Knitting in 1960

Hands up, who had one of the first Barbie dolls in 1959/60?

They were all the rage and for $4 your mom could give you the opportunity to see the future of fashion and celebrity status. Never before did we have high fashion dolls with a chic wardrobe!

Last weekend, I finally made a dent in the cardboard moving boxes in the garage. Some of them had been packed over 20 years ago when I went to live in England to marry Mr Mole. So deep inside one box jammed with old photos and old costume jewelry from the 80’s I found an old plastic bread wrapper filled with my first Barbie clothes.

My mother did not buy me the real Mattel doll, she opted for a fake one that did not have movable hip joints so my doll could not sit down. Also my doll came in a cheap box and when we tried to remove her from the box we realized that her ponytail was stuck with a huge wad of industrial glue. The only way to release her was to cut off her entire pony tail and leave her with just fuzz. So there I was holding a non-bendable doll with a hair-do looking like a dandelion top…great. I have asked some of my sewing sisters if they knew of these cheap Barbie clones and some have said they had them but were too embarrassed to play with their friends who had the real deal.

So was I. 7e6eaea9350f6ab347015031712a5d47

Even buying nice clothes for her could not raise her profile, she was a little freak with fuzzy hair and had to stand up all day. But there was one bright spot…my grandmother knew how to knit and taught me to knit simple stitches and when my mother shipped me off every summer to stay with her up North, my grandma taught me to make my own Barbie clothes by knitting and sewing using a child’s Singer sewing machine that made only a loose chain stitch. Here is what I found in the box:P1180582

The outfits were all made with thin fingering yarn and the dress was lined and decorated with baby rickrack and lace. P1180583

Then this got me to thinking…where did the pattern go for the clothes? Can you still find them and wouldn’t it be nice to have a copy to put with this collection for future generations? And look what I found on Ebay


There is the 3/4 length rust coat with brown ruffled trim and the ivory turtleneck sweater. I have not been able to track down the striped parka or cardigan pattern but I have asked the Ebay seller to check for me.

Meanwhile in the sewing room, it is full speed ahead, 7 gowns have arrived that need extensive alterations. Already there has been a scalloped lace hem on a adult pageant dress that was shortened, a bridal gown with the same labor intensive hem and an early prom gown that will be shown next time covered in roses.

An unusual short wedding dress came in this week and I have to show you what brides think is OK.


Because she got a “good deal” she figured a seamstress could make it fit…sure…taking 4 inches out of the back zipper is a piece of cake and adding 1.5 hours of labor just adds to the “bargain” price doesn’t it? At least it will be plenty tight when it is finished just like the brides like it…breathing is optional.

Wishing you a great week of planning the next season’s sewing and minimal altering to get that perfect fit…fingers crossed! Thank you for stopping by to walk down memory lane with me!


This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

54 Responses to Knitting in 1960

  1. Linda T says:

    I had one of the first Barbies….thanks to my best friend who gave me one for my birthday. She already had one so when I received mine, we had SO MUCH fun playing with them. Her parents bought her lots of outfits (real Barbie outfits). My Mom said those outfits were too expensive–so I had handmade outfits that my Mom sewed for her. As time went on, I sewed some for her myself. What fun we had!!

  2. karenkv says:

    My mom didn’t approve of Barbie so I got a Tammie doll. I solved her figure problems by stuffing her bodices with Kleenex! I bought myself a Barbie when I was an adult and still have it sitting out in my sewing studio.

    • mrsmole says:

      That’s great, karenkv…we get to do those things when we grow up don’t we? I finally got my wooden doll furniture away from my mother before she threw them out.

  3. JenL says:

    The first Barbies were a bit later than me, but I did “inherit” some patterns that must have been from the early ’60s and late ’50s. A square dancing dress was my first bit of sewing- on one of those toy machines. The patterns are still around and pop up on Ebay once in awhile. I had a mixture of real and generic Barbies. The brand-name ones had gotten less expensive by the early ’70s, with “quick curl” hair and various other features. I’m wondering if anyone remembers this doll, an African-American Barbie that had a nurse’s cap permanently sewn to her head and her legs were inflexible. My cousins had that one, but I’ve never seen her anywhere else.

    • SandraT says:

      My favourite Barbie doll was the African-American barbie with the nurse’s cap. If memory serves, she was based on the tv show Julie (?) a sitcom about a single mom with a son of about 7 or 8 who worked for a white male doctor. I think it starred Dianne Carroll? I liked her because she did something other than just go shopping. When playing with friends, all their Barbies did was go shopping, which to me was pretty boring.

