Every year we struggle with what to make for Father’s Day. We came up with this project after visiting fine men’s clothing shops around New York City who often create this type of beautiful, hand rolled hem handkerchief out of shirting fabric remnants. We love the contrast between the organic feel that the hand rolling creates and the crisp clean fabric.
You can sew one handkerchief in an hour, and even better once you’ve cut the fabric, you can fit everything you need to make the handkerchief in your pocket and off you go to the bus, train, plane or subway to whip up the perfect gift for dad without even skipping a beat. Not only will your dad think of you every time he pulls one out of his pocket, but he’ll look good doing it!
For each hankie you will need at least at least a 12 1/2-inch by 12 1/2-inch square of fabric. One full 1/2-yard piece is enough fabric to make 3 hankies
Here are the fabrics we used from top to bottom:
- Lecien Mrs Marches collection- Red Blue Stripes
- Windham Farmhouse Blues – Blue Stars
- Windham Farmhouse Blues – Red Dots
- Moda Cake Rock Beach – Earth Sand
- Windham Miniatures – Blue Spheres
- Windham Rhapsody – Red Cirles
- Moda Cake Rock Beach – Coral Fisherman’s Net
These particular fabrics are no longer available, but please check out all of our current fabrics for some great alternatives!
Note: Fabrics with a pattern that you can follow as you stitch make the process easier. It helps keep your stitches a consistent distance apart when you can use the pattern as a guide. Once you cut the fabric square, the pattern isn’t always perfectly square to the edges, but not to worry, a little irregularity contributes to the lovely handmade feel.
You will also need . . .
- Hand Quilting Thread
- Size 10 hand sewing needle
- Rotary cutter
- Self healing cutting mat
- 6.5-inch x 24.5-inch non-slip ruler (or comparable size)
- 12.5-inch x 12.5-inch square non-slip ruler
The finished handkerchief size is approximately 12 inches square.
Prewash fabric before starting.
Square up your fabric and then cut to 12.5 inch x 12.5 inch squares. If you need help with this step, please see our Rotary Cutter Tutorial.
Roll the Edge
Hold the fabric with the wrong side facing you. Roll the edge of the right side of the fabric towards you between your moistened thumb and index finger. (You can just lick your finger as if to turn a page, but if this is unappealing to you just summon your inner bank teller and have a wet sponge at hand to moisten your finger.) Roll approximately 1/4-inch of fabric. Be sure that it is tight enough so that it feels secure and also so it won’t reveal itself after the hanky has been washed several times.
Sew the Hem
Thread your needle and tie a small knot at the end. You can make the thread long enough to go around the entire hanky so that you don’t have to deal with a lot of knots which means using a piece of thread that is at least 55-inches long, or you can use several lengths that are around 18-inches long. Do whatever is easiest for you.
We chose to sew some of our hankies with contrasting thread for a more fun look (as shown above and throughout these examples). Others we made with thread that matched the ground of the fabric to give a more subtle look.
Keep in mind that when you start this project that the first one might feel a bit awkward, but don’t be discouraged. As you continue you’ll get the hang of it!
Place the needle into the end of the rolled edge as shown above and come out about 1/2-inch away to make the first stitch. Pull needle through.
Catch approximately 1/16-inch (or 3 or 4 threads-worth) of the body of the fabric just where the roll meets the fabric. Pull needle through.
Insert the needle back into the roll a few threads to the left of where you previously came out as shown above.
Run the needle through the roll for approximately 1/2-inch. Bring the needle back out of the roll and again catch approximately 1/16-inch of the fabric. (If you are using a contrasting thread and want the stitch to become part of the decoration on the right side of the hanky, you can make the stitch length slightly longer. When using a matching thread you may choose to make the stitches as small as possible.)
Continue in this way along the entire length of one side of the hanky. Stop approximately 1/2-inch before the end. To make the corner, roll the perpendicular side of the hanky just as you did the first side. This time you will have the roll of the first side contend with, but if you roll it tight it will make a neat edge. Stitch the rolled corner down using the same stitch technique that you used above.
When you come to the last corner, secure the thread by making a small knot and popping it into the inside of the hem then repeat. You won’t want the hanky to come unraveled while your dad is in the middle of using it!