Thursday, July 24, 2008


Vintage sewing and dolls often go hand
in hand.
Collectors of vintage sewing and dolls
have the best of both worlds.
There is a large range of sewing items
involving dolls to be found - thimble holders,
needlecases, sewing companions, kits, and
stands, tape measures and more.
But pincushions would have to be the
sewing items that most typically
suit the doll.
In most cases, it is the skirt which is the
pincushion, but it could also be the doll's
hat or perhaps the doll holding a
pillow/basket that is the pincushion.
Everyone would know of the beautiful china
half-doll pincushions of the late 1800's and
early 1900's. There are many different forms
and styles both from Germany and Japan. But
not only were there pincushions, they also
adorned tea cosies, brushes, powder puffs, cologne
bottle tops, etc.
Making pincushions involves a little creativity, skill,
and a sense of whimsy. Dolls could be of many materials
- plastic, china, porcelain, cloth, and wood.
Wooden "dolly" pegs can be transformed into
a novel pincushion. A simple painting of features,
painted hair or glue on wool hair and ribbon, or just
a little triangle fabric scarf, pipe cleaner arms, ribbon
bodice, rectangular length of fabric gathered along
one side, attached to a circle cardboard base
and filled with polyester filling and made in an
hour or two, is a fun project even for the
beginner seamstress or child.
Or substitute a plastic doll for the peg doll.
A look through vintage magazines can uncover some
novelty patterns or ideas for making
pincushions using dolls of the time.
Celluloid dolls were popular in the 20's - 30's
like the kewpie dolls, many of which can
be found today made into sewing novelties.

Below - these are the modern
soft plastic equivalent to the
celluloid kewpie. The doll on the
left I have already dressed in the
style of a flapper. The doll on the
right is destined to be a pincushion.

Above - cutest celluloid kewpie with her
crocheted umbrella standing on a
large pincushion.

Above and below - these are vintage
celluloid kewpie dolls. They have padded
billowy satin skirts to accomodate the
pins with the one above having the added
advantage to also use her rather large
hat for pins.

Above - this is a hanging bisque doll
Below - tiny plastic Scottish lass possibly

Above - typical 1950's plastic doll with heart
shaped padded skirt.
Below - a cloth Navajo pincushion doll.

Above page from The Collector's
Encyclopedia of Half-Dolls by Freida Marion
and Norma Werner.

Above - a handmade cloth doll holding a "pumpkin"
Below - a common China-men pincushion which
are still being made today.

Below - a painted cloth pincushion doll head.

These are a small sample of doll pincushions.
I would love to hear about what you have in your


Gina E. said...

Marian, this post brought back so many memories of things made with dolly clothes pegs when I was a kid! I have a couple of the china half dolls, courtesy of my MIL, who gave them to me complete with hand knitted teacosies. I didn't realise they were worth so much until I saw one at an estate auction, go for nearly $100!!!

crazyhaberdasher said...

Yes, look after your precious china half-dolls, the reproduction ones (though they are lovely) are not a match on the authentic vintage dolls. I am glad that you enjoyed this post.

Wenonah4th said...

A sewing museum! What a marvelous notion, pun intended! I say go ahead and begin such a thing on a small scale, if you have a spare space in your home. Catalog and label things, set them up just so, and that's the beginning....

I've made many, many pincushions as gifts, some embroidered, some made from interesting fabrics, and some given with packages of safety pins so that new parents can pin Baby's socks together so as to avoid losing them in the wash.

crazyhaberdasher said...

Hi Wenonah4th! ...sorry to say that I have no room to set up for a museum at home at present - we are looking for a bigger house!
I think pincushions are charming, personal gifts that will not only be so useful but admired for many years.
They will also evoke happy memories of the maker/giver.

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