Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Handkerchief Dolls and a Pioneer Baptism

As promised, a tutorial on how to make the handkerchief dolls I wrote about in Eliza's baptism post. 

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We've made a number of dolls for Eliza's friends who were baptized this year, but it seemed a most perfect gift for her friend Katherine, who was baptized last month, the old-fashioned way. 

You may remember, handkerchief dolls were made for small children as they walked across the plains in the 1800's to their new home in the west.  

Well, Katherine's family recently did their own handcart trek through parts of Wyoming to gain a greater appreciation for their pioneer heritage and the challenges these settlers faced. 

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Here's Katherine pushing the handcart. A big smile on her face. 

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Katherine belongs to my dearest friend, Kara. I've written about Kara enough now; I think you know her story. Here she is with her husband, Dave, and baby Caleb. Aren't they beautiful?

Kara nursed Caleb along the way, carried him in her arms, walked the dusty trail alongside her children. 

I've done two pioneer treks with the youth of our church. Treks are strenuous, blistering, and challenging. They are also rife with breathtaking scenery and moments of spiritual learning. But to do it with a baby, or young children? The way the pioneers did it? That would be an entirely different experience.

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Katherine was baptized during their family trek, in the Sweetwater river, a tributary to the North Platte that runs through Wyoming. It was at this river that the Martin Handcart Company (which began heading west in 1856) was surprised by the early arrival of winter. Many company members had already died. Cold and hunger had left them extremely weak, and crossing the river at this point, seemed impossible. However, men from a rescue party sent by Brigham Young, some only teenagers, bravely stepped forward and carried many individuals across the frozen, icy water on their backs. This heroic act saved countless lives. And some of these young men later lost their own lives due to effects from the cold and exhaustion.

When President Brigham Young heard about these rescuers, he "wept like a child, and declared that this act alone would immortalize them" (Solomon F. Kimball, "Our Pioneer Boys," Improvement Era, July 1908, 679).

What a place to be baptized. To remember the selflessness that turned a river holy. To remember how right and important it is to cross the deep for god's children. To give our life for the saving of others.

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So this is what you need for the dolls:

* Two handkerchiefs. Any will do. Recently, I've liked the ones with scalloped lace I found at the LDS Distribution center. But I've also found hankies at Wal-Mart, Target, and some grocery stores.

* Stuffing or batting

* Pink ribbon 1/8 " (or whatever color you choose)

* Small, clear elastics

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Iron your handkerchiefs then lay them flat on a table. Take a handful of stuffing (about the size of a tennis ball) and place it in the middle of your hankie. Fold the hankie over the stuffing and secure with an elastic band to create the head.

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Place the doll on the upper border of the second handerchief, exactly in the middle. Wrap the second hankie around the head of the doll to form the hood, then tie with ribbon around the neck.

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It should look like this once you've secured the hood/cloak.

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On the left border of the second handkerchief, where it folds at a right angle, pinch to form a hand and tie (about one inch in) with ribbon. 

Repeat on the right border to form the second hand.
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And that's it! You can secure the hood with needle and thread to make it more sturdy if you'd like. 
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Look at Katherine's smile. Look at her shining on the banks of the river in her pioneer dress. How I wish we could have been there. 

Kara told me she's been sleeping with her handkerchief doll. Hopefully, it will remind her of this day when she walked into the Sweetwater holding her Dad's hand. So much of our joy in this big, glorious life depends on our commitment to God. I was reminded last week of this quote from Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, which I love. 

“I believe that we are solely responsible for our choices, and we have to accept the consequences of every deed, word, and thought throughout our lifetime…[You see]people are like stained - glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.” 

That is Kara and her family. So much light springing from inside them, particularly when the darkness set in. They are filling the world around them with light. We love you Katherine. Congratulations!  


  1. Love that photo of her glancing back with a grin. Love her proud heritage. Thanks for sharing such inspirational reminders. And the handkerchief dolls are a perfect token of love and belief.

    1. I love that photo too. She's such a good friend to my Eliza. Love hearing from you Liz. xo

  2. Oh, Cath. What a beautiful tribute. Undeserved. I love you. I'm going to print this up and save it for her. It's such a beautiful expression of faith and remembering. Thank you.

  3. So beautiful, Cath. I love your writing and your faith and your hope, and I'm grateful to you for sharing Kara's story.

  4. Kara, We love Kath. And you.

    Kerri, Yours is a light-filled story as well. Thank you for filling your world with just as much beauty. xo


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