Wednesday, September 30, 2009

30 September 1955 “The Hankie and the Linen Napkin”

sneeze2These two simple items and ideas can save you a lot of money and help the environment and give you a little pride along the way.
I know to our modern germophobic minds, the thought of the hankie being sneezed upon and returned to the pocketbook or pocket seems repulsive.sneeze Yet, if we launder them and have simply a set of seven (one for each day, though I am sure they could become addictive like potato chips!) we would have a clean one to use daily. Certainly, grabbing a Kleenex is easier and may seem more sanitary, but if it is your germs and you are merely applying it to your face, you cannot reinfect yourself with the sniffles!sneeze 3 Now, add to this the added bonus of the money spent on Kleenex and paper napkins etc. I know even my paper towel budget is easily cut in half since I started this project.
The linen napkin. I know use these every day for every meal. When we were first moving and had to share the little cottage with all our things tucked away and no laundry facilities I just bought some paper napkins and paper towel. I could not believe what I went through in that one week! The waste alone! And, you feel good and grown up when you unfold that linen napkin and place it on your lap before you begin your meal. It is as if you are saluting your hard work and preparing for that time you sit and relax at the repast you have created and enjoy good conversation.
It’s funny how our incessant need to make more items that make the day easier and somehow go by faster. Why is that? It seems, if anything, we are running about more and are more frazzled today with all the new things we have. So, though it is impossible to get rid of your cell phone or not have a tv or computer, why not add some old things and remove some annoying modern things that do add to your day. The Hankie and the Napkin. Simple. Easy to add to your life. Now, you are saving money and helping the earth. In addition to this, you have now given your mind and creativity a canvas for some fun relaxing art time. If you don’t have to throw away your hankie or napkin, now you can think, “Hmmm, I wish these matched my drapes or wouldn’t it be lovely to see a little tea kettle come to life and dance around my apron?” We buy at home stores sets of things and all the added bits that are produced to ‘match’ the decor we buy. We can simply buy some piece or something we like and then ‘match’ the decor as much as we want with our own hand, by painting or needle work. Then it is also uniquely ours. There is something cold about the homogenous ‘sets’ of things one can buy at stores. The landscape is becoming the same and now go to any house in America and see that set of sheets, matching curtains and towels bought at Target. There isn’t anything wrong with it per se, but it does stifle the creative element and again, the Homemakers best and most powerful tool is her mind. We should exercise and use it all times as an important part of our job. Rather we are a full or part time homemaker, the mind needs it’s exercise.
child hankie
Look at this adorable child's hankie. The idea instilled early on to have and keep something and use it with care is important.  With Kleenex and Purell (by the way studies have shown that overtly using anti-bacterial items actually reduces your bodies own abilities to fight germs. ) we are teaching our children to be garbage makers. Here is this thing, there is an endless supply, use it and then throw it away! That is a scary message, isn’t it! And with that goes the fun and creativity of having a hankie or napkin. Certainly the dexterity given to a small child (boy or girl) who would be given some simple needlework on a hankie and then the pride from using that is immense. vogartx Even the responsibility of sitting down like a ‘grownup’ and using a sharp needle would probably seem bad parenting today, which is silly. But, how can we teach children to be responsible and adult when honestly, are any of us?  No need to learn needle work or drawing if you just use a Kleenex and throw it away. I mean the fact that we even say Kleenex, it is the name brand of the product.
But, I won’t go off on another rant, so here are some cute images of different iron on transfers that were popular from the 30s-60s.
embroidery transfer 1 I think you can still find these fairly inexpensively at local antique shops and online I am sure at etsy and ebay etc. I would check local places first. I would love to share these type of items on my new website when it is ready.
embroidery dressHere you can see how one would make their simple dress patterns come to life or have a more unique style. Surely this was an iron on pattern you would follow, but you could also stitch your own design. When fashion has a particular ‘look’ then if you can’t afford the Dior dress you can follow the example of its line and make it your own creation. The power of fashion and industry in YOUR hands, don’t you love it?!
  Here is an example of the anthropomorphized items that were popular. coffee potThis image actually came from a site I found where the lovely lady was sharing some of her patterns like this. It is an example of the kind of links I want to make on my future site. To have a place we can come to find each other and such lovely people as she who are willing to scan and share patterns. 
There is transferan innocence about these that I find appealing. teatowels Though, once I would have scoffed at their twee sweetness, I now find them rather darling and the art historian in me wonders at this piece of Americana art form that deserves more research. If only I could live to be 300 I could someday write all the books I want. I could see a whole picture book/research book on these transfers alone!
Anyhoo, what was great about these simple outlined pieces of needlework, is they were perfect to teach little hands the art of needle and easy for a homemaker to have in her sewing basket for the odd rainy afternoon when the chores are done, laundry ironed and put away, a pot of tea and some pillowcases or aprons or Hankies that needed adornment. Such an idea today by the masses would be deemed, ‘a waste of time’ but by the very same people who would waste five hours sitting and staring at a box and doing nothing! (That’s TV if you didn’t get my image.)
So, even though I have never done any needlework before but a few stitches to hem here and there, I am going to get a box of plain hankies, sew up some plain aprons and buy some plain white cotton pillowcases and lookout! I actually had a great idea, I am going to copy my Pyrex pattern that I collect ( I once made labels for spice jars check an old post of mine) and use that as a pattern on some kitchen towels. Then I can embroider teal on white towels and white on teal towels, wouldn’t that be lovely? I know I don’t really need one more thing to do, but again, I find as I do more and make it a normal part of my life, I found room for more things. Of course, this might put back my correspondence even more, but just think of the darling hankies and napkins I will have! And what a great gift!
How many of you already do needle work? Have any of you taught your children this art form and at what age? Aren’t you itching to try some now?! I know I am!


  1. LOve this post! My family has used cloth napkins for years and we use them for more than one meal (unless we are eating something really messy!) by using napkin rings with our names on them. Thrifted wood ones and a Sharpie work well! Yes, we have gotten many comments on how much "work" it is to wash them :o) I also have used hankies for several years and find them much more feminine and sanitary than an old wadded up tissue at the bottom of my purse. Mine are all from garage sales and thrift stores. A friend and I also love embroidery and try to keep this art alive by teaching teen girls and giving embroidered items for shower and wedding gifts. People make such a fuss over anything handmade these days and seem to enjoy them. Thank you for such a lovely, thought provoking blog!

