During pioneer times when supplies and items were scarce mothers used whatever they had at hand to make dolls for their children. This included handkerchiefs and pillowcases.
The Utah Museum of Fine Arts created a wonderful .PDF tutorial on making Folk Art dolls. The .PDF includes an introduction into "Doll Making As A Folk Art Tradition" and tutorials on making 4 different types of Folk Art dolls.
Included in this tutorial is a section on Page 3 on How-To Make Pioneer Handkerchief Doll, like the doll in the picture to the right.
According to the .PDF, "During pioneer times (and at other times when supplies were scarce) dolls were made from handkerchiefs for little girls. These handkerchief dolls were called "prayer dolls. They were carried to church and did not make noise if dropped. 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. Other names for the handkerchief doll are, "church doll", "church babies","pew doll", and "pew babies."
The Hankie Dolls page of the Folk Dolls chapter of The Complete Photo Guide To Doll Making book by Nancy Hoerner, Barbara Matthiessen, and Rick Petersen has a tutorial on making a faceless hankie doll on pages 82-85 that shows how easy it is to make a simple faceless hankie doll.
According to The Complete Photo Guide To Doll Making book - Page82, "Hankie dolls were also called church dolls or pew dolls because they were first made for children to play with during church services. The idea was that if the doll was dropped, it wouldn't make any noise."
"The dolls have been made in various ways and we will show you two different ways. Similar dolls were made from lacy women's hankies and given to a newborn baby girl with the intention that she would later carry it as her bridal hankie."
According to the Wagontraindolls.com website early pioneers used unusable table cloths to make Pillowcase dolls, like the picture on the right for their children.
Here's what they had to say, "Pioneers settled in their log cabins during the long winter months when they were snowed in for weeks. During this time they did many chores to prepare for the upcoming year. When children became restless their mother would take the child’s pillow case and make a doll as this one is made. At bed time the mother would remove the ties from their doll and the pillow case went back on the pillow."
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has an article on by Julie Fordham on how to make a handkerchief doll. If you would like to read that how-to please click here.
The Historic Cold Spring Village Cape May County Living History Museum website has instructions for making the handkerchief doll, like the one shown in the picture to the left.
If you would like to see and read their Make A Handkerchief Doll instructions please click here.
Handkerchief dolls are easy to make and can be very pretty - especially when you are using dainty vintage handkerchiefs. If you would like to learn how to make a handkerchief doll of your own from vintage handkerchiefs there is a wonderful video on YouTube for making a Vintage Hanky Church Doll by Maggie Weldon, like the doll in the picture to the right.
If you would like to view the Vintage Hanky Church Doll video please click here.
There is also a wonderful tutorial on the Wild and Precious Blog showing how to make a handkerchief doll. To see the handkerchief doll and read that blog post please click here.