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When I first saw a handkerchief dolls at a local craft fair, I immediately thought it would make a precious gift for a new mom. A soft doll like this can grow with the child and possibly become a comforting naptime friend or lovey — like these angel dear blankies (aka security blankets).
Then, my wheels got to spinning, and I thought it would also be a great way to pass the time if you’re on bed rest during your pregnancy. As a bonus, you could later sell your homemade handkerchief dolls at craft fairs, yard sales — or even online through Etsy or Ebay.
Whether you’re making them as gifts or you’re making them as a way to pass the time, you’ll definitely enjoy how quick and easy these handkerchief dolls are to make!
The Story Behind Church Dolls
These sweet little dolls are known by many different names:
- pew babies
- church dolls
- angel babies
- prayer dolls
- handkerchief dolls
- hanky dolls
The simple cloth dolls were used in the 1800s to keep little girls quiet in church.
Because they were made of cloth, they made no sound when they were dropped on the floor.
During the Civil War (and at other times when toy-making supplies were scarce), dolls were made from handkerchiefs for little girls. These handkerchief dolls were carried to church and did not make noise if they were dropped. They were also known as one of the “Sunday toys” that children were allowed to play with only on Sundays. Some mothers would put sugar cubes or candy in the head of the handkerchief doll for a youngster to suck on to keep the child quiet during the long church service. Source
Here’s how to make handkerchief dolls yourself…
How To Make A Handkerchief Doll
You can make a church doll using these 8 simple steps:
- Unfold the handkerchief, so you can see all four corners at once.
- Create a loose knot in each of the top 2 corners of the handkerchief to form sleeves.
- Holding both of those knots — one in each hand — create the head by using your thumbs to create a poofy space in the handkerchief between the arms.
- Tuck some polyester fiberfill, tissue paper, or a small piece of leftover cloth into the head area so it will hold its shape.
- Wrap a rubberband several times around the neck of the doll to hold the stuffing within the head.
- Lightly tug on the arm knots to bring the edges of her “dress” out — like a sweater would drape open over the stomach area.
- Move the arm knots closer to the head in order to bring the folds of the dress closer to the center of the doll’s body.
- Tie a thin ribbon — in a complementary color — around the doll’s neck to hide the rubberband. You can leave the ends of the ribbon long and flowing or cut them short closer to the doll’s neck.
- If you want to create the effect of a bonnet on the doll’s head, then add a small piece of ribbon around the head. You could glue it or sew it on.
- You could also add a piece of lace along the dress bottom.
This video shows you how to do each of the above steps:
Church dolls make a lovely decoration for a little girl’s room. You might want to type up the history of church dolls or a cute church angel saying and attach it to the doll — if the doll will be used for decoration purposes only.
Handkerchief dolls also make great baby shower gifts. They’re so unique, they’re sure to charm the guests who attend the baby shower.
A handkerchief doll will be a cherished gift for mother and daughter to enjoy together.
As time passed more dolls and larger dolls were made.The other dolls that were made at this early age were the pillow case doll (a larger version of the handkerchief doll) and the pioneer doll. The Pioneer doll had arms and legs made from material as well as the trunk and head. These types of dolls eventually became mass produced in the form of Raggedy Anne and Andy. Source
Other Handkerchief Doll Tutorials
- How To Make A Hanky Doll / Pew Baby
- Plantation Doll (aka Church Doll) Tutorial
- How To Make Pioneer Handkerchief Dolls
- An Easy Way To Make A Handkerchief Doll
- Detailed Handkerchief Doll Tutorial
I like to help people find unique ways to do things in order to save time & money — so I write about “outside the box” ideas that most wouldn’t think of. As a lifelong dog owner, I often share my best tips for living with and training dogs. I worked in Higher Ed over 10 years before switching gears to pursue activities that I’m truly passionate about. I’ve worked at a vet, in a photo lab, and at a zoo — to name a few. I enjoy the outdoors via bicycle, motorcycle, Jeep, or RV. You can always find me at the corner of Good News & Fun Times as publisher of The Fun Times Guide (32 fun & helpful websites).