  2. Thank you for answering a question I had, but had not even asked... Why the anti-use of paper products, since trees are a renewable source?

    It's the GARBAGE factor!

    Sure we can grow more trees, to make more tissues. But we can't make the tissues magically disappear, after use.

    Hankies and cloth napkins ~ We WASH and reuse. How simply amazing. Why didn't I think of that, myself? ,-)

    Aunt Amelia

  3. Your absolutely right - children are being capitalized on as rabid consumers. The more we teach them to take pride in an object and look after it, the more we teach them about respect for themselves and the world around them.

    I may need to look into a hanky for everyday sneezes.

  4. Paper towels were not very common in my child hood years, but by the time I was married, few kitchens were without a dispenser filled with a roll. I, however, decided to forgo the roll, and used cloth. I hesitate to call them rags, as they are salvaged terry from bath towels and approximately wash cloth size. I serge the edges. I have also used cloth napkins since the beginning of my marriage as well. My napkin collection is an eclectic mix of purchased, on sale, and hand made.

    I do not make our sheets as my great grandmother once did. I carry on the tradition, however, by making pillowcases from a flat sheet. It is much more economical. Here is one way to make them:

    Approximately ten years ago, I decided that the joys of using a cloth handkerchief shouldn't be the private domain of my husband, and purchased some inexpensive, ladies hankies. I have several dozen (or so) and wouldn't go back to paper! I don't know why I waited so long! Years ago, a lady wouldn't leave home without two in her purse, as one was for show, and the other to blow!

    My mother told me that Kleenex, in her youth, ran a campaign to get people to use tissues instead cloth hankies by telling them, "Don't carry a cold in your pocket." Hmmm. Most people will put used tissues in their pockets if a waste basket is not near by! If ironed with a hot iron, the handkerchief will be sanitized. Hung to dry outside, the sun is also a great disinfectant.

    In addition to machine sewing, I knit and do surface embroidery. I have embroidered some very nice gifts, such as heirloom bibs for a newborn. Knitting was always the main needlework activity for me, and I have knitted many many items/gifts over the years. Until recently, I took my knitting wherever I went! The one gift that I have had requests for, and it always surprises me, is for a set of knitted cotton dishcloths!

    I encouraged creativity in my daughters as soon as they took an interest. Two are excellent seamstresses (they had a business for a while), and the other is *very* good. They make beautiful gifts! Their interest in knitting was short lived. They learned to embroider at an early age. Most girls take an interest in the needle/womanly arts around eight to ten years of age. In addition to my daughters, I have taught quite a few girls at church how to knit.

    Am I itching to do some needle arts? Absolutely! Unfortunately, my interests have exceed my available time. In addition to my home duties that include being a caretaker to one of my parents, I must limit my interests to my music and art.

    No Idle Hands

  5. What I am most excited about hankies is the decorative possibilites. Can't you just see a lovely rainy afternoon, a soft autumn rain, a pot of tea and curled into your favorite corner stitching away at happy little dancing tea cups or kittens in ballgowns, how is that NOT fun!?

  6. we use cloth napkins but not hankies. i have been holding off buying why. probably b/c i am feeling like conserving my funds. still buying kleenex tho, so that probably is me shooting myself in the foot, no?
    my children have all been taught to use needle and thread. even my 4 yr old can sew w/yarn on a straw fashioned into a needle. she makes felt "ornaments". they can also all knit and crochet. my son is particularly amazing at it, since the stereotype is that it is "girl stuff". but i think it's handy for everyone to know how to sew at least a little. just like we teach our girls to change a tire, we teach our boys to be self sufficient in the kitchen etc.
    thanks for a good post. getting my keister in gear on the hankies now....

  7. No idle hands-thanks for the link to make our own pillowcases, I will check that out AND try my hand at it. In fact, today is sewing day for me. I had to set it aside the other day, but dishes are done (hubby has the day off and we just had home made waffles with strawberries and bacon)and I am ready to get out the machine and start cutting. I will post my results when they are finished. I need to get my fall wardrobe in order and the best way to do it is make it myself!

  8. Hi - love your post. I am a hankie fan myself. I always tuck one into my purse. I love the infinite variety of colors and styles. I also use them to wrap small presents thereby doing away with wastefull wrapping paper.

  9. A subject dear to my heart....! I iron my lace-edged hankies and carry them to church. I have a drawer full of everyday hankies that just get stuffed in there and anyone can grab and go at will. I have a drawer full of rags in each bathroom and under the kitchen sink. They take the place of paper towels and get their own load on wash day.

    We attended a church conference with approx. 150 other people. Three, made-from-scratch meals were served three times a day. Everyone pitched in to help with cooking and dish washing. Even more amazing was the basket of cloth napkins that greeted us at the first meal. They had been cut out of calico remnants so each was different. We took a napkin and kept it in our pockets to use at each meal until it needed a wash. Worked like a charm.

    My grandfather and his brother were taught to embroider by their mother and each boy finished a quilt with either state birds or state flowers blocks. I taught both my daughter and son to embroider and my son proudly finished a dish towel with a rocket on it. He's keeping it in his "hope chest" (his words) aka, his sock drawer.


  10. Rebecca-that's great and I love the 'hope chest' so adorable, how old is he?
    Kelly-I have been the same way, so don't worry. It is just another of those things we don't realize because it is so normal to buy kleenex, but I meant that is what they want us to do. You should add up what a year's worth of kleenex costs you and then use that as your initial 'hankie budget', makes sense, right?
    I am still unpacking boxes that got stored in our outbuilding that will one day be my studio. Today, while looking for patterns, I Fould an embroidery hoop and some floss! Meant to be, perhaps.

