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Instructions to Make a Church Doll From a Handkerchief

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Handkerchief dolls have been popular since the American Civil War era. These charming dolls came out of a time when everyday supplies were scarce. Handkerchief or church dolls are made by hand from a handkerchief, lace, a little ribbon and stuffing. A church doll made from a handkerchief is a quick and simple project. Follow these instructions to create one of these historically enchanting little dolls.


To create a handkerchief doll, you will need a white handkerchief (a man’s handkerchief makes a better doll because it is larger), 45 inches of 1-inch-wide colored lace or eyelet trim, cotton balls and a ruler. For sewing your doll, you will need a needle and thread the same color as your trim, scissors, silk or embroidery thread (pink and blue) and four pieces of small ribbon 10 inches long.


Sewing two rows of trim or lace, one slightly above the other, on one end of the handkerchief will decorate the front of the doll’s skirt. To create the face, use a ruler to find the midpoint measurement on the opposite end of the handkerchief. Draw a small dot to mark the position of the nose about 3 ½ inches in from the edge. Two dots drawn 1 inch apart and a ½ inch from the nose (towards the edge of the handkerchief) mark the position of the eyes.

You can sew French knots for the eyes and nose. A French knot is made by bringing the thread to the front of the fabric and wrapping the thread around the needle three times. The needle is inserted next to where the thread came through first. Hold the thread tightly with your fingers while the needle is pulled through the knot and back through the fabric to form the French knot. A pink French knot makes the nose and two blue French knots make the doll’s eyes.

Stuff the face with enough cotton balls to make a 2-inch ball. Gather the handkerchief around the stuffing and tie it with a length of double thread that is covered by a piece of ribbon tied into a bow.

Sew two rows of lace around the back of the head to suggest a bonnet. Create the arms by rolling the ends of the handkerchief on either side of the head. Tie a small knot on each arm, leaving about an inch lead to suggest the hands. Be creative and decorate the doll’s dress with small bows that are sewn on the dress above the lace trim on the edge of the skirt.


If you are making a handkerchief doll as a gift, you can embroider or use liquid embroidery pens to personalize the doll by adding a child’s name to the doll’s dress.

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