Book Review: Storybook Costumes for Dolls & a little something else…

Before I do my book review I wanted to share something very unique with you. We’ll call this “Educational Monday!” A friend from church this morning showed me a purse she bought at the Quilt Show 2 weeks ago and I just had to show you. It’s a small purse with a patch of applique on it made by the Hmong ethnic group of people in Laos, Southeast Asia. Laos is a small country that is surrounded by China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar. If you google Hmong people and then click images, you’ll see the most colorful costumed people you’ve ever laid eyes on… Here are 2 examples…

hmong people 1

hmong people 2

Okay, now back to Beth’s purse… It has a patch about 6″ by 6″ of the most intricate kind of needle turn applique I’ve ever seen. This isn’t fused on with Wonder Under…it is painstakingly folded under and blind stitched in place! Each of these rows is turned under maybe 1/16th of an inch and then hand stitched down.


I looked up images for Hmong applique purses and found the most brilliant an beautiful designs you’ve ever seen. As I studied the patch on Beth’s purse, I asked her, what would you do, if you were stitching on one of those rows and somehow, unbelievably, it frayed or raveled into the part that you needed to stitch it down…what would you do? I know what I’d do…I’d cry. That’s sort of like my silver dress for Nyssa. It frayed and I cried…



The rows on this appliqued patch are just incredible and I had to squint my eyes to see just how absolutely perfect it was made. I would think they’d sell them for $50 or more, but the ones I found on a few sites, were $22 -$25! I can’t imagine all that work for so little money! Thanks for showing me Beth…

Beth also asked the question that led me to today’s post… “Do you ever make storybook dresses?” I had to think for a bit and then I told her I may have made a Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, but I really couldn’t think of any costumes… however it did get me to thinking of costumes and I thought, “Hey, I have a Storybook Costumes” book that I can share!” Voila… a post was born!

This is a very nice book to own and I’m glad it’s in my library. It’s called “Storybook Costumes for Dolls ~ Patterns and Design Techniques” and is done in paperback form, but don’t be put off…It’s done in the glossiest cover AND pages which makes it seem really expensive. It’s quite substantial and you can feel it when you have it in your hands… There are 128 pages and it’s written by a wonderful doll clothing designer, Londie Phillips. Londie has included so many photographs and even the pattern pieces are included in the back. This book focuses on 7 1/2″ dolls like Riley, by Helen Kish to the 12″ dolls by Dianna Effner. I’m sure if you know your way around a copier, you could bump these patterns up a size or two!




Here are a few of the costumes…









I think of the book as more of a LOOK BOOK, than a pattern book. It’s a great book to look at and get ideas. Londie shows lots of close up pictures that gets you to thinking, “hey, I could make my sleeves like that” or “what a neat way to make an apron” or “yes, a piece of lace across here is just what this dress needs.” There are all kinds of sewing tips, tricks and illustrations for beginner seamstresses to the advanced.







I could go on and on about this book as I really enjoy looking at it. I’m very careful with mine, trying not to crack the spine or bend any pages. It can be found on eBay and I just saw one end about 2 weeks ago that sold for $14.99, but they generally go a little higher.

If you need a book for ideas, a few new sewing tips, or just a book with beautiful, clear photographs of dolls in dresses, I’d recommend this one. I don’t think you’d be sorry…

See you tomorrow,
Blessings, Jeanne

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  1. Linda Doyle says:

    Oh my, the PATIENCE those Hmong women must have had! Also, the talent they had! It just shows you what a person can do when they put their minds to it, I guess! It’s amazing what the so called “lesser educated” people can do without the kind of life we have in the U.S.! Every culture has it’s worth. Very pretty bag, I will say!

    Storybook dolls…………I had them! My grandmother gave us girls one every so often, and we had all the Madame Alexander fairy tale ones. I remember Little Bo-Peep so well! They weren’t like todays 8 inchers either, they were porcelain. Unfortunately, we weren’t too careful with our dolls back then, so they didn’t last through the years, but I do remember having them, and how I loved them. Thank you Jeanne for the trip back to memory lane! That book is a treasure!

    • Jeanne W says:

      HI Linda,
      Yes, I think patience is an understatement about what these women do… I can’t imagine that if they sell the purses for say, $25.00, add in the cost of buying the black zippered purse part, and then having to pay the ladies for doing the applique work, they must only get something like $3.00 for all that work… :o(

      I’m glad you enjoyed the book Linda. It’s just a fun book to look at and like you said, to bring back memories of past dolls we’ve owned…
      Thanks so much,
      Blessings, Jeanne

  2. Yes, it’s a shame that they put in all that work to applique those purses, and have them sell for so little. They are definitely worth more.

    I’ve never seen that book before, I will have to keep an eye out for it. Thank you.

    • Jeanne W says:

      HI Christine,
      I agree with you that it’s a shame the purses sell for so little… they really deserve more for all the work they put into them…
      The book really is a fun one to own… I hope you find one someday… you’ll enjoy it.
      Blessings, Jeanne

  3. Karen D says:

    The purse is absolutely lovely and so intricate in applique! The design is beautiful! I’ve never done needle turn applique, but I know it requires many, many hours to complete.

