade ago. Not only do I save on paper, but it's just the idea of them. I like the cloth now. Perhaps I'll make some hankies when these are no longer useable. Great idea, thanks.

Dotti Lydon
Dotti Lydon2 years ago

No thanks to the cloth hankies for me. I do have some lovely ones just to look at. I call them antiques because they are older than me. They were left to me by my aunts and some even have a little note tucked inside the fold.

Elva D.
Elva D.2 years ago

I have been seriously thinking about going back (I'm 85) to using cloth hankies-I take pills that make my nose run all the time and go through MANY boxes of tissues -cost a small fortune-I know how to crochet lace around the edge and they can be washed in the washer with no problem-I'm sure it would be hard for younger folks that never used hankies-because of the eweu-factor-just a thought-

Michele Wilkinson

Thank you

Inari T.
Inari T.2 years ago

Interesting that people used handkerchiefs for generations without being particularly more sickly than we are, though I think our great-grandmothers would have had their cotton or linen hankies boiled, which would have been more hygenic, perhaps?

Personally, I always carry a cotton handkerchief in my pocket, not for blowing my nose, but to dry my hands (rather than wasting energy with electric hand-dryers) or to use as a napkin, or for any number of other purposes where cloth is just better than paper tissue.

debby ro
Deborah ro2 years ago

I have beautiful embroidered handkerchiefs ,but can not deal with the washing part ....and the dampness of a material when reused ,as much as I love to recycle (I hope tissue paper is made form recycled paper ) I can not go back using the handkerchiefs .....I think of incorporating them in a patchwork tablecloth ...

Aditya n.
Aditya n.2 years ago