  11. Hello. I've been reading your blog almost since the beginning. I wanted to say thank you, thank you, thank you for mentioning about the studies pertaining to over use of anti-bacterials. I was a Microbiology major in college and we learned all about the harmful effects of Triclosan (anti-bacterial agent). No one ever believes me that anti-bacterials could possibly be bad for you. Triclosan is in everything from soap to deodorants to toothbrushes. It has been shown that if you put pressure on bacteria they will eventually evolve a mechanism for resistance. The whole point of soap is to remove the bacteria from your hands; there is no need to kill it. Also Triclosan can combine with chlorine in tap water to create small amounts of chloroform gas. Triclosan and chlorine also combine to create other compounds that convert into dioxins (environmental pollutants) upon exposure to UV radiation (i.e. sunlight). Some dioxins are extremely toxic and potent endocrine disruptors. In Aug. '09 the Canadian Medical Assoc. asked the Canadian govt. to ban Triclosan in household products. I must point out that Triclosan is not all bad. It has been shown to help cases of MRSA outbreak in healthcare facilities. I just believe that it has no place in the household. Sorry to go off on the scientific tangent but I'm a scientist at heart and can't help it :-) If anyone would like to read studies I suggest searching for Triclosan on PudMed

  12. Lindsey-Thanks for that. I had heard from my hubby about this but did not know all the details and here you have provided them (We apron revolutionaries have endless info!)I know they also did some research based on Japan as they have a very germophobia there and with all their disenfenctant on subways an such was atcually leading to more illness. Thanks for your info and I am going to check out that site.

  13. I use Linen napkins at our home. I started doing it to save money and help the enviroment.
    I have come to enjoy using them at each meal. They are nice against the skin and pretty to have at the table.

  14. We use some cloth napkins (which have seen better days) as well as wash cloths in both the kitchen and bathroom.

    I just have a stack of colorful wash cloths on the bathroom sink and each time someone washes their hands, they grab one. We need a better system, because immediately after I wash a load, everyone blows through them lickety-split.

    I would like a pretty basket holder for clean ones and a small, attractive hamper for used ones. It would probably be smart to designate a color or towel ring for each family member, because the cloths should get more than one use each.

    The hankie is a new frontier for me, though--something to look forward to!


  15. I've been trying to cut down on how many paper towels I's just automatic instinct to grab the paper towel to clean up a mess when a cleaning rag can do the same thing. (paper towels do come in handy when cleaning up pet vomit though...I just can't stomach the thought of using a cloth towel to pick up chunks...eww). I'm getting better though.

    I'll have to disagree about the cloth hankies to a point, though, but it's just my personal preference. As an allergy sufferer I blow my nose several times a day...not dainty little sneezes that just require a dab of the nose but full on loads of gooey snot. TMI, I know but that's my reality. I'd have to have upwards of 20 hankies per day at my disposal and that's an effort I'm just not willing to put forth.

  16. Kris7-Oh my yes, one a day? My hubby and I each use a separate wash cloth, but they last through the week. New ones replace dirty on monday for laundry day and Thursday for bathroom cleaning day. If we had children, depending on how many, maybe they would be use only one a week, because that is a lot of water use, mess and wear and tear. It would be fun to embroider their names on them, that'd be cute, huh? Yes, hankies are a new territory, but they need a comeback. They used to say you could tell a lady by her hanky.

  17. Gingerlla-I wonder what you would have had to do in the war time years if you had allergies like yours? I guess you just had to wipe and bear it? I guess in a case like yours, your thankful for kleenex, but for most of us, I think hankies might be worth the effort.

  18. You reminded me of my small collection of of which was my great-grandma's ...I will pull them out and iron them today :)
    We have used cloth napkins for years because I 1) am always doing laundry and 2) it was one less purchase at the grocery store.
    I have made them and bought them at thrift stores as well and enjoy setting the table with them...they just LOOK like someone took the time to make the table pleasant!
    I have done needlework and when my daughter was here, we would sit down in the evenings by the woodstove and stitch doll clothes, knit scarves, and even stitch these cute iron on designs on kitchen towels and hankies...and with Christmas fast upon us, these would make darling gifts for a man or woman!

  19. Love your posts!
    I have replaced paper with cloth this year, both in napkins and hankies. Even my husband has been using his white hankies!

    Isn't it funny that I had a very similar one as the elephant as a child?

    I love Aunt Martha's transfer embroidery designs. This is how I was taught to embroider as a child. Recently I found, many of the old designs have been reproduced (as the iron on types still) and are offered at very, very low prices in craft stores as well.


  20. This family has always used cloth hankies, cloth napkins and we have never bought paper towels. The only time tissues are bought is when all five of us have a cold at the same time and we can't keep up with the number of hankies needed. My husband and I are both the dreaded baby boomers. My mother, born during the Depression adores tissues, paper napkins, and paper towels - she feels they save on washing and mess.

  21. Oh and I meant to say - just a little embroidery decoration in the corner of the hankie makes them much more pleasant to use than an all over or large design. Pretty as they are though I prefer hankies without the embroidery at all but lots of lovely colours, prints, check, flowery,gingham - pretty.

  22. I wish I still had my childhood hankies. They were quite similar in style to the one you pictured here only they were purchased in the 1980s. I guess hankie designs didn't change much. They were dying out by then, not exactly the vibrant sort of market that designers want to work in I guess. My hubby does use cloth hankies though.

    We don't use fabric napkins here much but I'm going to make some soon. I've been eyeing up a tablecloth at a certain high-end kitchen stuff store for over a year now but it was pretty pricey ($80 for the small round one I needed) which is a bit ridiculous for a mass produced tablecloth. Finally found them at the outlet for $15 any size but not my size. Initially I was disappointed till I engaged brain and realized I could get the biggest size for $15 and just make my own! I bought two (one pink and blue, one pink and green) and I'm going to make two tablecloths, a set of reversible place mats, and two sets of cloth napkins. The fabric is 100% cotton so they should work nicely. I figured if I'd purchased those items separately I would have paid about $360 but now I can have it all for $30 plus a couple of hours labor.

