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Over 20 Handkerchief Angel and Doll Tutorials

Vintage handkerchief dolls, also known as pew babies, church dolls, prayer dolls, and poppets, have a long history; these sweet dolls, turned hankie angels, are becoming popular as Christmas decorations and vintage handkerchief ornaments, and we have information, instructions, along with their history to get you started making both the dolls and the angels.

These church handkerchief dolls and vintage handkerchief angels involve no sewing and are very simple to create with stunning results. You will need to find vintage handkerchiefs or even use store-bought white men’s handkerchiefs to begin this project. 

Along with your hankie, you will need ribbon, and something to form the head, such as cotton balls or a small styrofoam ball.  Optional materials such as lace, charms or beads as embellishments, a string of beads or sparkly ribbon to make a halo, all can be added to create your hankie angel. If you are using plain white men’s handkerchiefs, you may want to add some pretty embroidery to them and will need embroidery materials.

History Of The Handkerchief

Amazingly, the history of the handkerchief itself can be traced back to Early Greece and The Roman Empire. A perfumed piece of cloth was often carried by wealthy  Greek individuals, and these were known as mouth cloths used to protect against germs, or perspiration cloths used by men to wipe perspiration from their faces.

Handkerchiefs had various uses throughout the Roman Empire.  In ancient Rome, women would carry silk or cotton squares, the signal to begin Roman games was the dropping of the handkerchief, and a handkerchief was used by the crowds watching the games to be waved to show their approval.

In the Middle Ages, the handkerchief was also used to show wealth and was carried in plain view for all to see.  A knight of the Middle Ages would often publicly wear a handkerchief of the lady who was his fair maiden.

In 16th century Europe, handkerchiefs were exquisitely decorated with threads and lace. These were used strictly as a fashion accessory. 

Marie Antoinette thought that this fashion statement was more pleasing in the form of a square, so King Louis XIV decreed that the dimensions of a handkerchief must be equal on all sides, making it a square as Marie desired.

During Victorian times, handkerchiefs were very common and became known as “hankies”.  Ladies carried the hankies in their hands and might use them as a flirtatious way to signal across the room to a gentleman in whom she was interested.

History Of The Dolls and Angels

In the late 17th century, children were given dolls known as church dolls, pew babies, prayer dolls or poppets, made of a handkerchief to play with during long church services. 

These dolls were simply made of the handkerchief gathered around a ball of cotton or sugar cubes that would be the head, and the corners of the handkerchief would be tied to form arms.

The dolls were safe for little ones and if dropped, they made no sound that would be a disruption to the church service. The sugar cube heads made for a nice treat for the young child to taste.

During the Civil War, dolls were made from the handkerchiefs of men in the family such as fathers, brothers, or uncles and given to children when the men went to fight in the war. The dolls would be a comforting reminder of the loved ones who were away for so long.

Let's get started!

These old-fashioned dolls have become a popular craft project often made from vintage hankies or delicately embroidered plain white men’s handkerchiefs.  They make a lovely gift for a new baby.

Even more popular than the dolls, angels can be made using the same vintage or modern men's handkerchiefs. They are beautiful and most often used as Christmas decorations or tree ornaments.

If you would like to use vintage handkerchiefs, they can easily be found in antique shops and are usually inexpensive.  Of course, Amazon, specialty stores, and big box stores are other places where you can find replicas of the vintage hankies, though these are usually more expensive.

If you happen to have hankies that belonged to someone in your family, these handkerchiefs, made into angels, are a very special way to remember a loved one, and they make great gifts for relatives.  Below is a poem that is perfect for giving with the angel.

I have an angel for your tree

And it's as special as can be.

Look real close and you will see

Your angel's made from an old hankie.

During Grandma's many years

She collected hankies from all the Dears

Who shared her life and wished her well,

And now these hankies are here to tell

That Gramma dear is remembered and loved

Like the hankie-angel on your tree above.

Please take a look at the links below for directions to make various forms of the dolls and angels.  We have Christmas projects galore on our site if you enjoy making a handkerchief angel for the holidays!

 




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Angel Ornament

Learn how to make an angel ornament from a vintage handkerchief. Cancan Crafts

Church Doll

Seen But Not Heard! Church dolls were simply made with a handkerchief (or a scrap of fabric). Piece Work Magazine

Civil War Handkerchief Dolls

Re-create the old Civil War handkerchief dolls using only a few, simple, and readily available materials. It's So Purdy

DIY Handkerchief Angels

Turning recycled handkerchiefs into Christmas decorations. Hallmark Channel

DIY Hankie Angel

A cute little ornament that has a wooden bead as a head to hang on your holiday tree! Bumble Bee Linens

Folk Dolls PDF

This PDF by Utah Museum of Fine Arts features four dolls - Pioneer Handkerchief Dolls, Russian Nesting Dolls, Pueblo Storytelling Dolls and Guatemalan Worry Dolls. It has historical facts about the doll along with instructions on how to make your own dolls. Utah Museum of Fine Arts

Handkerchief Angel

Directions for making a handkerchief angel from a vintage hankie or from a piece of cloth. Two easy crafts for you! FunEZcrafts

Handkerchief Angel Doll

Instructions for making a beautiful angel doll from a vintage handkerchief. Anastasia Pollack

Handkerchief Babies

Very creative step-by-step photos to fold a handkerchief, origami style to make "babies in a bed". Nielson School

Handkerchief Doll

Instructions on how to make a handkerchief doll. Recreater

Handkerchief Doll Craft

No-sew handkerchief doll instructions. Pagan Song

Handkerchief Rag Doll

For this handkerchief doll, you will need two handkerchiefs. By Webcraft at Instructables

Handkerchief Twins

How to fold twin babies in a cradle with a handkerchief. A Joyful Chaos

Hankerchief Angel

Old linen handkerchief and a few craft supplies create an old time Christmas ornament. DiskUs Publishing

Hankie Angel

Make a cute angel ornament to hang on the tree. Bumblebee linens

Hankie Doll

How to make a hankie doll from a lace handkerchief. Bumblebee Linens

Historical Toys and Crafts

Historic Cold Spring Village website has four fun crafts and activities - a handkerchief doll, a corn husk doll, a kite and a burden carrier. Historic Cold Spring Village

Homemade Church Dolls

Learn how to make a handkerchief doll for your child or as a gift. Pregnancy and Baby Guide

Lemon and Orange Handkerchief Dolls

Grab some fabric scraps and recycle old fashioned handkerchiefs for making a new and improved version of traditional church dolls. Handmade Charlotte

Old Fashioned Handkerchief Doll

Not an angel but a cute handkerchief doll. Fashion Meets Food

Pew Doll

Pew dolls were made with a handkerchief to kept little ones occupated during church. Love Laugh & Bingo

Pioneer Handkerchief Doll Tutorial

Make a basic handkerchief doll and dress the doll with fabric scraps as they did in pioneer times. Our Pastimes

Pioneer Handkerchief Dolls

Step-by-step instructions on how to make a pioneer handkerchief doll. Homemakers Journal

Plantation Doll

Plantation Dolls are replicas of dolls made during the American Revolutionary War. Learn how to make one. Craftzone

Simple Hankie Doll

All you need to make this hankie doll is a friend, a handkerchief, and a ring or a small piece of string. The Little Red Hen









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