Oh, Those Enchanting Spring Bonnets!


Miss Ruby finally gets to go out barefooted in the sunshine! The ground is wet, so she dances on her antique quilt today.

Miss Ruby has her new white dress in time for warmer weather, if we ever get any! We had pouring rain this morning, and it stopped in time for us to go out among the almost blooming tulips for a chilly photo shoot in a little bit of sunshine. Lacey white cotton dresses with snowy white bonnets are just the thing for little girls to wear when the sun shines bright. Little pink toes love to get tickled by cool new-grown grass.


Ruby likes to feel the breeze around her ears with her bonnet hanging down her back by the bonnet strings, just like Laura Ingalls!

Ruby’s springtime dress was made from Paula Walton’s dress instructions. It is made from a vintage cotton eyelet skirt and has a bell sleeve variation. In the mid 19th century, when little girls wore dresses like these, mothers and grandmothers seldom used patterns to cut out the clothing. Learning how to cut and sew garments was part of a girl’s education on housekeeping. This dress is made entirely from strips of fabric with no pattern. It was typical for the skirt to have one or two growth tucks sewn in, to be let out for length as the girl grew. Because of the position of the lace panel in this skirt, I did not add growth tucks to Ruby’s white dress. I don’t think she will have a growth spurt soon. 🙂


Notice the similarities and differences between my white bonnet and Paula Walton’s calico one.


Bonnets for girls and women can be found with many subtle variations, as well, and my guess is that they were also usually made without  patterns. I “made up” Ruby’s little white bonnet as I went. I measured the eyelet fabric across her little head for the right fit, then layered it with more fabric and quilted it. I wanted more fullness at the top of the crown, so I measured and cut a balloon shape accordingly. Then I added the ruffle all around, bound the seams, and added ties. The full crown and narrow back give my bonnet a kind of a Dutch silhouette. I think it is charming! And I am so satisfied with the results of “just making it up!”


This antique child’s bonnet from my collection has rows of tiny cording to stiffen the brim. The crown is not gathered very full. It has ties to gather in the fullness in the back, and another set of ties inside the brim for under the chin. It also has a long shawl edging to keep the sun off of shoulders.

Actually, having the opportunity to handle and inspect antique bonnets, or doll bonnets, is helpful, if not downright necessary to the “making it up” process. I could see how Paula attached the crown to the brim on the little antique calico bonnet that she made for Ruby, even though I made my crown quite different from hers.

Folkwear patterns made a useful one-piece pattern for a slat brim prairie sunbonnet that comes with the girl’s prairie dress pattern. I reduced this pattern to make a bonnet for a prairie dress outfit for a My Twinn doll.


This informational handout came from the End of the Oregon Trail museum in Oregon City.


One year old Brighde wears a prairie style white bonnet with the brim folded back. South Dakota, 1999

Viewing old photos is useful for learning what styles were worn when. As you can see, even turn-of-the-twenty-first century little girls wore sunbonnets. Well, at least in MY family, they did! I have two cherished antique family photos with white bonnets in my collection as well:


This circa 1928 photo is of my dad, Quinton, in a straw hat, and his cousin, Margaret, in a white bonnet, near Little Rock, Arkansas. Notice the shadow silhouette of the brimmed head of the photographer in the foreground!

The bonnet in this circa 1928 photo, above, has a short double or triple ruffled brim with the crown gathered into the center back of the bonnet. It reminds me of Kate Greenway style.


This circa 1933 photo is of my Aunt Darlene and Aunt Lila on my Grandpa Carl’s farm in Nebraska.

Above, the toddler, Darlene’s, bonnet has a tall upright ruffle, while the baby, Lila’s, bonnet fits her head closely with a narrow ruffle.

So now you know–you CAN sew a sunbonnet without a pattern. Just make it up! Try it with some fabric that is not too valuable, and that you have plenty of to cut new pieces if something doesn’t work quite right. Then, take pride in your creative efforts, and enjoy the sunshine with your new “old” bonnet!


Wishbones for Luck, and a Crocheted Sewing Kit


My turkey wishbone “merrythought” sewing kit

March is the time o’ the year to be dwellin’ on Celtic traditions and luck. Did ye save your lucky wishbone from your winter holiday turkey? Well, save the wishbone from your spring holiday duck or goose, too! Even the chicken wishbone is lucky. Finding leprechauns in the dells of Celtic lands is one way to have your wish granted, but the remnants of a tasty poultry feast are easier to come by.


