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Making Vintage Style Clothespin Dolls! 1960s Kitsch Craft Project

 Today I'm making these retro ladies, inspired by some clothespin dolls my mom picked up at a holiday bazaar in the 1970s. I like the quaint look of the long dresses and hand-drawn faces. For this set I'm using crepe paper and velvet ribbon for the dresses, and going for a kitschy late-1960s bridal party style. Just lots of fun! 

You can use fabric instead of paper, old lace or eyelet trims to make the dresses.  The ribbon or trim you choose for the sleeves should be somewhat thick, like velvet, or jacquard embroidered ribbon, so that it lays smoothly over the skirt gathers.  I made one doll with lace trim for the sleeves, and doubled it up to make it thicker. 

A lot of used or vintage clothespins are shorter, and have "heads" that are more on the squat side. I chose to use new clothespins or "doll pegs" which are a touch longer, and have nicer, oval-shaped heads.  The ones I used can be found here.

The faces can be painted with acrylics and a small brush, or drawn as I have done here. I used fine tipped paint pens, which don't feather out as much on the wood as a regular marker.

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Supplies:

 

 

Step 1:

If you choose to tint your clothespins to make varying skin tones, water down some acrylic paint and brush over the tops and bottoms of the clothespins. Set on the rim of a glass to dry. 

Step 2: 

Sketch out the hairlines and faces with a pencil on the doll heads.  The details can be kept minimal: just a couple dots for eyes, and a simple mouth.  I drew a tiny heart for the lips, or a heart with a line through it.

Go over the pencil lines with a paint pen, or a small paintbrush with acrylics.  For paint pens, have a piece of scrap paper handy to make sure the paint is flowing evenly first.

Fill in the hair with color.

Step 3:

For the dress, cut a 3 x 6 inch piece of fine crepe paper with the grain running along the short side.  Run a thin line of hot glue down one of the short sides, and bring across to the other end to make the paper into a cylinder. With the seam at the back, gather together one end of the cylinder, and pinch with your fingers.  

Cut a short piece of masking tape in half lengthwise. Insert the doll into the crepe paper cylinder with the creased gathers at the top.  Distribute the gathers around the doll, about a half inch down from the 'neck.' Use the masking tape to secure them to the wood, and press to flatten out the paper gathers.

Step 4: 

Attach a 6 inch pipe cleaner to the back of the doll with a dot of glue placed on top of the masking tape. Bend back the pipe cleaners so that the arms are about 1 1/2 inches long on either side of the body.  

Step 5:

Cut a piece of ribbon long enough to cover the arms on both sides. Run a thin line of glue from armpit to armpit across the front of the doll. Press the center of the ribbon in place, and hold it against the doll until the glue sets. Cut the ribbon ends so that the hands just peek out. 

Cut a second piece of ribbon for the back side.  Apply a minimal amount of glue along the back, and press the ribbon onto the back, lining up the top edges.  Hold firmly until the glue sets.

Trim the back ribbon edges to meet the length of the front ribbon.  Apply a thin line of glue around the top and bottom edges of the ribbon, as well as the ends near the hands, and press the ribbons together.  Seal all of the edges so that the arms are encased within the sleeves. Pose the arms.

Step 6:

If you choose to make your dolls into ornaments, add a small loop of button thread to the tops of the heads for hanging up.  Tie a small loop with long tails, attach with a dot of glue, and hold the tails down firmly until the loop is solidly attached. 

Step 7:

Fashion tiny hats, fascinators or bows out of crepe paper or lace.  Crepe paper, cut thinly across the grain, can be stretched out into fine ribbons.  Make a simple hat by cutting out a circle or oval of paper, and cutting a slit into it like a lily pad to allow for the hanging loop.  Glue in place to cover the loop's knot.

Products featured in this tutorial:

6 inch pipe cleaners:

 

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