Monday, April 18, 2016

The Simple Beauty of Clothespin Dolls

Image Courtesy of The Old Stone Fort Museum

Peg Wooden dolls and spoon dolls have been arounds of years and played with by millions of children over the years.

Another wood doll that has been a favorite of children and parents from colonial times to the present are clothespin dolls.  Part of the reason was they were an item readily available at home.  Just add a few rags and you have a clothespin doll.

Like spoon dolls clothespin dolls and clothespin doll kits continue to be popular items for sale in many museum shops.  Not only are they fun for children but the fun is sprinkled with a little bit of education in learning about the history of these dolls.

The Clothespin Doll Kit shown in the picture above is from The Old Stone Fort Museum and is similar to the clothespin doll kits sold by many museums.

According to their description: Our Clothespin Doll Kit makes two dolls, a boy and a girl doll. Included in the kit are two wooden clothespins, fabric, lace, ribbon, pipe cleaners, pearl cotton for the hair, pattern, instructions, and history. These cute dolls will look adorable displayed with other old-fashioned dolls. The clothespins we provide have flat bottoms so the dolls will stand by themselves.

Given how popular the clothespin dolls have and continue to be I thought I'd have no problem finding pictures of antique or vintage clothespin dolls and current clothespins dolls being sold by many crafters today.  The latter was no problem.  The former was.  They are basically nonexistent.

Image Courtesy of Guardian of the Artifacts Blog

One vintage clothespin doll I was able to find, which is shown in the picture above,  is from Guardian of The Artifacts blog -"Veterans, Zouaves, and Dolls" post by Lori Eggleston

According to Lori's post:   Since Veterans Day is approaching, this week seems appropriate for writing about another one of my favorite artifacts – a clothespin penny doll from the Civil War.  At first you might wonder what a small doll has to do with Civil War medicine or with veterans.  These clothespin dolls were often made by Civil War veterans, sometimes while the veterans were recuperating in the hospital.  The dolls were a source of income for them and, as the name implies, usually sold for a penny.  Many times the doll clothes were made from the veteran’s own uniform or a flag – which can give some hints as to the maker of the doll!

I was able to find pictures of some of the civil war clothespin dolls from an internet archive website for Carla's Crafts.  Here's what was there:

Image Courtesy of - Carla's Crafts

Image Courtesy of - Carla's Crafts

Image Courtesy of - Carla's Crafts

Image Courtesy of - Carla's Crafts

Image Courtesy of - Carla's Crafts

Image Courtesy of - Carla's Crafts

Image Courtesy of - Carla's Crafts

Image Courtesy of - Carla's Crafts

Image Courtesy of - Carla's Crafts

Image Courtesy of - Carla's Crafts

Image Courtesy of - Carla's Crafts

According to Carla's post:  Six of these clothespins are currently on display in the Smithsonian's Museum of American History in Washington, DC.

Some of the Civil War Clothespin Dolls shown above have information on the dolls history or their particular occupation so if you get a chance please click on the links above to read those descriptions.

Wouldn't it be fun to recreate these civil war clothes in dolls?  You might be scouring vintage fabric stores and memorabilia sales as many of the clothes came from the uniforms themselves.

On the BBC website I found a .pdf Victorian Toys and Games Booklet containing information on Victorian Peg Dolls.

Here's what they said in the Victorian Toys section: Peg dolls are easy to make. Just get a traditional wooden dolly peg and decorate it with a face and clothes! The toys children played with in Victorian times often depended on how wealthy their family was. Children from rich families played with rocking horses, train sets, doll’s houses and toy soldiers, whereas children from poor families tended to play with homemade toys such as peg dolls, spinning tops and skipping ropes.

According to The Better Clothespin - Why do inventors keep trying to improve a technology that is not only supremely simple but-for most of us-obsolete? article by Anita Lahey on the Gateway To Innovation website: This was the beginning of the end of the uncontested reign of the straight wooden clothespin, a cylindrical strip of wood with a slit up the middle. People had either carved those themselves or purchased them from traveling peddlers who had crafted them by hand. (Frequently these clothespins were given decorative knobs that served well as heads when children turned them into tiny dolls.) 

According to The Ultimate Doll Book by Caroline Goodfellow:  Other types of simple dolls are those made from wooden spoons or old-fashioned straight clothespins, materials that remain firm favorites with makers today.

Also: Straight, old-fashioned clothespins were often transformed by mothers into improvised playthings.  

The Complete Photo Guide To Doll Making by Nancy Hoerner, Barbara Matthiessen, and Rick Petersen has a how-to and pattern for making a clothespin doll on page 74.

While there aren't a lot of pictures of vintage clothespin dolls they remain a favorite of crafters and a great activity for children's groups.  So, it should come as no surprise that there are lots of tutorials out there showing you how to make a clothespin doll: some free, some for sale.

Shown below are a few of the clothespin tutorials I found:

Image Courtesy of Channel4learning

Image Courtesy of CraftsByAmanda

image Courtesy of Morganised Chaos
Image Courtesy of This Heart of Mine

Image Courtesy of Urrbrae House Schools Program

Image Courtesy of Women's Weekly

YouTube has it's own fair share of clothespin making tutorials like the two shown below:.

And, of course, Martha Stewart has a tutorial video showing how to make the clothespin ornaments in the picture below:

Image Courtesy of

There are also plenty of websites willing to sell you a how-to tutorial or a clothespin doll kit:

Image Courtesy of Jessica Hamilton's DollProject Etsy Shop

If you love clothespin dolls but don't want to make one of your own there are many museum shops that sell them and other shops, especially on ETSY, selling them.
Image Courtesy of  PrettyDitty Etsy Shop

Don't you just love the Jane Austin clothespin dolls shown in the picture above. I know I do.

Image Courtesy of Dallas Heritage Village 

There is a wonderful article on the Clothespin Dolls by Barbara Brockett page about the history of Barbara's dolls that is well worth the read if you get a chance.  

Image Courtesy of UneekDollDesigns Etsy Shop

Image Courtesy of UneekDollDesigns Etsy Shop

You really need to visit the UneekDollDesigns Etsy Shop to appreciate ow many historical figure clothespins dolls she has for sale and how magnificent they are.

Image Courtesy of Austentation Shop

Image Courtesy of SugarlandDollHouse Etsy Shop

Image Courtesy of TheresaHutnick Etsy 
 I have to say that of all the clothespin dolls on Etsy the one shown in the picture above from TheresaHutnick's Etsy Shop is one of my favorites.

I have made many, many different types of dolls over the years. Most of them I have loved creating, but I have to tell you that I really liked making flower fairies out of wood doll pegs and silk florals. There's just something enchanting about them.  I would hope you would agree.

If you would like to make a floral fairy of your own I have a "Linda's How-Do-I Series? How To Make My "Gotta Love Fairies Peg Dolls" Free E-Book"  tutorial HERE.

No matter whether the clothespin doll is vintage or modern you have to admit there is a simple beauty to all of them.

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