Go Blow Your Nose

July 15th, 2013

It all started with a Father’s Day present . . . a half-dozen monogrammed handkerchiefs, using embroidery directions and an alphabet from The Complete Encyclopedia of Needlework, by T. de Dillmont, 1884. It took a few tries to really get the hang of it, but then I was hooked.


So I began combing my address book for other gents known or suspected to use old-fashioned cotton hankies. And coincidentally (if you believe in coincidence) I just happened to be rereading Ulysses, from whence this gem at the beginning of “Telemachus:”

Buck Mulligan frowned at the lather on his razorblade. He hopped down from his perch and began to search his trouser pockets hastily.

–Scutter! he cried thickly.

He came over to the gunrest and, thrusting a hand into Stephen’s upper pocket, said:

–Lend us a loan of your noserag to wipe my razor.

Stephen suffered him to pull out and hold up on show by its corner a dirty crumpled handkerchief. Buck Mulligan wiped the razorblade neatly. Then, gazing over the handkerchief, he said:

–The bard’s noserag! A new art colour for our Irish poets: snotgreen. You can almost taste it, can’t you?

He mounted to the parapet again and gazed out over Dublin bay, his fair oakpale hair stirring slightly.

–God! he said quietly. Isn’t the sea what Algy calls it: a great sweet mother? The snotgreen sea.

What’s more appealing than a neatly monogrammed, snotgreen noserag?


August 15th, 2011

I have just returned from a whirlwind journey, and have a splitting headache. So I’m not going to write anything clever. Besides, they say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here is a picture of the finished handkerchief.


May the bride who carries this enjoy a lifetime of love! And may she pardon my slightly off-kilter stitching…

In case you’re interested, here is the pattern I used, originally published in Godey’s Lady’s Book, August 1850.

Godey's, August 1850

Now, back to The Mayor of Casterbridge, which I just began. I sped through Agnes Grey on the train, but will make you wait to hear more about that until I feel I can do it justice.

Something to Sneeze At

August 1st, 2011

I made a little detour this weekend and hemmed a linen handkerchief.

It’s a tedious but simple process — cutting the linen square to a thread, pulling a single thread for each fold of the hem, then a double thread where it’s to be sewed down. The corners are mitered of course, which is easy to do once the threads have been pulled. I sewed the hem with embroidery floss, wrapping it around three threads at a time to create the signature dotted line that has graced fine linen handkerchiefs for centuries past.


This particular one is edged with some delicate floral lace from my bag of bits and pieces. And yes, I plan to embroider something on one of the corners, but you’ll just have to wait to find out what. It’s a gift, so must be kept under wraps until I deliver it. It’s on the large side for a lady’s formal handkerchief — nearly 12 inches square — but since the lace is so tiny, I decided to err on the generous side.

I’d love to see handkerchiefs that you’ve made. For inspiration, here’s one from the genius behind Costume & Construction. Perhaps I’ll make another soon and write a more detailed post about their proper construction and stitching.