    Love your Storybook review! I have the Alice doll shown (a Dianna Effner design purchased through Aston Drake). I’ll have to keep my eye on this book. It does look like a nice one to add to my doll sewing library. Thanks for sharing!

    • Jeanne W says:

      HI Karen,
      First of all, thank you for calling it needle turn applique. I had called it reverse applique because I could not remember what Beth called it. As soon as I saw your comment I knew that’s what Beth called it and went back to my post and edited it… so thank you so much!

      Oh how fun that you have the Alice doll like shown in the book… you really would enjoy this book. It has lots of information in it and it makes a good afternoon read…in my opinion…
      Blessings, Jeanne

      • Charlotte Trayer says:

        You are both right! It’s definitely reverse applique (that is, interior parts of the applique are cut and stitched to reveal the background fabric), but a needleturn technique is used to do the stitching. I once took a needleturn class, and you literally turn under the edge with your needle before stitching–different than, say, pressing under the allowance on the seam line and then hand stitching it down.

  4. Totally awesome work that those Hmong women do…the bag is gorgeous….

    And…the book is gorgeous too. It surely must be lovely to look at. I appreciate your sharing it with us.

    Take care.

    • Jeanne W says:

      HI Becky,
      Yes, AWESOME is the right word to describe what these Hmong women do… I’m glad you enjoyed seeing the work on Beth’s purse…

      It’s my pleasure to pass along what I have and what I enjoy looking at…
      Blessings, Jeanne

  5. Jeanne, thanks for the heads up about Lonnie Phillips book. I found one on for $8.80, used, plus $3.50 shipping.

    • Jeanne W says:

      HI Sissy,
      Excellent bargain you found there for the money! You’ll enjoy it Sissy… nice to hear from you! I hope you and your hubby are doing well…
      Blessings, Jeanne

  6. Probably 20 years ago when I was teaching, a fellow teacher brought in a huge amount of the Hmong work for sale. I believe they were done by a child’s grandmother. The family was very happy to receive even the small amount of profit. Anyway, I bought several with the idea of making pillows. Never did. Still have the pieces though. Loved the work. In fact, I made a display and an art project to go along for the kids. I’d forgotten all about it.
    Great book review.

    • Jeanne W says:

      HI Joy,
      I guess the Hmong women have been making these kinds of artsy things for a long time. I hope they make enough money to sustain their families…
      How interesting that you saw this years and years ago… You’ll have to go take a second look at the things you have… and smile!
      Blessings, Jeanne

  7. Marilyn says:

    Hmong women also do intricate colorful cross stitch, often combined with applique. There is apparently a sizable Hmong population in Minneapolis — if anyone lives close, craft shows might be a good place to look.
    Better yet, I just checked Etsy — huge numbers of things for tiny amounts of money. Just put in Hmong and get a whole list of subcategories.
    The two cultures this reminds me of in vague sorts of ways are Guatemala and Seminole.
    Wikipedia says that the brightest Hmong costumes are from the groups called Flower Hmong.
    One of my students was Hmong — as a child she was angry because girls couldn’t go to school. I last saw her when she was graduating from college.
    The Phillips book looks like wonderful inspiration. Amazon has a number of copies for as low as about $17, plus $4 shipping. Sissy did lots better than that.

    • Marilyn says:

      I forgot to say — the SUN IS OUT TODAY IN BOULDER! It’s only been a few days of snow and rain but it seems like forever.

  8. Jeanne W says:

    HI Marilyn,
    I did see some of the beautiful cross stitch and applique work the Hmong women did. It was just unbelievable to see how well it was done.
    I haven’t looked on Etsy yet, but I will… the Hmong women put my applique skills to shame…
    What a special young lady this student of yours must have been…to graduate from college when that wasn’t allowed in their culture…
    I’m glad the sun is shining in Colorado… Now we just have to get it to shine in northern Illinois for Cindy Rice’s area…
    Thanks Marilyn,
    blessings, Jeanne

  9. Carolyn says:

    Hi Jeanne,
    Nice post today. I have that book and it’s a good source of inspiration. I’ve seen the Hmong needlework at the Houston quilt festival. It’s beautiful, but very pricey there.

    • Jeanne W says:

      HI Carolyn,
      Thanks for your comments today and I’m glad you have the book and enjoy it! It’s also nice to know that some of the Hmong needlework is getting a fair price for all the work that is put into their stuff.
      Blessings, Jeanne

  10. Charlotte Trayer says:

    I love the idea of using that beautiful applique piece on a bag/purse like that. Years ago, I bought one of the Hmong appliques, but it’s been sitting in a drawer because I didn’t know what to do with it. Now I have an idea!!

    Thanks for sharing that book, too–I’ve written down the title and author. Definitely looks like something I need!! LOL

    • Jeanne W says:

      HI Charlotte,
      I just saw your comment about the appliqued purse my friend showed me. I hope you come up with something to use your applique for…

      I think you would LOVE this book too…it’s got so many pictures in it.
      Thank you,
      blessings, Jeanne

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