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July 15, 2011

‘I want to make memories with you’


The Silk Museum, Macclesfield – Aug 13th to 8th Oct

A unique exhibition showcasing the tradition of the commemorative handkerchief

A collaboration between artists Zero Lubin and The Silk Museum, Macclesfield.

From the 1900s to the 1970s Macclesfield was one of the major towns in the UK producing handkerchiefs. The Silk Museum in Macclesfield holds an extensive collection of archive material from this period for all the local textile industry. It is therefore the perfect host for this exhibition, celebrating the tradition of the commemorative handkerchief.

I want to make memories with you’ will display a collection of framed vintage souvenir handkerchiefs embroidered by Zero Lubin, alongside commemorative crêpe silk handkerchiefs selected by them from the Museum archive.

Two artists, Louise Burston and Gerry King formed the Zero Lubin Company early in 2009. They are renowned for their playful and irreverent card series and books and have now turned their attention to the tradition of souvenir and commemorative handkerchiefs. With a distinctive style, typically described as kitsch and edgy, they embroider vintage handkerchiefs with poignant messages, inspired by memories of place, cultural events, significant historical characters and popular cinematic references. This juxtaposition of text and image evokes diverse interpretations for the viewer and highlights the handkerchief as an historical and cultural treasure, resonant with meaning.

All Zero Lubin artwork is for sale – for more information on the handkerchiefs, the books and the cards please visit

Blood, Sweat and Tears

If you watch the classic 1950 Otto Preminger noir thriller: Where the Sidewalk Ends, filmed on the rain-slicked streets of New York, it is evident that only the main players benefit from the use of a handkerchief; a prop as important as a skull in a Shakespearian tragedy.

The corrupt cop, played by Dana Andrews, utilises a neatly folded handkerchief to wipe blood from a cut eye, while his chief of detectives, during a heated exchange involving the issue of police brutality, pulls a billowing handkerchief from his pocket to mop the sweat from his brow.

The beguiling beauty Gene Tierney is the love interest and in a scene of high drama that nearly leads to a kissing episode she breaks into racking sobs that only abate when she gently dabs the tears from her eyes with her dainty handkerchief.

by Gerry King
August 2011


Selvedge Magazine 2 August 2011

Cheshire Life September 2011

Blow or Show?

We welcome your comments.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. July 18, 2011 11:51 am

    . . . He pulled out his handkerchief and glanced at it doubtfully. “You have a handkerchief, Jenny?” he asked. “This one is a bit sweaty”. (Neville Shute – The Far Country).

    N.B. Gentlemen, always carry two so that a clean one is available for emergencies! Like the Boy’s Scouts, be prepared.

  2. pauline newton permalink
    July 19, 2011 9:57 am

    Reminds me of when I was a small child. If I cried or hurt myself or got something in my eye, my father would produce a clean folded handkerchief to dry my tears or bandage up a grazed knee. Total comfort and security. And yes, he always carried two, one for himself and one for anyone in trouble.

  3. Rachael permalink
    July 19, 2011 10:54 am

    Waving a handkerchief is so much more than a tradition, it has always been a special way of greeting those we admire, indeed they have been waved at the arrival of high ranking actors in the theatre since 300 AD. Waving a hanky also bids farewell, the enduring image of a tearful goodbye. Alistair Cooke in his very first ‘letter’ reports from a ship bound for America filled with tearful GI brides: ‘The handkerchiefs fluttered in an unbroken line like washing day in Manchester or Leeds.’

  4. July 26, 2011 12:13 pm

    Annabel Wills
    Curator, The Silk Museum, Macclesfield.

    “My great Auntie Flo gave us all home made toffee for Christmas in golden syrup tins. There must have been a lot of tins as she used plenty of golden syrup in the recipe. The girls were also given a hanky which she had edged in crochet. Flo and and her sister Ciss lived together and ran a cake shop. Ciss’s husband Robert Crossland had been killed in the war. In the end there was just Flo. I visited her on Wednesday afternoons with my grandma, and while they talked I looked at her cabinet of treasures.”

  5. Rachael permalink
    July 26, 2011 12:59 pm

    The secret language of handkerchiefs:

    Victorian society maintained strict rules of etiquette, secretly circumvented by women communicating in code with handkerchief signals. The flirtatious fluttering of young women was eventually adopted by matrons and married women to conduct clandestine affairs without scandalising themselves. To recreate the mysterious and intriguing secret language of the handkerchief follow this guide:
    * Drawing her handkerchief across her cheek while looking at
    the object of her affection – “I love you so much”
    * Drawing her handkerchief across her lips – “Let’s flirt with each other”
    * Holding a handkerchief next to her right cheek – “Yes”
    * Holding a handkerchief next to her left cheek – “No”
    * Waving it over her right shoulder – “Follow me”
    * Winding it around the third finger of her left hand – ” I am married”
    * Waving it over her left shoulder – “Farewell until we meet again”
    * Drawing her handkerchief across her forehead; twirling her fan in her left hand – “Careful. We are being watched..”

  6. Nick permalink
    August 3, 2011 11:36 am

    At weddings the groom still wears a handkerchief in his suit pocket, following a tradition that has survived centuries and evolved from ladies giving handkerchiefs to their beaus as love tokens. When a lady saw a knight who took her fancy, she would demonstrate her affections in a subtle and dignified way by presenting him with a perfumed handkerchief. The knight would then wear the handkerchief to show that he carried the lady’s love-interest and that he proudly returned it.

  7. Howard Waddicor permalink
    September 19, 2011 8:08 pm

    “I produced my cambric handkerchief and gave the brow a mop. Recent events had caused me to perspire in the manner popularized by the fountains of Versailles.”

    Much Obliged, Jeeves. P G Wodehouse

  8. October 21, 2011 10:48 am

    Abandannad – ‘An abandannad (abandoned) boy is one who picks pockets of bandanna handkerchiefs’ (A Dictionary of Modern Slang, Cant, and Vulgar Words. pg 65)

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