Thursday, 16 June 2016

Kleenex and the death of hankerchiefs

As a child, I learnt to iron when mum let me do the hankies and the tea towels.  I loved the large checked hankies for Dad, the smaller hankies for Mum that I folded into rectangle, and the tiny hankies for my sister and I that went into neat little squares.  I still use tea towels every day, and now my own children are learning to iron on them, but hankies have sort of fallen by the wayside.

My family love their aloe-vera softened, eucalyptus oil enriched tissues - recycled tissues are 'too scratchy" and hankies are too much effort....until they leave a tissue in a pocket in the wash!
A pretty vintage hankie
A pretty vintage hankie
Cloth handkerchiefs are not only vintage, they are of course better for the environment. Up until the 1970s everyone carried a handkerchief. They were useful as bandages and little bags if you were a child, and even as a make do hat if you were a balding man, like my grandfather - simply tie each corner.  Of course dapper gents would have one sticking out of their breast pocket. I've heard they also make a good tea strainer if you are desperate!

In the 1930s there was quite a stir in Australia when the Handkerchief Association of Great Britain (I kid you not) decided to make hankies larger, meaning of course more fabric, more hemming, and more cost.

Although the Japanese have used paper facial tissues for hundreds of years, Tissues as we know them today were first introduced by Kimberly-Clark as Kleenex in 1924, as a means to remove cold cream. They didn't really take hold in Australia until the 1950s - a time when clean and new became more important that environmental friendly or frugal. And what couldn't tissues do?

Kleenex tissue ad, 1955
Kleenex ad, 1955

By the 1960s kleenex was still being advertised as a beauty aid.

vintage kleenex ad, 1960s
Kleenex 1965

But the ads also became cute - little girls, little boys and pets started to appear - although the slogan "don't put a cold in your pocket" was still used.

vintage kleenex tissue ad

Despite Kleenex's claims, I don't think using hankies make you sicker.  As long as you wash your hands after use, which you should do with tissues as well, and wash them well, they are fine.

Well, I have started using hankies again. I even iron them - or get the kids to - after soaking, washing and line drying!  I have sold quite a few vintage hankies in my store - the blue or white lace ones are popular for brides, and some pretty hankies are bought by crafters for turning into dried flower sachets.

If you are crafty, why not try making your own hankies, and even try a little's a pttern from 1967 to get you started!

vintage crochet pattern for hankie edging

1 comment:

  1. That article is hilarious! I remember my Grandma always having a hankie up her sleeve and I think my great aunt still does. Thanks for telling us all the history and how Kleenex evolved, I love looking at vintage adverts. Thanks for the entertaining read! XxxX


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