What to do with Grandma Hankies and Other Fragile Fabrics –Adding Body with Channel Quilting

I didn’t start out to become a quilter. It just happened.


One day I was re-shelving my stash of grandma hankies for the millionth time and I thought: I’m going to use these things or lose them—

But how? Like a lot vintage fabrics, old hankies are thin and fragile. And there’s little room for fragile things in my life.

The solution was anchoring my hankies to canvas for strength using rows of stitching.

I learned later that this technique is called Channel Quilting. (You don’t have to have batting between the fabrics to be quilting, by the way.)

Earth-friendly quilters spray and pins secure the fabric layers while I’m stitching.


My beloved Pfaff sewing machine with the built-in walking foot makes the process go smoothly without much shifting.

I work mainly on small to medium sized pieces, rarely larger than 30 inches.

The presser foot is my primary seam guide.

I change the needle position from center to side for more space between the rows and GO!

hankie_4 hankie_5

This technique has become the basis of my work with vintage and reclaimed fabrics. I don’t just use channel quilting to put delicate pieces like hankies and quilt fragments on my signature garden and craft tool aprons. It’s  the way I alter the weight of many light fabrics so I can use them in interesting ways.

Take these soft dress and scarf prints from the 40s and 50s. Quilted to canvas and interfacing, they take center stage in a trio of retro fall clutch purses (in progress).


I hope to finish these bags in time for my next craft show on November 1st at the Western Wake Farmers Market. I just hope I can bear to part with them. I do love these fabrics. All three are great finds but I had no idea what to do with them…until I added body.

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