  23. thank you for posting this!! I've actually been contemplating buying some of the beautiful hankies that I see on my antique store browsings for a few weeks now, especially as we head into cold/flu season. Now the one thing that I'm (probably overthinking) getting stuck on, is the thought of putting a hankie directly into my purse is really grossing me out. Not even a used one- just the thought of using it after it's been sitting in my purse. I guess the thought is that my individual packs of Kleenex are in a plastic wrap, and not touching everything in my purse. Do you see what I'm saying? Maybe I'm just being OCD. But do you have any ideas of the best way to "store" the hankie within the purse so that when you pull it out to use it, I don't think about it touching everything in my bag when I put it to my face? I've thought of a ziplock bag but then you're just throwing a bag away instead of a tissue and I'm not sure that really achieves the desired objective. Any thoughts? Do you just put yours directly in your purse?

  24. I would say if your handbag or even your wallet has a separate pocket, fold it up in there and have that be only ITS home. Also, I think hankies, actually I know they are fairly inexpensive, so get 7 and put a new one in your handbag everyday if you have used it, if not then keep the same one. I know many people embroidered dates an such on them, so I believe one was expected to have a CLEAN one everyday. Then, if you use it during the day and it is only going back into its home (or even stitch a hankie holder into the lining of your handbag!)then it is not really dirty. If you are having a really sneezy day, bring two. I think gentleman used to keep on in their suit coat and one inside the coat in the pocket, so if a lady needed one he could give her the clean one and the inside one was for his use. Hope that helps. Seriously, though, if you are not sharing it and it has YOUR germs for the day on it, you are not going to get sick from yourself and think of how much LESS germs are spread if you keep your germs on YOUR hanky in YOUR handbag instead of an office full of little plastic trash bins teeming with usex Kleenex, now that sounds much more disgusting to me than my own hankie in my handbag!

  25. Sarah:
    I understand what you are saying. My purse right this minute has a tossed dollar bill or two and about 500 pounds of change in the bottom of it. Not exactly sanitary.

    Ha--don't get me's not like I'm rolling in cash. Just realized how that sounded.

    And depending on your stage of motherhood, a purse could also be a diaper bag/bottle holder etc. Yucky stuff sometimes.

    I wonder about a case like one used for eyeglasses or an old-style cigarette case or a Sucrets tin.


  26. Kris7-Oh what a wonderful idea, what a great new life for some of the old vintage cigarette tins! They are usually inexpensive and what a fun way to keep your hankies.

  27. I know what you mean about how during a move your paper towel and napkin consumption goes through the roof! I'm always very glad to get my kitchen towels, cleaning rags, and cloth napkins unpacked again.

    My mother had all sorts of tea towels that she had embroidered using iron on patterns similar to the ones you showed.

    As for hankies, my husband has carried them for years but I've never gotten into the habit. I've got a nice assortment of vintage ones that I inherited, and you have inspired me to get them out and start using them myself!

    I was thinking that if you don't already have a compartment in your purse suitable for hankies, then how about making a small envelope style bag that snaps shut to keep your hankies clean in your purse? Those who sew usually have some scraps leftover from other projects that need using up anyway! ;)

  28. My father just recently sent a box of goodies from his home which included some beautiful hankies of my Grandmother's. They are still in the original box and I suppose she was saving them. I thanked my Dad and asked him what I should do with them. His answer- use them! And now maybe I will. Thanks for this post, 50's gal.

    Sarah, I had the same thoughts as you regarding hankie storage in my purse. I think I'll put them in a small cloth cosmetic bag so it too can be washed weekly. I have a cold right now and hankies have to be softer than tissues.

    We don't use cloth napkins because (this is going to sound so bad) my kids never use them preferring to wash up again after dinner and I just use my apron since I'm still wearing it anyway. Hubby will grab a paper towel if he gets messy but not often.

    The paper towel thing is ok except for draining bacon or fries. I love my dish towels (I can't be the only one, can I?) and hate when they get stained. So I have them but go thru much less than I once did.


  29. “It seems, if anything, we are running about more and are more frazzled today with all the new things we have.”

    I have a question that is sort of along these lines, for those ladies who work. Besides the difficult task of trying to give life to my starving homemaker side after working 8-13 hours a day, the absolute chaos and speed of the world is horrid. On my way to work, on my way home, and at work, I need to be in a hurry. I am pushed all day long (I work at a busy hospital). I know for a fact that, along with other things, this pace day in and day out stresses our bodies to the point of dis-ease, i.e. cancer, heart attack, etc. etc. etc.

    In short, dear ladies, does anyone else face this, and if so, have you found a way to slow down? Please do tell. I must say that I have been a full-time mother and homemaker and it IS a much slower pace. I just want to crawl into my bed with my afghan and never come out again by week’s end.

  30. Me again—Thoughts on cloth napkins and hankies. I have used cloth napkins for about 15 years now; I started it to be more frugal. Unfortunately, my husband uses enough paper towels for both of us. :/

    As to the hankies. Although I don’t currently use them for myself, I love them and also collect them. My grandma used to give my sister and me each one for church Sunday mornings, so I have a very fond place in my heart for them. I collect pretty little hankies and by chance received on in the mail this week from a secret sister. I don’t know that she even knew I liked them. On top of that, it had rose-colored flowers on a background of yellow, the two colors of my bedroom! As I always seem to have a wet nose :/ I may forgo the Kleenex in favor of hankies.

    I am envious of so many of you whose husbands comply with green and frugal. My husband would NEVER use a hankie and ALWAYS uses paper towels. He’s a big once-it’s-used-throw-it-away type of person. :/ On a side note, Dad still uses hankies, and Mom washes them. Some people think that a washing machine full of…well, you know…is very gross. What are all of your thoughts?


    Your comments on antibacterials were very interesting. At the hospital where I work, and probably at many others as well, we HAVE to use Gel San upon entering the room, before we put on gloves, after we take off the gloves, and upon leaving the room. This goes on for 12 hours a day. We are being monitored very closely at present due to the fact that JAACHO just dinged us on not following this to a tee. To me, this is overkill, and like you mentioned, we are most likely building up quite a resistance. The patients and family members are taught to do the same, by the way.

