My husband carries a handkerchief in his pocket everyday. He’s done this since I’ve known him and I never think about it until I need it for a sneeze gone awry or for a crying event. On a recent family trip, a bird pooped on my daughter’s head and his hanky kept the situation from going from bad to the not funny kind of hysterical. For some reason that particular incident got me wondering why my husband seems to be the only person in his generation who carries a hanky. I questioned him at length about this and he thinks he became a carrier when he got his first job after college and probably because he has seasonal allergies. He carries it for nasal emergencies but uses tissues when available.

Some say King Richard II of England invented the handkerchief in the 1300s. Others say Marie Antoinette is responsible for it as she was forced to rip bits of lace off her dress to staunch the flow of tears on her journey from Austria to France. Regardless of who invented the handkerchief and who’s responsible for its demise, I’m hoping to be instrumental in bringing it back to everyone’s pocket!

Some of you may have some memories of having a runny nose and your dad pulling out his partially used hanky, finding a clean corner and telling you to blow! I think my dad’s generation must’ve been the last of the handkerchief generation probably because of the invention of the Kleenex tissue in 1924.

Kimberly Clark marketed the tissue as a way for women to remove make-up. They soon discovered that more people were using the tissue to blow their noses than to wipe off cold cream. In the 1930s, the Kleenex maker convinced Americans not to carry a “cold in their pockets” and its little packs of tissues became the replacement for the handkerchief. It takes 90 years to grow one box of tissues. Americans go through over 2.5 billion boxes a year. Would using a hanky occasionally help save some trees? I don’t know but there are so many reasons other than nose blowing to carry a handkerchief. Here are just a few ways in which they come in handy:

1. To wipe sweat
2. To give to a crying person
3. As a bandage
4. To tie a splint
5. Dust mask
6. Eyeglass polisher

Since Father’s Day is just around the corner and you may not have a gift idea, why not make your dad a set of personalized handkerchiefs? All you need is a plain white hanky, a square of sandpaper, crayons, and an iron. Draw a picture on the sandpaper using a lot of crayon and place it on top of your hankie. Put a piece of paper under the hanky and on top of the sandpaper. Iron on hot. Peel off and you’ll have a personalized hanky. If you’re using words on your design, remember to write them backwards!

If you want a more hip and cool hanky, order some brick-wall patterned fabric from, grab yourself some fabric paints or if you’re less artistic and on a budget, use sharpies. Cut out your square of hanky, sew up the edges, draw graffiti, and set it with an iron. Voila! You have a personalized graffiti hankie. If you want some cool handkerchief ideas check out the Doodle Art & Design Pinterest page!

Do you carry a hanky? Have you ever saved the day with a hanky? Do you have any fond or gross memories about handkerchiefs? I’d love to hear them! Email me at!

Kathleen Thometz is an artist, writer and founder of Doodle Art & Design, a teaching studio, art gallery and retailer of its signature art kits in Western Springs. She lives with her husband, kids and three doodle dogs: Rainbow, Sunshine and Thunderstorm. Check out the Doodle Art & Design website or email her at

Kathleen Thometz

I am an artist, writer, and art instructor with four children, one husband, and two doodle-dogs. I have contributed articles to the and Chicago Parent Magazine and wrote the Artist's Eye column...