Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Handkerchiefs! YES.

Handkerchiefs in one form or another have been around for centuries. From elaborately and expensively embroidered ones of the Renaissance era, to simple white squares of more modern times, they were ubiquitous to stuffy noses before the advent of the disposable tissue. Paper tissues offer convenience to the user, as they can simply be thrown away, but really, they have no class. We're all about class here at Kissing Commas, and I wish to make you all classier individuals by focusing this week's post on the tried, true, and tasteful handkerchief.

For me, handkerchiefs have two very excellent benefits. One, they are deliciously Steampunk. Steampunk is a fashion movement, artistic and social sensibility, and lifestyle that glorifies the styles and technologies of the Victorian era with a modern, high-tech approach. My vocabulary is too woefully equipped to give the movement justice, and so I offer a few links to peruse: Wikipedia and The Ether Emporium. My point here is that handkerchiefs were carried by everyone in the Victorian era, regardless of class, and are infinitely customizable. They are an easy accessory, both decorative and utilitarian. They fit any Steampunk attire and persona perfectly. I started carrying hankies for this reason, and if you have a Steampunk inclination, I suggest you try it!

The second benefit ties more into modern sensibilities: handkerchiefs are both economical and green. Handkerchiefs are laundered, not thrown out – they are larger than tissues and thus can survive many more nose-blowings. They are cheap – they can be bought in packets of several for a reasonable price or made at home easily with scrap fabric. Some of you may protests that handkerchiefs are “icky” because they are used more than once. Dude, it's your own snot. It won't kill you. Due to the size of handkerchiefs, you aren't even forced to use the same portion more than once. If you make more than one hanky, you can have one per day and further cut down on the perceived ickyness. We also tend to forget how disgusting a wastepaper basket is when it's filled to the brim with discarded tissues. I sure hope your mama's not emptying it. Tissues cannot be recycled (believe me, I've fought with Municiple Services over this one), and with the paper snot rags and packaging they come in combined, they take up a lot of landfill space. Help Mama Earth and use a hanky for christ's sake.

There's a final reason that handkerchiefs are, like, totally fabulous, and that of course is the aforementioned classiness of them. Gentlemen, how amazing will you be in the eyes of the ladies and gents you are wooing if you bust out a hanky and offer it to him or her when they have a stuffy nose. You will be da man. Duh, man. In fact, ladies, why aren't you offering hankies chivalrously? This is the twenty-first century; woo some mofos, dammit! Handkerchiefs can be given away as tokens of affection, waved to departing sweeties who are off to fight for your country (or going to the grocery store, whatever), and tucked into pockets of suit jackets or other clothing pieces for a touch of awesome. You can sweep the dirt/water off a bench at the park for you honey, too! They're pretty badass. I guarantee you: for whatever reason you are carrying one, the hanky will up your awesome quotient by like a million. Like a million.

As I mentioned, handkerchiefs can be purchased for trifle. I've looked around and found: Wholesale Linens. They can also be found at antique shops and flea markets, but if it's a priceless antique or older than your grandma, don't blow your nose in it, please. There are a lot from the 30s onward floating around that are perfect for your boogers. You can also make you own. The easiest way is to cut a 12.5” x 12.5” piece of a light fabric (cotton, cotton blend, or linen) and fold the edges down one quarter inch on all sides. Iron the folds down, and hem with a sewing machine or by hand just above the raw edge. I've found that old t-shirts, like Hanes cotton shirts can be used to make a very serviceable hanky. Soft on the nosie! If you have a hankering (haha) for something more fancy, The Purl Bee has two great tutorials: Rolled Hem Handkerchiefs and Herringbone Handkerchiefs . Here's another tutorial, this one from Grosgrain Fabulous: Monogrammed Handkerchief. It also includes instructions for a hanky holder – nice! You can go wild if you're the flashy type by embroidering with fun colors, sewing on little swatches or ribbons, or bedazzling them. I totally bedazzle some of my hankies. Read up on all the great folding methods, slip to into your pocket or handbag, and get ready to be awesome.

You can thank me later.