  31. Wow, so many interesting points and comments again ladies-
    Hairball-let us know if you like the 'new' use of hankies and how that turns out. Good idea for a 'hankie caddy'.
    Anon-what a wonderful gift and now you can actually use them as they were intended. I also know you can take pretty decorated hankies and see them on a 'nicer' apron for pretty pockets especially for a 'hostess' apron. That was the nice frilly one you would wear when you have company. This seemed to be true even if you were upper middle class and had help, as I recall a scene in the movie 'All that heaven allows" with Rock Hudson (if you haven't seen it, It is very good) where the main character's friend is throwing a party and she is wearing her 'hostess apron' as she greets guests.
    S-so no napkins of any kind? How do you wipe your mouth in before using your water glass? or what if you spill on your lap? I am probably just messier than most! You could use your nice dish towels for dishes and a more regular absorbant one for hands. We have a towel that is only for dishes and one for hands in the kitchen, does anyone else do that? Or is that my 1955 version or Purell?
    Zebu-All I can say is I am sorry. Though I did not work at a busy hospital, I did own my own bussiness and I know the stress and anxiousness of insane hours and stress. I much prefer my current path. I wish I could offer advice. It's funny how with our modern world of technology and things we have somehow managed to make us HAVE to have two income families. Isn't it sad that we pay off houses and things and they get to stay home and waste away while we are at work. I forgot what the numbers are, but I know that people actually work more now than in the 1950s again, we were at a time when we actually had lowered the amount of time needed at work and had just enough technology to make the homemaker have more time as well and then somehow we ended up here, in "Consumerville". Oh, well, off topic. I hope you can relax, anyway.
    Oh, and I think my husband would just do whatever, but luckily we always talk about what we are into and he is always mentioning and referring me to things for my project. What is interesting is such 1955 he is so little in the kitchen, I didn't realize it until one day he was looking for a glass and didn't know where they were. I know many 1955 wives would do the dishes WITH the husband, but as I have the 'new fangled' dishwasher, I actually prefer to keep the kitchen as my domain and obviously he likes that as well. It is easier for me to be the only one really having access to it, for cleaning, cooking, groceries and I don't feel put upon or used, as I made the choice to do so. It allows me complete control over where things are, what gets used and how things are displayed. Of course, I know some hubby's have a say in decor an such as well, but honestly I decorate and make over the house as I like it and he honestly doesn't care. He is happen that it is clean and orderly and he compliments me on my 'decorating style' and that is it. I think if we lived in a white box with one chair and some books he wouldn't even notice, which I have to say is actually rather nice. I think there may be many arguments about 'decorating' with couples that I am glad I am spared.
    That is rather scary about the use of antibacterial in hospitals, you would think doctors would know better but I have a feeling it is more about insurance and lawyers and money than it is about actual healthcare and welfare of patients.

  32. My grandmother ALWAYS had hankies in her bag, and my grandpa carried the great big red or blue bandana type. They never had a box of kleenex in their house. My parents, on the other hand, got trapped into the paper towel, napkin and kleenex cycle. My mother still to this day will go to Wal-Mart and spend $40 or so on paper products. I have mentioned using cloth napkins toher, and she says it is too much of a pain. I want to start, but haven't gotten around to making any.

    Rhonda - I LOVE the idea of of purchasing a tablecloth that is oversized and using the extra to make placemats and napkins. Smart!

    As far as carrying the hanky in the purse, I think I love the idea of the old cigarette case or the eyeglass case. Simple, and you could spray with a little lysol once a week to keep the germs to a minimum. As a mom, I get ALL sorts of weird things stuffed into my bag, so I would definitely want something contained for my hanky. I have tossed this idea around, I think you have prompted me to go with it. You can start with cheap hankies and then embroider them to dress them up. Or buy old ones from antique stores or what have you. It needn't be a major expense.

    I have done embroidry and cross-stitch since I was young. My mom taught me some and we learned in home-ec in 7th grade. I used to do needlework extensively, but I just don't have the time now with the kids. As they get older, I think that will improve a little. Right now we are still in diaperville. (I have been 11 years in diaperville, continiously...*sigh*)

    Great post, 50sgal. Keep us marching forward on our Apron Revolution!

    (p.s. Anyone know where you can purchase NICE aprons? I know most make them, but I would like to buy a nice one or two...)

  33. Kris7 what a good idea...thanks! I actually was thinking about this last night after I posted, and I realized that I have a couple of empty Altoid mints tins...I think I'm going to air a couple out and use those to store hankies in my purse. I love the old cigarette tin idea but I don't have any and I hate to buy one just for that. Great idea though- I wish I did have one!

  34. Sarah:
    I wonder if old Altoid mint tins might still smell "curiously strong?" Then your hankies will, too.
    Cool idea!

  35. My mother has a separate hand towel and dish towel in her kitchen. The hand towel is hung up on a hook just under the counter near the sink and she changes it a couple of times a week; that's a regular hand towel like she has in the bathroom. The dishtowel sits folded in half on the counter (that bothers me because it never seems to get quite dry) and gets changed once or twice a day, certainly after she does the dinner dishes and sometimes after lunch or breakfast too if it's particularly damp. I don't bother because my half-bath and laundry room is right off the kitchen so my bathroom hand towel is only about 5 feet from my kitchen dish towel anyway.

    Lorie re:aprons - I've actually had good luck getting quite cute ones at Target. I know, they're mass produced and all but it's nice to have something cheap but still cheerful so I can wear a nice apron for working but not be totally devastated if I manage to stain it or ruin it somehow. Many of my friends buy a lot on so they're all pretty much individual and hand made but that makes them more expensive so I reserve that sort of apron for my hostess apron but I prefer to make my own since I'm short with a large chest so it's difficult to find a truly flattering apron. For sturdy utilitarian aprons I adore the Willams and Sonama ones because they last forever. I have one that I purchased when I first got married so it's over 8 years old now. It's not particularly attractive anymore, it's forest green and it's seen a lot of bread kneading induced flour spillage over the years among other things, but the seams and pockets and everything are still going strong.

  36. lorie-you might try etsy for aprons. also, friends of mine have bought lovely ones on clearance from anthropologie online.