  4. JenL says:

    That should be, “The first Barbies were a bit earlier than me..” The knitted clothes are lovely, btw.

  5. Cheryl says:

    I was pre-Barbie but I had a Mary Hoyer doll that offered both sewn and knit patterns and Mom was a real seamstress so I had tone. Then when my daughter came along, “Cindy” was revived and given a whole new splashy wardrobe. Check her out here.

    • mrsmole says:

      What lovely clothes and story about your doll. I had to laugh (sorry) about losing some of her clothes while your neighbor seemed to acquire new ones. She certainly has adapted to the fashions of today and her dresses are quite dramatic! Thanks for sharing!

  6. JustGail says:

    My sister got one of the first Barbies, I got stuck with a Tammy until Barbie came out with bendable knees. We also did not get purchased clothing, Mom made nearly all the clothing we had for dolls, and I now have the pattern she used. I also have the remaining clothing that Mom made. Some of the clothes were made from printed panels where you simply cut out on the lines and sewed them together – no tiny pattern pieces to deal with. Bitter-sweet memories – I *so* wanted purchased Barbie clothes, but was never indulged. It wasn’t until recently I found out how thin the finances were some years for Mom & Dad.

    Your items are sweet, and even better since you found the pattern used.

    • mrsmole says:

      I think at some point the clothes were as expensive as real clothes for children so we can understand why patterns helped fill the gap and still let little girls dress their dolls in style. By the time Barbie had bendable knees, I must have moved on to dating boys.

  7. Yes my sister and I had Barbies and also an older cousin gave us a trunk of stuff after she got to old to play with it. Filled with Barbie outfits, evening gowns, shoes etc. Those little shoes were hilarious. basically stripper sandals now that I think about it.
    As for the bridal gowns being so tight – what is up with that? I see so many things that are worn too tight, it doesn’t make a figure look slimmer, instead I see all the wrinkles etc! my one person crusade for people to add a little wearing ease in their garments is going nowhere…

    • mrsmole says:

      Oh Beth, I have given up trying to reason with these girls…I make then sit down on a chair to demo the fact they need room for their ribs to expand while eating etc and they can barely take a breath and say in a whisper, “It’s fine”…go figure…it’s a long day with a deep breath and let’s not even imagine dancing with a tight dress…Barbie shoes…yes ma’am stripper shoes!

  8. Courtney says:

    Oh the bargain brides! A sweet, young, tiny and clueless girl came in with her tattered, stained fully beaded duchesse satin SAMPLE dress….that she’d really gotten at a bargain. The tag said something like $400 marked down from $1,200, and she paid half the marked price, but from the looks of it, it had to have been at least a $4,000+ dress. They had told her it was simply “off the rack”, whatever she or they thought that meant. It was clearly a sample abused for many years. It was also about four sizes too big and six inches too long. I mentioned the beaded bodice, yes? And beaded trim along the hem? No matter how we sliced it the alterations were going to cost $300-400. After sweating for an hour getting this monster pinned and giving her a quote, she decided to go with a home sewer who beat our quote by a scant $50. Bargains are never truly bargains!

    • mrsmole says:

      Be happy she is NOT going to work with you for you know she would never be happy with the result through no fault with your sewing. They have a fantasy dress in their mind and no one on this green earth can make them the Disney princess they imagine. You have seen the custom dresses I have worked on combining all the bride’s requirements into a real “dog’s dinner” of laces and beads and shit…when I get brides like this, I can safely say “No” and save a lot of heartache (mine!) I have seen “designer” dresses from New York and been told they only walked the runway on models…while they looked like they walked from New York to my sewing room by a homeless person.

  9. twotoast says:

    Being British, I had a Cindy doll – according to Wikipedia (so it must be true!) she was ‘A rival to Barbie, Sindy’s wholesome look and range of fashions and accessories made it the best selling toy in the United Kingdom in 1968 and 1970.’ It must have been early ’70’s when I got my Cindy. If you do a Google search – mine looked like the blonde version that is shown in a lilac tutu. I remember that she had bendable arms (elbows) and legs (knees) – I seem to remember that they bend under the ‘skin’ so you couldn’t see the articulation. She also twisted at the waist.

