Upcycled Flannel Hankies

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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 Handkercheifs

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.

Zero Waste Hankies Upcyle Flannel Shirt Sewing Project

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 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. Several other zero waste sewing projects can be found here.

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.

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 from Flannel Shirts

DIY Flannel Hankies

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

You will also need the following basic sewing supplies: Coordinating Thread; Iron and Ironing Board; Fabric Shears; Rotary Cutter and Cutting Mat (optional).

How to Upcycle Flannel Shirts into Handkercheifs

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

DIY Flannel Hankies

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

DIY Flannel Hankies

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

DIY Flannel Hankies

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

DIY Flannel Hankies

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

DIY Flannel Hankies

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

DIY Flannel Hankies

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

DIY Flannel Hankies

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

DIY Flannel Hankies

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.

DIY Flannel Hankies

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

DIY Flannel Hankies

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.

DIY Flannel Hankies
DIY Flannel Hankies

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

DIY Flannel Hankies

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.

DIY Flannel Hankies 1

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

Zero Waste Hankies Upcyle Flannel Shirt Sewing Project

Don’t forget to pin this project for later, and check out the other zero waste sewing projects listed below.

Yield: About 10

Upcycled Flannel Hankies

DIY Flannel Hankies

Upcycle an old flannel shirt to make zero waste handkerchiefs (hankies).

Active Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Difficulty Easy
Estimated Cost Free



  1. Cut off sleeves with scissors.
  2. Cut down seam of sleeves.
  3. Cut off cuffs.
  4. Cut across shoulders from buttons.
  5. Cut across top back of shirt.
  6. Cut up side seams.
  7. Cut off all hems.
  8. Press all fabric pieces.
  9. Use a rotary cutter and cutting mat to cut as many 8" x 8" flannel squares as possible.
  10. Sew around each square with 1/2" seam allowance.


These hankies are meant to be rustic. The more you use and wash them, the more the edges will fray.

Did you make this project?

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4 thoughts on “Upcycled Flannel Hankies”

  1. One more step: Cut off the buttons and save! You will be happy to have spare buttons in the future when you need to replace one on your good shirt, or for any number of projects. A clean jelly jar is the perfect zero-waste organization tool for your button collection!

  2. I did this with some flannel pajama pants. However, I found them too thin for my (allergy) sneeze attacks. I sewed two squares together then flipped them inside out and top stitched all around. No fraying and I have double thickness hankies.

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