  37. @ Zebu: I have several friends who are nurses and they must do the same thing. I don't have as much knowledge in the area of anti-bacterials in healthcare facilities. I do understand the need for everything to be very clean, especially if you are dealing immunocompromised patients. So I see the need for Triclosan in hospitals, especially after reading the studies conducted with MRSA patients. What you described does seem like overkill, but again my knowledge in this area is lacking...

  38. Thanks 50sgal for another great post.It's fun to have a 'concrete mission' for us Apron Revolutionaries. I've always wanted the excuse to have some linen napkins. The ladies might be able to help me with how they keep them clean. Because I imagine ours would end up with lipstick, spaghetti sauce dribbles, grape juice splobs, greasy spots and other food stains how do you prevent them from looking like grotty rags instead of pretty useful kitchen accessories? What colours and patterns are easiest to keep clean? (I wash in cold water.)

    My husband too is 'lost' in the kitchen now I'm proud to say. Like your comment about when yours was looking for a glass. I choose for it to be this way and he would help if I needed him as he did when I was busy when the children were young but now we're empty nesters I have the time to really dote on him.

    What's our next project? :) (Linda)

  39. Perhaps I will revisit some of my stain fighting in my household manuals on tomorrows post. (I can't post today as I am in the middle of dealing with our other house that we just rented out. The water is out, the pump is gone and now I have to get town water and it is expensive etc!) But a project will be good, let me think of that for tomorrow as well!
    I am going to make a set of pure white linen napkins for my everyday so I can bleach them. My robin's egg blue that matches my china have a few stains I need to address, but they are clean and that is important.

  40. "Zebu said:

    On a side note, Dad still uses hankies, and Mom washes them. Some people think that a washing machine full of…well, you know…is very gross. What are all of your thoughts?"

    The thought of someone being grossed out by washing a load of hankies seems a little odd to me if they happily wash their socks and underwear at home. :)

    I always have two towels going in my kitchen. The first one is only to be touched by clean hands, and the other one is for everything else. For instance, I wash my hands and dry them on the "good" towel or grab the "good" towel with clean hands and use it to cover some bread dough. If I notice the counter is dirty, I spritz some cleaner on the counter and wipe with the "other" towel. If the phone or doorbell rings, I quickly wipe my hands on the "other" towel before attending to either one, and then wash my hands again before going back to what I was doing. (Yes, I do wash my hands a lot in the kitchen!) I replace the towels as they become wet or dirty.

    I also have some stains on some of my cloth napkins that I haven't been able to get out so far. I hate to give up on them so I just keep pre-treating them and washing them with the others. If you are persistent, sometimes you get lucky with removing those older stains.

  41. I have good luck with Oxy-clean. Not too retro but it works. Mix a little of it (I use the powder form) with hot water and soak the item for a few days. Yes, days. I found this out by forgetting about my son's shirt that was soaking for a week. It was covered with chocolate ice cream, grease from potato chips, and ketchup (went to a birthday party) and it came out clean. It had already been washed and dried before I tried the Oxy- clean so I REALLY believe in this stuff now.

    I go thru about 30 kitchen towels a week but I'm not as organized as you ladies. I pull them out as necessary and put them in the laundry when they seem dirty- like when I've cleaned up a spill or grubby little hands have been washed and dried with the towel. I always start with a fresh one when I unload the dishwasher or dry produce. To dry my hands I tend to just grab one that's hanging.

    50'sGal- I doubt my kids are neater at the table than you. They use their sleeves or shirts even if there is a napkin readily available. Well not so much my oldest anymore but the younger two. So in effect we use cloth napkins too. LOL.

    And yes, my hubby is a bit lost in the kitchen. My daughter once got upset because I was going out with some friends for my birthday and Daddy was to make them dinner (something easy like mac and cheese). She asked how would they eat dinner and when I told her Daddy would make it she got a panicked look in her eyes and said, "Daddy?? He can't make dinner- he can't even make microwave popcorn!" At this her little brother and sister were in tears and my hubby was quite offended. We laugh about it now but I'm still the popcorn maker in the house.


  42. S - your post made me laugh a little with memory. I recall once when my mom was VERY ill. She was at U of M for 6 weeks. And my mom told me that during the second week, my dad brought out "dinner" to us. I looked up at him (I was about 3) and asked how long til Mom would get home. He smiles, and starts in with the "I know you miss momma" talk. I guess I interrupted him and said something like "That's not it. I just cant eat anymore peanut butter and jelly sandwiches." (paraphrasing)

    Thanks for the apron ideas ladies. I will snoop around and see what I can find. Perhaps that can be some Christmas gift ideas for my hubby to get me. I would like ones that are "lady like", not necesarily the "professional chef" type. Something with ruffles and nice fabric. If I find something good, I will post it here for all of you.

  43. Lindsey,

    I agree with you on the immunocompromised, MRSA, etc. we need to keep infection down as much as possible. I just feel that the pendulum is maybe swinging to much to the extreme, and we will end up with a bug/s even stronger and tougher to get rid of than MRSA.

    50’s gal,

    You hit it right on the head with regards to many hospital rules being more about insurance and lawyers than the actual welfare of the patients. It’s quite ridiculous how stringent some things are getting. Although some of the rules are under the guise of “patient care”, I think we tend to know better.


    Great point! Lol

    I know I’ve said it before, but I just love this blog! Happy day to you, Ladies.

  44. Estate sales! Cloth napkins, tablecloths, hankies, aprons - I've seen and bought a bunch, and many in near-perfect condition. Few people seem interested in these vintage linens, so you can usually get some good deals. I guess if you were lucky at a yard sale, you might find the same.

    I have a couple of ideas about storing your hankie in your purse: do you know those cheap Chinese silk zippered purses - those would work well. For those of us with glasses - my eye doctor always gives me a glass-cleaning cloth in a plastic envelope - seems like that would work. I had a cute cloth envelope made to carry a little packet of Kleenex, but it always ended up buried at the bottom of my purse and got really dirty. I think now I'd use one of these ideas, then keep it in one of the interior pockets in my purse.

    Regarding washing used hankies - my dad always used them, and they just went into the bleached whites load. I read somewhere not too long ago from what I remember as a believable source that our washing machines are capable of thoroughly washing a full poopy cloth diaper (not pre-rinsed)! Not that I or anyone else would care to test that out, but I keep it in mind when I'm washing really dirty clothes!