Rituals involving goose bones are as old as ancient Etruscan and Roman culture where dried goose or chicken bones were stroked, not broken, while a wish was brought to mind. The Etruscans believed that the hen was a “soothsayer” because her squawk foretold the laying of an egg, and the cock as well, because his crow heralded the coming of the dawn. The Romans brought the tradition of the lucky wishbone (which is the bird’s clavicle) to Great Britain, and from there it traveled to America, where it was adapted to the native turkey.

Grand Wishbone Paperweight

A wishbone paperweight

Wishbones were called “merrythoughts” in the British Isles, and they are one of a group of three traditional lucky charms there; the others being the horseshoe and the four leaf clover. The term “wishbone” is American, and came into use around 1850, about the same time that President Lincoln made Thanksgiving a national holiday. Merrythought was still the more common term until around 1900.


Somewhere along the way, our creative domestic forebears figured out how to make a useful sewing accessory from the “merrythought,” as a way to keep it beautiful and close at hand. I first saw a photo of a vintage crocheted wishbone thimble holder in Mary Jane’s Farm magazine. I then searched for a crochet pattern to make one, and found the pattern to be rather elusive. That’s when I went to my crochet border pattern resources and found that I could easily make it up. I am quite happy with the way my lucky “merrythought” crochet wishbone thimble holder and pincushion turned out!


Variations of wishbone thimble holders. One on a turkey wishbone, and one on a chicken wishbone.


A colorful one with ribbon insert on possibly a duck wishbone.


This one is copied from a vintage pattern with instructions, and seems to use yarn rather than crochet cotton in its construction on a smaller chicken wishbone.


A small chicken wishbone with a large heart pincushion.


A dainty one on a chicken wishbone.

I encourage you to try this easy and charming project for your own sewing corner. Any wishbone can be used; however, a turkey wishbone is large enough to easily accommodate the thimble between its arms. The dried bone becomes brittle, so be gentle with it as you are working with it.

Here are some instructions to help you on your way to making your own “merrythought” thimble holder. I am not including crochet terms or explanations, so these instructions are recommended for intermediate crocheters.


My Wishbone Thimble Holder

The Wishbone Border:

Use one light and one dark colored size 10 crochet cotton thread and a size 5 or 6 steel crochet hook. I used ecru and dark green thread.

(For the border: multiples of six plus one)

Row 1:  With light color thread, and with the back side of the wishbone facing you, cast on sc’s. I put 73 sc onto my wishbone, with 37 on the first arm, and continuing in FRONT of the knob, 36 on the second arm.

Row 2:  Ch 5 (counts as first dc plus ch 2), turn; skip next 2 sc, dc in next sc, * ch 2, skip next 2 sc, dc in next sc; repeat from * across: 24 ch 2 spaces.

Row 3: Ch 3 (Counts as first dc), turn: *2 dc in next ch 2 sp, dc in next dc; repeat from * across: 73 dc.

Change to dark thread.

Row 4: Ch 1, turn: sc in first dc * ch 2, skip next 2 dc, (tr, ch4, slip st in fourth ch from hook) 4 times in next dc, ch 2, skip next 2 dc, sc in next dc; repeat from * across.  DO NOT finish off.

Handle: Sl st across edge of work to the cast-on sc near the bone; ch 10, dc in 3rd ch from hook; * ch 6, dc in 3rd ch from hook; continue from * until handle is as long as you want it; ch 3; attach with sl st to opposite side near the bone. Finish off.

Thimble Holder:

With dark thread, ch 4, join with sl st to beginning ch.

Rnd 1: ch 3 (counts as first dc, now and throughout), 17 dc in ring, join to top of first dc.

Rnd 2: ch 3, 17 dc in back loop only of each dc around. Join.

Rnd 3: ch 2, dc in next dc, ch 1, * make 2 dc cluster in next 2 dc, ch 1 around, join. (9 clusters)

Rnd 4: ch 3, 2 dc in next ch 1 sp, I dc in  top of next cluster, around. (18 dc)

Optional Border:

Rnd 5: Change to light thread. Ch 1, 1 sc in each dc around. Join.

Rnd 6: Ch 1, * sc in first sc, ch 3, skip next sc, 2 dc and one hdc in next sc from * around.

Before fastening off, make a chain the right length to suspend the thimble holder between the two arms of the wishbone. Attach at the same place as the handles on each side.


The crochet heart

Heart Pincushion:

With dark thread, ch 8.

