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Handkerchief collection like swatches of history.

Byline: Lewis Taylor The Register-Guard

When it comes to handkerchiefs, some are for show, some are for blow, says Terese Blanding, a Montana textile expert and collector of vintage handkerchiefs.

The old adage holds true for Blanding's collection of more than 1,000 hankies, which includes mourning handkerchiefs, work handkerchiefs, sports handkerchiefs and bridal handkerchiefs.

She'll be sharing 600 of them with a Springfield audience on Thursday at the Willamalane Adult Activity Center.

``I think people will take away an appreciation for the craftsmanship, the love that has gone into these,'' Blanding says. ``Even though these are very little, it's exciting because there's a great history behind them.''

The "little squares" in Blanding's collection range in size from 3 inches to 36 inches and are worth anywhere from $2 to several hundred dollars.

They include everything from lace wedding handkerchiefs that are too delicate to ever use to 150-year-old handkerchiefs from what is now Iran.

The newest piece in her collection is from the 1960s. Some are displayed individually on panels, others are shown in groups. Most are made of linen or silk.

``I don't want to be too precious about them,'' she says. ``Somebody could actually touch them.''

A member of the Montana Committee for the Humanities Speaker's Guild, Blanding has been talking to to audiences about the hankie for years.

Although she's long had an interest in textiles, she says she fell into collecting handkerchiefs by accident.

Four years ago, she agreed to help raise money for a small library in Montana by organizing a small textiles show.

She had just a dozen handkerchiefs in her collection, and so she asked around to see if she could borrow hankies from other collections. Before she knew it, she had amassed 200 handkerchiefs.

"Up until then, if somebody had said I'd be traveling the country and have 1,000 handkerchiefs, I would have looked at them with raised eyebrows," she says.

A former McMinnville resident (she and her husband used to run the well-known tea house Lavender's Blue), Blanding moved to Montana several years ago. The couple run a bed and breakfast just north of the cowboy town of Augusta. They plan to relocate to Oregon in the fall to be near their daughter and son-in-law.

Blanding says history and literature are littered with references to the handkerchief.

She notes that in William Shakespeare's ``Othello,'' an embroidered handkerchief leads to murder.

She also can recite a favorite line from Barbara Kingsolver's "Pigs in Heaven." In the book, an older woman hands a handkerchief to a younger woman, who remarks that modern women no longer carry handkerchiefs. "They have yet to learn that heartbreak can catch up to you on any given day," the older woman explains.

Blanding also delights in the responses she hears from audience members who see her handkerchiefs for the first time.

Many admit they had no idea there was a history to something so small and personal.

Some of the older viewers recall the handkerchiefs their mothers once used.

"It can be sort of an emotional reminiscing for some people, and the younger people have no idea," she says. "Some don't even know what they are."


Montana textile expert Terese Blanding discusses her collection of historic handkerchiefs

When: 1:30 p.m. Thursday

Where: Willamalane Adult Activity Center, 215 West C St., Springfield

How much: $4 suggested donation

RSVP: Registration is appreciated; call 736-4444

Also: Attendees are invited to bring their own vintage handkerchiefs
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Title Annotation:Lifestyle
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Apr 1, 2007
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