    I know that I had shop bought shoes and handbags for her, but that I made everything else – both knitting and sewing. My brother got an Action Man some years later and I knit him cricket whites and a ‘Starsky’ cardigan (I’m obsessed with cardi’s!!)

    I bought a Barbie a couple of years ago as I had a hankering to design and sell clothes for one – but I’d rather sew for myself!!!

  10. Susie says:

    Interesting how you morphed into sewing for Barbie wannabes!

    I hate to publicly admit it, but I had (technically still own) a doll collection. Quite extensive. Very few were played with, but the Barbies were so much fun to dress. Most of my clothes were made by relatives. My favorites were the knitted pieces. One in particular was a knitted skirt suit that mimicked a Chanel suit. Only one doll was allowed to wear it. I’m not sure if she was part of the Barbie clan, but she reminded me of my mom: tall, short brown hair and darker skinned than the blonde dolls. I never saw another one like her. It may have been a hand me down from my mom’s sister, as none of my friends had seen one either. Good memories. I know I had a dress made of the purple gingham similar to yours.

    • mrsmole says:

      I should try yo find a Bride Barbie and display it in my sewing room. There was a Sewing Barbie out a couple years ago and when I mentioned it to my husband that it would be fun to have one displayed, he thought I was nuts. Wow, a Chanel suit for a doll…now that would be something special!

  11. Wendy Hillhouse says:

    I have the year 2 Barbie with red bubble hair. My mother thought the price of the outfits ($1.50-4.50) was too expensive, so all my Barbie had was the clothes I made. This was mortifying, especially since you couldn’t make the little plastic high heels, which everyone else had. I was only 8, but I’m amazed now at the things I made. I used a pattern (wish I still had it) and made a cowl-necked Jackie Kennedy-like fitted dress with separate bodice and skirt. Also a number of “gowns” made from my grandmother’s samples of Spirella corset fabrics–she had a small business taking orders for them. I have the little booklet that advertised the outfits–how familiar they are, because I poured over them and coveted every detail. I don’t have the original box, but I wonder if that little booklet might be worth more than the doll.

  12. Claudia says:

    Guess I am a “little” older than you all – I had a Toni doll – “The Ideal Toni doll was introduced in 1949 as an advertising doll for Toni Home Permanent. Toni is made of all hard plastic, has a jointed body, the earliest dolls wore a nylon wig, she has sleep eyes usually in blue but other colors too, real upper eyelashes, painted lower lashes, a small rosebud painted closed mouth and was a loved doll by many little girls and today by doll collectors of all ages”.

    My grandmother made all sorts of clothes for the doll – the ones I remember were like ball gowns.

    Apparently they were only on the market between 1949 and 1953.

    • mrsmole says:

      I don’t remember that doll but I do remember having to have Toni home perms…why did all our moms want us to look like little Orphan Annie with fuzzy heads?

      • JustGail says:

        I forgot about the Toni perms! I didn’t get too many of those, my usual summer hair horror was getting a pixie cut with “Mamie Eisenhower bangs” at start of summer. I don’t know what the correct term is for bangs that don’t even cover half your forehead. I still can’t stand bangs that are above my eyebrows.

  13. BeaJay says:

    I had a barbie around 1968 but alas no hand made clothes. Love your wardrobe. That gingham dress is divine and love that hoodie!

    “Breathing is optional” oh Mrs Mole you make me laugh.

    • mrsmole says:

      I’d love to find that hoodie pattern and maybe make another one. When the shallow breathing brides are standing on my platform for 90 minutes under 3 hot spotlights and the ceiling fan running they get lightheaded and have to sit down and drink water…that’s when Mother Mole says, you have to be like this all day and night at your wedding…so maybe the dress is too tight?

  14. My sister doesn’t sew anymore and she gave me two small boxes of her old patterns. In it was a pattern to sew up Barbie doll clothes. It took me back a few years! Amazing how these things can be so special!

    • mrsmole says:

      It is just a little slice of history…your history and that is what makes it so special. We live in hope that our granddaughters will think the same.

  15. sewruth says:

    I never had a Barbie or a Sindy I much prefer full sized clothes. Oh tales of brides – fab! Maybe the brides think they are Barbies…….

    • mrsmole says:

      Yes, Ruth…just call them Princess Bride Barbies! They wear dresses with huge padded busts, tight waists and skyscraper heels and talk in a high squeaky baby voice…perfection, and toss in some mink eyelashes and this will insure a long marriage…yes indeed!