Rnd 1: 3 tr in fourth ch from hook, tr in next ch, dc in next ch, hdc in next ch, 3 sc in last ch; working in free loops of beginning ch, hdc in next ch, dc in next ch, tr in next ch, (3 tr, ch 3, sl st) in same ch as first tr. 16 sts and 2 ch 3 spaces.

Rnd 2: Ch1, sc in same ch as last sl st made, ch 1, dc in next ch 3 sp, ch 1, (tr, ch 1) 4 times in next tr, tr in next tr, ch 1, skip next tr, (dc in next st, ch 1, skip next st ) twice, (dc, ch 4 dc) in next sc, ch 1, skip next sc, (dc in next st, ch 1, skip next st) twice, tr in next tr, ch 1, (tr, ch 1) 4 times in next tr, dc in last ch 3 sp, ch 1; join with sl st to first sc: 19 sts and 19 sps.

[For Rnd 3, Scallop: Ch3, dc in third ch from hook.]

Rnd 3: Ch 1, turn; (skip next ch 1 sp, sl st in next st, work scallop) 8 times, skip next dc, (sl st, work scallop) twice in next ch 4 sp, skip next dc, sl st in next dc, (work scallop, skip next ch 1 sp, sl st in next st) 7 times, ch 1; join with sl st in same st as previous joining. DO NOT finish off.

Make dc-chain same as for Handle, the length you want to loop through the wishbone, and attach at joining. Finish off.

Optional: you may want to make a stuffed felt heart to sew your crochet heart onto for a pincushion.

My apologies in advance for any mistakes in this pattern. I wanted to offer these instructions, since I had a hard time finding any for a wishbone thimble holder like the vintage ones I found photos of. Part of these instructions  are adapted from other crochet projects, and part is my design. I am not experienced in transcribing instructions. I do hope it works for you.

Enjoy your crocheted Merrythought Sewing Wishbone!


This is a vintage lucky postcard that I found at the Portland Doll Show.

Red is STILL the color: Treasures from the Portland Doll Show


Red leather shoes with a low heel made for a young girl bisque doll.

Red is still going strong and lovable in my little world of dolls! The Crossroads Doll Show, in Portland the day after Valentine’s Day, wielded more red treasures, including these little low heeled bisque doll shoes.


Caroline looks quaint in her white antique dress while she waits for an 1850’s style pink print dress. Do the shoes work for her?

I was looking for shoes to fit the narrow, pointed ballet feet of Caroline, my little Greiner-type Kloster Veilsdorf doll. These shoes fit her feet, and I couldn’t resist buying such a fine pair of antique red shoes! But now I’m not sure that they are right for Caroline. Maybe I should make her a more primitive pair of boots from the fingers of a pair of leather gloves. That may fit the type of doll she is better. What do you think? She is in line to get an 1850’s style dress, similar to Ruby’s red dress, only in a pink print. It may be awhile, because I have several other dresses in the planning stages for other dolls in varying states of disrobe (!). And it takes me ever so long to get the dolls’ white clothes (undies) in order and actually cut and sew the dresses! At least Caroline has a nice antique white dress for now.


Valerie’s pretty shopping bag with the red shoes from her booth.

The red shoes were found at Valerie Fogel’s Beautiful Bebes Booth. If you get to peruse Antique Doll Collector magazine, then you have surely found Valerie’s pages full of sumptuous doll offerings there. Here are three exquisite bisque dolls, including a small Jumeau in a burgundy silk dress, that were offered at the Portland Crossroads show:


Beautiful Bebes just beg to come home! So sad that they are out of my price range!

Edith, with the lovely red boots you saw in my last post, received an antique dress with a red striped floral print, to wear until she gets her new stylish dress with the floral and bird print to compliment her lavish boots.


Edith and Caroline both model their red boots.

CROCHET was the other theme of the day. I found ever so many teeny crochet dresses for the littlest of the bisque dolls. A china boy doll with pink tint and side parted hair is modeling a christening gown with a fancy crochet hem detail. He is definitely an old enough lad to be breeched, and he needs some knickers and a waistcoat. Decisions, decisions! Who to clothe first!


Eight little crochet dresses and a pair of blue dungarees.

And here is the comic relief: I bought this little pair of bisque legs because I adored the mauve stockings on them. They fit perfectly with the plum colored crochet dress! “She got legs!”


She got legs! Comical!

Well, I have plenty of crochet inspiration now! You may be seeing some original crochet creations for my dolls soon! I’m wishing for more time to allot to the doll sewing. So, I’m off to create!