Friday, 10 February 2012

Lovers' handkerchiefs - Lenços dos namorados

There is a lovely tradition in northern Portugal of young girls sewing and embroidering handkerchiefs for their boyfriends or potential boyfriends. It is dying out now but there are still some skillful ladies keeping the tradition alive.

It is thought that the custom began when the so-called lower classes began to imitate the use of handkerchiefs by the upper crust in the 17th and 18th centuries. Girls of marriageable age would spend weeks if not months stitching handkerchiefs to give to a boy they had their eye on. If the gift was accepted then the couple were considered to be a match and the young man would wear the handkerchief in his Sunday coat pocket, tucked into his belt or tie it to the end of a stick that he usually carried.

The girls would also wear handkerchiefs tucked into their waistbands, which at dances and festivals were often stolen by the young men who would play at being matched to the girls at the event.

The handkerchiefs are usually white with brightly-coloured embroidered symbols and poems. The words in the verses are often misspelled giving the handkerchiefs a naive charm.

See some wonderful examples for sale on this website: Aliança Artesanal.

Now I just have to convince somebody to get me one.


  1. That is a lovely tradition. These kinds of crafts are beautiful. I'm not sure this would be the way to win my love's heart however with my sewing skills - I can just about thread a needle haha!

  2. They are lovely, aren't they? These definitely go back to a time when sewing was a skill for every "lady". I'm not sure my efforts would past muster, either! Thanks for stopping by.

  3. AMO os lenços de namorados. Estive em Portugal em abril passado para poder vê-los de perto e estudá-los.

  4. Já tenho um, foi uma amiga que aprendeu com as mestras desta arte e me fez um antes de voltar para a sua terra natal. Diz Saudade :)