    I second the recommendation for Oxy-Clean, but with one caveat: I have had a few instances (and mostly with vintage items) where it "bleached" out some color in the fabric, so just pre-test.

    I grew up with one thicker towel for hands and one flour-sack type for dishes. I thought everyone did it that way! Evidently not, since my husband can't seem to get the concept.

    He also loves his paper napkins and paper towels. I'm trying valiantly to ease the family into cloth napkins and clean-up cloths. I bought some clearance napkins years ago, striped in various colors, cotton. They've held up well and don't seem to show stains. It finally occurred to me that my main reason for not using cloth (they'd be a pain to wash) was silly - I do laundry every single day, and I just throw them in with whatever load I'm doing. I've actually stopped sorting by color and I don't do bleached whites anymore. Don't notice any difference at all, to tell you the truth. I used to use tons of bleach, and socks never got any whiter!

    I've got some of those iron-on transfers! I did embroidery and other needlework as a kid and I've been wanting to get back to it for quite a while. As far as getting these designs to do your own...a quick Google search for retro embroidery patterns / transfers / designs came up with a bunch of choices.

  45. I cannot believe it is October and I just stumbled across your blog last night!!! ...Wonderful job!

    I write stories about growing up in the 50's and 60's on my Dear Babyboomer blog—and to be honest,thinking about and writing about those wonderful simpler days has been a lifesaver for me—a very "therapeutic" distraction.
    ...But to actually emulate those days—what a great idea!
    I'm sure I'm going to be spending way too much time reading your past posts—but so looking forward to it! : )

  46. LOL on the growing-up-hand-towel story. Me too! Don’t know how many years I’ve tried to tell everyone that the white tea-towels are for dishes only!

    As far as cloth napkins, I don’t think I’ll ever get hubby to switch. He’s heading to Costco tomorrow for the huge package of paper towels. :/ Oh, well—guess there could be worse things. ;)

    Hi Mamie--Isn't this blog wonderful! It's a day saver for me many days--Sometimes I just can't take this world, and this is a wonderful reprieve. Welcome, and glad you found the site.

  47. WOW-I was absent one day (due to water problems at rental house! ugh!) and I come back to some many wonderful comments! That is why I really feel like this is all of OUR blog together! Lovely.
    The husband=paper napkin buying is odd to me only because I don't know which my husband would prefer, but not sure what everyone's husband is doing with the paper towels? Of course, as I said, I leave the cleaning and kitchen to me and my hubby is definitely not an "I'm in the garage messing about" type of guy (not that there is anything wrong with that, believe me) but he is more apt to read, smoke his pipe and mess about with computers or old typewriters. I guess when he does the latter he does sometimes request paper towels, so I could see where the quick grease clean up comes along, but if I hand him an old rag, he'd just take it without thinking and use it, I mean I do the laundry, right?
    I have to say even the word costco makes my skin crawl. NOt only for big box store usa takeover aspect, but I was once only ONCE in a BJ's and I felt horrid! It was a sad warehouse, ugly, cold tall shelves, the uneding products and the endless almost gazed eyed families pushing carts filled to the brim made me run in terror. I tell you it was as if I had stumbled onto a set of an odd 'fearful future' SciFi set! NO offense to anyone, but my goodness it was depressing!

  48. I understand,50's gal...Did you attempt to smile at any of those spooky families pushing carts at Costco? Some people smile back at me, but mostly they do have that zombie gaze. Creepy.

    If I say excuse me as I dash in front of them, they act like a kid watching TV and a mom just stepped in the way for a second. They don't acknowledge other people! This aspect of modern life really gets to me. To be face-to-face with another human life form and not even acknowledge them. How sad.

    The other day at the library, a man was backing out of a parking place as I was coming along down the parking lot aisle. I stopped and backed up in order to let him out. From his rearview mirror he did that loopy gesture with his hand that conveys "hurry up." I was so angry! People seem to consider others as only "in their way." It's all because we're anonymous these days.

    Then I begin to wonder what kind of situation would make a person act that way. What do they have on their minds? Making ends meet, probably. Or maybe a sick relative. I don't know. But I do know that if they had more of a feeling of community, perhaps they wouldn't feel so alone with their burdens.

    I just can't pretend I don't care and shrug it off. Our lack of community realllly bothers me.

    I'm sorry to be so negative once again but a rebirth of common civility would be nice!

    Maybe Apron Revolution could include some discussions on community building, too.


  49. Kris7 I agree totally. And community building should be very important. Maybe in time we will make Apron clubs in our local towns? In my post today I touch briefly on the idea that we have been groomed to be impatient jerks who want everything right now and we want it cheap and fast, no smelling the roses or 'hi neighbor' along the way! We have to make a change, we HAVE TO!

  50. My mom taught me and my sister how to embroider,and we made several hankies and pillow covers using the ironed applique. I think we also did kitchen towels. My mom's friend taught me to knit at 8 and I've mostly knit ever since. We mostly use kleenex at our house now, I'm sorry to say, though I have started crocheting dishrags, which are resuable and good for mopping up stuff. I'm also trying to crochet all of my own potholders, as store potholders just don't last.

  51. I got an amazing set of aprons for myself and for my daughter from

    HTH, ~Mrs.J~

  52. Oooops!!

    I was missing the "S"

  53. 50's Gal- I've never been to a BJ's but I'm a fan of Costco despite it's size. And it's not for the deals. For a while it was one of the few places I could buy organic foods. (Now I've found a local source) But the reason I love it is it's incredible customer service. I've never had a grouchy cashier and every single employee I've been in contact with is helpful and friendly.

    I understand what you mean about glazed-eyed shoppers though. It gets crowded in there and some people are just rude. The entitlement in your next post is a very accurate description. Once when my son was a baby, in the cart, my younger daughter was acting up very badly and my older daughter was trying to help but it was just tough. This mean woman a line or two over made a very loud rude comment about me and a Costco employee, who apparently heard her, came over and took me (and the cart and kiddos) to another register to check me out fast. I was so upset but then the cashier told me about a shopping trip with her kids when they were young and made me laugh. She was so kind and made my day a whole lot better.

