Handmade Holidays: Great Lakes Handkerchiefs

Over the past few years, I’ve gotten back into the habit of using handkerchiefs. I have a whole collection of vintage handkerchiefs that I’ve received as gifts and inherited from family members.  I thought it was time to get my family back into the habit of using them, too.  First stop, my husband’s Christmas stocking.

My Inspiration: Great Lakes Poster from http://orkposters.com

I’ve been drawn, lately, to the fabulous Great Lakes Poster at orkposters.com. (In fact, I’m on my way to order one as we speak…) Using the poster as my inspiration piece, I decided that I would try to embroider the Great Lakes onto handkerchiefs for my husband.  We live on lake Ontario, of course, and we went to university by the shores of Lake Michigan. Also, there’s also a whole series of musical pieces on the Great Lakes we have affection for….

Of course, I haven’t embroidered anything since the age of 6, when a kind neighbour of ours gave me a hoop, a piece of cotton, some floss and a needle and taught me how to do a few basic stitches. Aside from a very vivid memory of pricking my forefinger with a needle and bleeding onto the white cotton, this lesson is completely lost to me. So, I hit the internet for a quick tutorial: Instructables.com: Embroidery-101. Armed with an overview of the basics, I got to work.

  1. First, I found a general map of the great lakes online and printed it out, having adjusted it to a size I thought appropriate for the corner of a handkerchief (about 2-3 inches width per lake).
  2. Then, I cut out each of the five lakes and taped them below each handkerchief (I had purchased a set of six) stretched out on an embroidery hoop.
  3. For the three light-coloured handkerchiefs I had purchased, I simply traced the outline of the lake in pencil on the handkerchief and wrote the name of the lake in cursive underneath. For the three darker handkerchiefs, I shone a light through the back of the hoop and used a white chalky pencil crayon (the kind you buy in sewing shops for just such a task) to do the same.
  4. Then, I embroidered each lake using a combination of chain stitches and satin stitch, and I used chain stitches to embroider the name of the lake.
  5. Since I had purchased the handerchiefs in sets of three, I chose to stitch the acronym H.O.M.E.S. on the final, or sixth handkerchief.

Here’s a little gallery of the results:

In Process





Grouped and Boxed



They handkerchiefs are now wrapped in brown craft paper, waiting for Santa to stuff them into the appropriate stocking.

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