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Artful little squares of history

North Plains Library features talk, display of hankies.

COURTESY PHOTO - Terese Blanding will present her collection of hankerchiefs and talk about their importance and history in literature.The North Plains Public Library will welcome Terese Blanding of Billings, Mont. on Thursday, Sept. 8 for a program that explores the wide-ranging historical and literary adventures of hankerchiefs.

The hankie, although small, is a textile rich in history, in needlework techniques and in graphic design. It has featured prominently in literature as well as in daily life, providing livelihood to innumerable individuals from flax, cotton and silkworm growers, to spinners and weavers, to lace-makers and embroiderers, to salesmen and salesgirls of the erstwhile handkerchief counters of the once-glamorous department stores.

The small square of fabric appears in numerous literary works, from Shakespeare’s "Othello" to works by Louisa May Alcott, Walt Whitman, Mark Twain, Willa Cather, Truman Capote, Ivan Doig and Barbara Kingsolver.

Blanding will display her collection of more than a thousand vintage handkerchiefs.

“The old adage, ‘some are for show, and some are for blow,’ could be considered the nutshell history of the handkerchief, and the display has many examples of both types," Blanding said. "It includes ‘proper whites,’ bridal and mourning handkerchiefs, sport, dance, and work handkerchiefs, souvenir and travel handkerchiefs — monogrammed, embroidered, laced, and printed.” Blanding’s collection also includes handkerchief boxes, envelopes, pouches, books, photographs and reproductions of art depicting handkerchiefs.

The program begins at 6:30 p.m. and the public is welcome to attend.

North Plains Public Library is located at 31334 N.W. Commercial St.