    So it's not all bad at those big stores, but the whole idea is...well, I know what you mean.


  54. As far as the paper towels, Hubby mainly uses them for napkins. Why we need 500 roles at once is a bit beyond me. Sometimes I wish that he would sit peacefully working on this or that, as does your husband. Mine is a definite TV-aholic—if he’s home, it’s on. And, he’s rather type-A, always driving everyone, if ya know what I mean. But, we’ve been together many years now, and beyond all our faults, we’ve decided to keep each other. :)

    As for the word Costco, you hit the nail on the head! My skin crawls too. Especially on Saturdays, which is when we always seem to go! There are 9 people per family—I mean really people…Do we ALL need to travel in tribes to go to the store? I think not! Then, when you try to maneuver around them, they all stand like grazing cows at the sample tables not really even caring that they’re blocking the entire aisle. Makes me want to kick someone.

    Oh, Kris7, just read your post. I too am aghast at the lack of humanity that is left in our world. And, customer service, at the majority of places, is an archaic word that no one remembers; I’m sure of it. That common civility you speak of is GONE; the lack of community and respect mere—by-words…Very sad, indeed.

    50sgal, I really like your idea of an Apron Revolution in our towns.

  55. S-I am glad that the customer service was so good and it is not with the employees that I hate such stores but the store itself, it ruins our landscape, takes away opportunity for locally run business and forces us to overbuy, overspend, and become slovenly, "Oh, I'll just use paper napkins and towels, look how cheap they are" but it is the question of "Why is it so cheap?" Not asking that is what has made us lazy as well and then makes us bad local shoppers because a locally owned store could not compete with those prices. But, maybe we don't need all of that stuff or we could use less over all, that is why I am glad we are going to try our project week. I hope I am not offending either, about costco, It's just the concept of that type of store not the employees.

  56. I totally understand your point, 50's gal. I hate the huge stores with their huge parking lots where we used to have open fields. I'm lucky in that the local stores are close by but I can shop the big boxes if I drive a 6 miles or so. at least my house doesn't over look my Costco.

    A big issue I have shopping at any store is lack of customer service so when I consistantly find it at Costco it is refreshing. I've also noticed that my Costco has many of the same employees since it opened 7 years ago. I assume it's a testiment to how they treat their employees. I sure don't see the same people at Target or Walmart but I rarely shop those stores.


  57. S-that's good, it sounds like they must be good to their employees.

  58. Well, the joke’s on me. Here I am ranting and raving how I am so good about using cloth versus napkins or paper towels and that DH is bad. Well, in the past two days, puppy has decided to potty on the floor (linoleum thankfully) three times. Rather than going for rags and washing out the urine over and over, I have grabbed wads of paper towels. Bad me…

  59. Zebu-what is so great about that, though, is in that moment, after you, without thinking about, grabbed the paper towel, you did stop and think...hmmmmm. It is that moment; that instant when we take what we think is normal modern behavior and disect it that will lead to our being better at conserving and living better. We live in a time when really we could live very healthy and happy and more free if only we could see the spending cycle we are in. Simple things like just taking out easy items like paper towel, people will then think "I don't have time I work and such" but that is it, if we didn't have to spend so much we wouldn't need to work as much and thus have the time to use the rag, wring it out and put it in the laundry. It is all about choices. I am having those type of moments all the time. I will talk about something and then find myself doing it but in a way I hadn't thought about. Which is good. Because, I don't want to think I have got to a point where I think I 'have it all figured out and know everything' because that is a dangerous place. I want to know I am continuing to make mistakes but THEN learning from them. The learning never stops and the realizations always keep coming.

  60. Good points, 50sgal. And, tonight both times that he went on the floor, I grabbed old towels and some homemade bleach-water solution to finish cleaning up with. Ahhhhh, a much better feeling! ;)

  61. I agree. Give me a linen/ cloth handkerchief any day.

  62. Hankie – add the elegance of using it as an extra bonus! There’s absolutely nothing elegant when using and tossing a Kleenex. 
    I inherited heaps of old lovely hankies. I did, because no one else wanted them – and do I love them.

    I also have a smaller heap of white linen napkins, but I have to admit that I often forget to use them. I buy cheap coloured paper napkins which I love to keep seasonal. Right now I have some beautiful ones with Autumn leaves. But you have definitely inspired me to use my vintage linen napkins much more often. I iron a lot, so a little more doesn’t matter.

    Your new website??? :)

    You should not under-estimate the anti-stress value of needlework. Many modern women would benefit from it nowadays.

  63. Just found this now linked from today's post. Oh I love our washable napkins, I only had a few cheap white damask ones that we were given when we got married and some nicer quality white damask, but I found that neither my husband nor any guests liked using them for their intended purpose and hubby would always ask for a paper towel. So I started looking for cheaper ones with patterns etc. in charity shops, and on ebay etc. I even had my mother keep an eye open, now I have a decent stash of various clolours and patterns for everyday use and they DO get used. They really don't seem like much more work as they get thrown in the machine with the kitchen towels and cloths every other week, and they are so quick to iron I don't even notice. I have recently used a gift voucher to double my quantity of hankies (all have sentimental meaning one was great grandmothers, one a gift from my father one bought on our honey moon etc.) so now I have a couple for everyday (as long as I don't have a cold when my little boy had a cold recently we used two boxes of tissues in 3 days! I think I might start using a muslin when than happens as does a friend of mine. I just treat my hankies like disposables I keep them folded in an old kleenex box so I can grab one when needed (if I don't have one up my sleeve or in my pocket already) - they can be folded such that the next one pops up when the previous one is taken out of the box, when they have been used, I throw them into a small wicker basket (like a minature waste paper basket), then empty it when I do the bath towels or sooner if necessary, however the little toddler has decided that the basket is fun to play with so I have had to put it on top of a shelf or I find used hankies everywhere YUK! I am going to make a little bag like a smaller version of one of those plastic bag holders, to keep small kitchen rags that can be grabbed instead of a paper towel when needed, if they are rags they can either be washed and re-used or if necessary thrown away, - now I just need to get hubby in on it...


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