Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Pioneer Handkerchief Dolls

"These are the perfect beginner sewing project for Brownie troops or for young 4-H'ers."

In the mid-1980's, when I was a young adult, I liked to go to local arts and crafts festivals.  The best one I ever went to was the Watermelon Jubilee in Ft. Deposit (Greenville), Alabama.  I bought an ink drawing by a local artist that I eventually framed, and a Handkerchief Doll.  I thought it was the most darling thing I ever saw.  I really didn't notice much about its construction until I read an article in the July 1992 Friend magazine by Judie Fordham.  She actually gave step-by-step instructions on how to make one.  This is something I wanted to share with my daughters as part of the many pioneer things I love.

Man's large white handkerchief
1-1/4 yards, 1 inch wide colored lace or eyelet
a ruler
a  needle and thread the same color as the eyelet or lace
embroidery needle
pink and blue embroidery thread
4 pieces of narrow ribbon 10 inches long
Sew a row of lace along one edge of the handkerchief.  Sew a second row slightly above the first.

On the opposite edge of the handkerchief, find the midpoint, then measure in 3-1/2 inches.

Embroider a pink French knot for the doll's nose.  Make two blue French-knot eyes 1/2 inch above the nose and about 1 inch apart.
Wad up enough stuffing to make a ball 2 inches in diameter.  To make the doll's head place the ball of stuffing under the face you just made, gather the handkerchief tightly around it, and tie it off at the bottom with a piece of double thread.  Tie a piece of ribbon into a bow over the double thread to make the neck.

Sew two circles of lace around the back of the head for a bonnet.  Make arms by rolling the handkerchief at each side of the head and tying in a knot, leaving 1: at each end for hands.

Make three bows out of the ribbon and sew them, equal distances apart, above the lace on the skirt.
The instructions for Handkerchief Dolls is found at the following link:

Judie Fordham, "Pioneer Dolls," Friend, July 1992
When pioneer children were crossing the plains,
They didn't have cars, airplanes, or trains.
They walked beside wagons loaded clear to the top
With food, bedding, and seeds for the next season's crop.
There just wasn't room for a toy or a doll--
The wagons were filled with all they could haul.
So Papa's handkerchief became a new toy,
A cherished soft doll that brought lots of joy.
This cute little doll loves to play or just sleep.
She'll brush away tears if ever you weep.
So keep her close by--she's easy to hold--
And pretend you're a pioneer child of old.

HERE is an 8x10 printable of the Pioneer Dolls poem.

These instructions come from Kathy Ballard, "Pioneer Dolls 'Sew' Delightful for Small Stitchers," Country Woman, Jan/Feb 1992

Materials Needed (for one large and one small doll):
1/3 yard of white cotton fabric
Scraps of calico for skirts and scarves
Scraps of lace and ribbons for trims
Thread to match fabric
Knit-Cro-Sheen crochet thread or string
Small amount of polyester stuffing for head
Standard sewing supplies
Body:  Cut one 8 inch square of white fabric for small doll and one 12 inch square for large doll.  To form hands, tie two pieces of string or crochet thread on two adjacent corners about 1/2 inch from ends (see Fig. 1).

Head:  Place a ball of stuffing, the size of a Ping-Pong ball for small doll and the size of an egg for large doll, on fabric square, about a quarter of the way down from the top edge and centered between the hands.
Fold top of fabric over so it covers the stuffing completely; gather together under the head and tie with a piece of string (see Fig.2).  Pull arms out to each side and arrange, then bunch the rest of the fabric together under the arms and tie with another string (Fig. 2).
Skirt:  Cut out a 3 inch x 8 inch piece of calico for small doll and a 6 inch x 12 inch piece for large doll.  Hand-sew a gathering thread along one long edge of the skirt.
Pull up gathering thread and place skirt around doll beneath the arms, where the second string is.  Stitch top corners of skirt together in the back, securing the skirt to the doll at the same time.
Using two or three small stitches, hand-sew the bottom corners of the skirt together.  Trim away any of the white fabric that shows below the skirt.
Hat:  Cut a piece of lace that's long enough to fit over the top of the head, and sew it on for a hat brim.  Or make a scarf by cutting a 6 inch square for larger doll.  Fold fabric in half to form a triangle.  Place over doll's head and sew the ends of the scarf together under the chin.  Stitch to doll to hold in place.
Angel Wings:  For small doll, use a 2 inch wide of flat lace about 18 inches long for a piece of white fabric 2 inches x 18 inches.  Tie into a bow with 2 inch to 3 inch streamers and tack to back of doll just below the head.
Trims:  If desired, you can use lace to trim around the bottom of the skirt and tie scraps of ribbon around the neck waist or hands of doll.


Helen B. @ Blue Eyed Beauty Blog said...

These are SO cute! I found them via Pinterest and just discovered that this is actually a tutorial! I may be stopping by again in the near future to try and make one of my own to add to my doll collection!

Blue Eyed Beauty Blog

Heather A. said...

I'm so glad you like the dolls. They are easy enough for children to make. I first saw them at an arts and crafts festival over 30 years ago and have loved them ever since :)

Patti said...

I received mine from my grandmother when I was baptized. It was my "quiet toy" to take to church each Sunday. When I got married, we removed the ties and it became my "something old" hankie for my special day. When my granddaughter was baptized, my doll was retied with new ribbons and given to her to cherish until she unties it and uses it for her wedding. Unfortunately, I had only one son and could not pass it down to him so I just waited for a granddaughter. I hope she continues the tradition.

Heather A. said...

What a wonderful tradition!

Leah Good said...

Just made my first doll using the second tutorial. So cute. It'll be going into an Operation Christmas Child shoebox.

Heather A. said...

What a great idea!

Cyndee said...

LOL Am now going through my sewing supplies to make this for my 1st granddaughter!


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