  16. accordion3 says:

    I also had the Cindy doll! Bought during the 70’s.

    Are today’s brides trying to mimic the ladies of the Victorian era whose corsets were too tight?

    • mrsmole says:

      They want to be Jessica Rabbit shape so any altering has to reflect that waist torture and waterfall boobs. If the center back seam of the dress can stand it, it has to be taken in so tight that sitting down will make those seams scream!

  17. prttynpnk says:

    Thats it! The brides are making up for the damaging trauma of having the wrong dolls as children! Oh, expensive government study time!

  18. mrsmole says:

    Seeing as my mother threw out all my dolls whenever she felt the need to clean my closet, that could be another study. At least I got to save the doll clothes that I made, she never got her hands on those!

  19. Anne Frances says:

    In about 1966, as the newly married wife of a diplomat on posting I was pressed into service by the ambassador’s wife who wanted items for the charity bazaar. Since I could sew I was told to make Barbie clothes, which I did by the dozen! No choice, really. Maybe that I is why almost never made them for my own children!
    What I do have is an Elizabeth doll from 1952 (about American girl doll size and named for the new Queen) – with her wonderful new look wardrobe made from the patterns provided (I still have those too!) by the local dressmaker, I don’t think Mother had really thought about the labour involved and she said it was the most expensive present my twin and I ever shared! One day I must make her a whole new 1952 wardrobe!
    How splendid that you have found the knitting patterns and thanks for showing us.

  20. mrsmole says:

    I’d love to see your Elizabeth doll dressed up! My British husband says he remembers the Coronation day and how he got to have a piece of cake in the afternoon. This must have been pretty special since they were still using ration cards.

  21. Martina says:

    I had the Singer sewing machine…used to make my Barbies lovely tube dresses with trim around the top. We had a local fabric store that sold leftover pieces of fabric and trim in little plastic bags to make doll clothes. It was such a treat to get $2 to spend on one of those bags!

  22. mrsmole says:

    How fun to get a grab bags of trims! Way back then you could send in $1 to the trim companies and they would send you a load of scraps too for doll clothes. I doubt that they do that anymore since everything is made in China. I sold my child’s Singer machine to a woman back East who had a sort of sewing machine museum. I figure she would get more use and joy out of showing it to others than spend the rest of it’s life in the box.

  23. barb bachmann says:

    What great memories of teenage fashion dolls! I never got the real thing, my parents couldn’t afford them. I also had the non bendy Barbie clone. My sisters got Barbies in 1966 or so when I was deemed too old to play with dolls. (I was 14) I still have her Barbie with the hard plastic hairdo that came with 3 different color wigs. Yes, I was jealous, but I learned to sew and refined my basic knitting and crocheting skills on their Barbies. I found a copy of the Barbie pattern book that I used and will look to see if it has the hooded cardigan in it for you. Just as soon as I find where I put it…….much love, penny

  24. mrsmole says:

    Thanks, Barb…didn’t we learn so much in our early days working on teeny tiny garments? I’d love to see your Barbie pattern book if you ever find it!!!!

  25. Sharon N. says:

    I never had a Barbie when I was young. I had a Tammy but I did have a Skipper and Scooter doll, along with a teenage boy (can’t remember his name?). In the late 80’s I asked my mom why she gave my sister a Barbie but didn’t give me one. She thought she had! Lol. the best thing was, she gave me a Barbie that Christmas! I thought that was so sweet of her.

    I used to have all the clothes I had made for them, along with all the cool little accessories I was lucky enough to have. Shoes, curlers, hair bows, belts, etc. Unfortunately, my daughter didn’t take care of any of it and it is all gone. I can imagine what all those little accessories might be worth now. Check, forget what they would be worth… it would be cool to have them just for fun!

  26. mrsmole says:

    Absolutely! We are not playing with the dolls, just want to sit and remember the fun. I’m sorry all those goodies disappeared but it is not too late to start a new little collection!

  27. fabrickated says:

    What a lovely set of recollections – from you and all the other contributors. For the record it was Sindy for me, but I didn’t really like her much. I did have a few sets of clothes bought for me for birthdays but I didn’t really take to her. My father, who was in the textile trade, said that Barbie/Sindy outfits consumed more fabric that most clothing lines for women. I did have one called “Tressy” too whose hair “grew” when you twisted something on her abs. I preferred baby dolls, and soft bodied ones at that.

