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Upcycle Flannel Shirts Into Handkerchiefs

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Here is a great way to upcycle flannel shirts into handkerchiefs. Follow this step by step handmade handkerchief pattern to make your own.

A collage of stacked photos with an old flannel shirt and spool of thread on top with flannel hankies on a table on the bottom, text overlay in the middle.

These DIY flannel hankies are sure to become favorite homemade and frugal resources around your home for cold season and everyday use.

Upcycle Flannel Shirts Into Handkerchiefs

Handkerchiefs, also known as hankies, are hemmed squares of fabric. People carry them for hygiene reasons, or display them in a suit jacket pocket as a fashion accessory.

Making and using hankies is a great way to slow down the pace of life and live more intentionally.

Making them yourself from flannel shirts is a wonderful sewing project for beginners. Practice sewing straight lines by following the lines on the flannel. There’s no problem if you go astray because the edges will fray over time to hide any imperfections.

Handkerchief Uses

The most common use for handkerchiefs to to blow your running nose. Men traditionally carry hankies and offer them to ladies as a chivalrous act. Here are some more handkerchief uses you may not know:

A stack of upcycled flannel hankies on a table with potted plant.
  • A soft cloth to clean your glasses
  • Cover your mouth for a makeshift dust mask
  • Wipe sweat from your brow
  • Coaster for a hot or cold drink
  • A washcloth for bathing
  • Sustainable toilet paper

Reasons to Use a Handkerchief

Handkerchiefs are more sustainable than tissues, especially if you upcycle them from flannel shirts. Give the flannel new purpose, and use them over and over again.

They not only save on waste, they save money too. Tissues, and toilet paper if you use hankies as a replacement, are expensive to purchase. This quick sewing project will reduce your shopping expenses.

Flannel hankies in a diagonal line on a wooden table.

Hankies are also more gentle on the skin than paper tissue. The flannel is soft, and you can be assured there are no chemicals or unwanted additives on them.

Supplies to Make Handkerchiefs

  • Flannel shirt
  • Coordinating thread
  • Scissors
  • Optional: Rotary cutter and cutting mat
  • Iron
  • Ironing board
  • Sewing machine
A spool of thread sitting on top of a folded flannel shirt.

Choose a flannel shirt from your closet or the thrift store. The larger the shirt, the more hankies it will yield.

How to Make Handkerchiefs

First, you will need to take the flannel shirt apart to get the most fabric squares possible out of it.

A hand with scissors cutting the sleeve off a flannel shirt.

Begin by cutting off both sleeves where they meet the rest of the shirt with scissors. Set these aside for now.

Sleeves cut off upcycled flannel shirts sitting on a table.

Then cut the front where the buttons meet the collar and straight across the shoulder. Repeat for the other side.

A flannel shirt piece being taken apart.

Next, cut straight across the back of the top of the shirt.

A flannel shirt laying flat after having sleeves and collar removed.

Cut up both side seams to create three panels of fabric.

Pieces of a flannel shirt having the hems removed.

Now cut off all hems. These can cause the fabric to bunch and pull, so it doesn’t lie flat for cutting squares.

A flannel shirt sleeve being cut down the middle.

Take the sleeves, and cut along the seam all the way down. Then cut off the cuffs.

An iron sitting on top of a piece of flannel on an ironing board.

Press all panels of fabric with an iron and ironing board to make them flat and free of wrinkles.

The opened sleeve of a flannel shirt laying flat on a table.

Look at your pieces and think about how you can cut as many 8″ x 8″ squares as possible from the fabric. A men’s size large shirt will yield 8-10 squares.

Pieces of flannel sitting on a cutting mat with a ruler and rotary cutter.

A rotary cutter and cutting mats makes cutting out the squares quick and easy. You can also use scissors if you prefer.

Squares cut from flannel shirts sitting on a table.

Now your hankies are ready to sew. Stitch around the perimeter of each square with a 1/2″ seam allowance. If your machine can do special stitches, a stretch zigzag stitch will allow the fabric to lay flat and hold up best over time.

A square of flannel with a zigzag stitch sewn around the edges.

Continue sewing the perimeter of each square until they are all stitched.

You successfully upcycled a flannel shirt into a set of handkerchiefs! You can follow a similar process to make rice hand warmers out of flannel shirts too.

Caring for Your Handmade Handkerchiefs

Wash and dry your handkerchiefs as you normally would. This process will cause the flannel to fray around the edges over time.

A stack of flannel hankies spread out into a fan pattern on a table.

The more you use them, the more rugged look they will take on, but the hankies will not fray beyond your line of sewing.

Yield: 8-10 Handkerchiefs

Upcycle Flannel Shirts Into Handkerchiefs

Upcycle flannel shirts into handkerchiefs

Easily upcycle flannel shirts into handkerchiefs with this simple sewing project.

Active Time 20 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Difficulty Easy
Estimated Cost $0

Materials

  • Flannel Shirt
  • Thread in a Coordinating Color

Instructions

  1. Cut off both sleeves with scissors.
  2. Cut across top front of shirt across the shoulders.
  3. Cut straight across the top back of the shirt.
  4. Cut up both seams.
  5. Cut off all hems.
  6. Cut the sleeves along the seam.
  7. Cut off cuffs.
  8. Press all flannel pieces.
  9. Cut as many 8" x 8" squares as possible.
  10. Sew around the perimeter of each square in a stretch zigzag stitch with a 1/2" seam allowance.

Notes

The size of your flannel shirt will dictate the number of handkerchiefs you can produce. The bigger the shirt, the more hankies!

Did you make this project?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Instagram

About the Author:

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Beginner Sewing Projects is a site filled with quick and easy sewing projects that anyone can make. In addition to sewing projects for beginners, you will find crafts made with felt and sewing tips and techniques. Every post contains easy to follow instructions and photos for you to successfully complete the project.

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Mackenzie | Tiny Luna Makes

Thursday 3rd of September 2020

I ran out of tissues last year in the middle of a bad cold and improvised with some extra flannel I had lying around. Since then I’ve been a handkerchief convert! Sooooooo much softer than tissues and not as gross as I thought it would be. I’ll still need some serious convincing before I try to use it as toilet paper though. 😂

Helena

Friday 3rd of January 2020

I love this idea! Just before Christmas I had one of those colds where I'd used so many tissues the skin under my nose was raw and sore...flannel definitely would have been more comfortable (as well as eco-friendly). I'll look for a flannel shirt or two next time I'm at the thrift store. This project seems simple enough that even I should be able to brave the sewing machine for it! :)

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