    I was very sad to read that your Mum bought you the non-branded teenage doll – who looks a bit shifty if you ask me. I completely relate to her thinking, and I have bought non-branded trainers and cheap school uniforms for my kids – but I also feel so sorry for you being embarrassed about your doll. I have been thinking about this for a while and I realise how agonising it is for children who don’t or can’t conform. Having said that the clothes are lovely and individual and set you off on a career. I hope you find the patterns you want – all of us hanker for miniatures sometimes I think.

  28. mrsmole says:

    Oh Kate, it was not so bad having a fake Barbie as it was having one without the ponytail. This was before Afro hairstyles became popular and we were all still wearing as JustGail mentioned the Maime Eisenhower cropped bangs/fringe just as Jackie Kennedy was changing our ideas on beauty and style. I remember seeing Tressy dolls with their growing hair…fabulous…and I wonder how she influenced young girls to become hairdressers? Once I finished with Barbie I went straight into paper dolls and continued to design and draw the clothes, color them in and co-ordinate them into a runway worthy collection…a little seed must have been planted and with your father being in the trade you must have been exposed to all sorts of beautiful fabrics and trims!!!

  29. Those little knitted outfits are so cute. I didn’t have a Barbie, though. My sister and I had baby dolls instead. Our mother loved the Madam Alexander dolls growing up and I’m not sure whatever happened to them. We found an old trunk of dolls after mom passed away, but they were really sad and dirty. A poor little Cupie Doll is somewhere in a drawer I think. My niece, at the time, wanted to be a pediatrician so we gave the dolls to her. Fun to relive the old times.

  30. Valerie says:

    I had a real barbie in the 60’s but no Ken and certainly no Porsche..(they were expensive!) I still hanker after a pink one!

    • accordion3 says:

      Oh Valerie – why would you want a pink Ken???? (sorry – couldn’t resist!)

      My youngest lass, now 10, played with barbies for a little while. But then switched to Lego Friends and they sprout all over bookshelves. Recently she has graduated to making 3D models of famous buildings. Be interesting to see what interests she has in 20 years.

  31. Julie says:

    Question! Do you always alter wedding dresses at the zipper? If yes, why?

    • mrsmole says:

      Yes, Julie 99% of the time I do to snug them up. Think about the side seams…they have boning and linings and maybe underlinings and possibly interfacings…now you open 3-4 layers for each side times 2…that is 6-8 layers you have to open and snug up and then put the boning back in place…that is a lot of labor. The other feature of doing this is if the underarm top edge angles down at all towards the back you will end up with a “step-down” at that seam so you have to shave down the front bodice top edge to meet the now new lower edge of the back…you lose bust coverage and if there is top edge beading, you get to remove all that too and drop the edge and replace all the beading and try to understitch that whole top edge…meanwhile the clock is ticking and the labor minutes add up. If you decide that using the zipper is the way to go (never any boning there), you open the seam, remove the amount you need of the zipper, remove the lining along that portion. Stitch the zipper back in the tighter space, hand sew the lining to the zipper edge and replace the hook and eye and you are done. I can do an invisible zipper alteration in an hour and a quarter and a lapped zipper in an hour and a half…I’d still be working on the first underarm section and dreading opening up the second one. Right now I have 9 wedding gowns to be altered and 5 of them have the zippers basted in the new tighter spot and ready for try-ons. Many of my sewing sisters don’t mess with zippers…after the first 50, you get really good at it…some gals come with broken zippers and you have to replace the whole thing…same amount of time. I have shown these alterations a lot on my posts if you need a reference…or I have 5 here if you want photos. Thanks for asking, Julie

  32. Bonnie says:

    Yes, I had one of the first Barbies, in 1961 or ’62. She came as part of a set with several REAL Barbie clothes, only I wasn’t satisfied because the big set had just some of the accessories that were with the outfits pictured in the tiny catalog (ungrateful spoiled brat, but I was grateful enough never to complain). One of my grandmothers bought me a few Real Barbie outfits. The other one sewed and crocheted me a slew of Barbie clothes. My mother even got in on the act one Christmas, sewing after she (finally) got me settled for the night, having to carefully dispose of the scraps lest my ever-watchful eyes spy them in the morning. The Real Barbie grandmother also bought me a Singer SewHandy, an electric machine that used only a top thread and sewed a chain stitch. That’s when I started to sew my own Barbie clothes.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s