Mary Corbet

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I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

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Field Trip: The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures


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A few weeks ago, while visiting friends in Kansas City, I had the opportunity to spend some time at the National Museum of Toys and Miniatures.

Did you know that there’s a national museum of toys and miniatures? And did you know it’s in Kansas City? Even though many people consider Kansas a fly-over state, I just want you to know that we have some Real Happenin’ Things out here!

This museum is one of them. It’s a gem. I could spend hours and hours on the first floor, which houses the Most Spectacular collection of miniatures. These tiny little works of art are enchanting and mesmerizing.

Needlework figures into these miniature worlds in numerous ways, so I thought I’d share some quick snaps with you, to whet your appetite for more and encourage you to visit the museum if you’re ever out this way.

National Museum of Toys and Miniatures

Upon entering the miniature section of the museum, I was met with this charming little scene featuring a regular-sized chair and table. On the wall is a regular-sized sampler.

National Museum of Toys and Miniatures

In the box mounted on the side of the display, there’s a miniature version of the very same scene…

National Museum of Toys and Miniatures

…replete with sampler. And from that point, I was hooked.

National Museum of Toys and Miniatures

Throughout many of the small displays set into the walls of the galleries, you’ll find rooms that are adorned with exquisite furnishings. Many rugs, chairs, and wall tapestries are all made from meticulously tiny stitching.

National Museum of Toys and Miniatures

There are also little display rooms that focus almost entirely on the world of needlework – quilting, crochet, knitting, embroidery, lace-making – they’re all represented in some way or another.

National Museum of Toys and Miniatures

Here, a lacemaker sits at her pillow loaded with minuscule bobbins, ready to move.

National Museum of Toys and Miniatures

A quilt on a frame – a crazy quilt on the wall. And a little tool box sitting on the quilt on the frame.

National Museum of Toys and Miniatures

Check out this tiny needlework box and the chicken spool holder. Oh. My. Word. The thread keep in the box? That entire box was the size of the tip of my finger.

National Museum of Toys and Miniatures

I would like this chair, full size. I love the fact that it looks like it’s been sat upon!

National Museum of Toys and Miniatures

Here we have a needlework frame, laced with work in progress.

National Museum of Toys and Miniatures

Oh, this lovely accent chair!

National Museum of Toys and Miniatures

A tiny 17th-century-ish bed, replete with embroidered bed cover.

National Museum of Toys and Miniatures

And the bed cover up close, with its fine lace edge, too.

Around every corner in the miniature section of the museum, there is something new that delights the eye and boggles the mind.

But for me, I think this piece was the most captivating:

National Museum of Toys and Miniatures

A miniature 17th century embroidered casket and mirror frame! And by miniature, I mean miniature. This treasure surely isn’t even an inch high.

It’s fabulous in all its detail!

National Museum of Toys and Miniatures

And the display is wonderful, because you can rotate the whole scene in order to see the casket front and back. Holy cow. Can you imagine?

There’s much, much more to see in the miniature worlds at the National Museum of Toys and Miniatures in Kansas City.

If you get a chance, allow yourself at least a couple hours just for the miniature area – and more, if you’re really into miniatures. If you have interest in the history of toys in general, you can also meander upstairs to the regular-sized toy gallery, where you can follow the history of the development of toys and games in America.

The upstairs didn’t capture me like the downstairs did. There’s a plethora of plastic upstairs that lacks any aesthetic appeal – but it admittedly has nostalgic appeal!

I hope that this brief field trip gave you a tiny bit pleasure. I can’t wait to go back to the museum one of these days, when I can spend more time there soaking in the wonders of these tiny works of art.

It’s well worth the trip!


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(29) Comments

  1. Fabulous! I love this. It’s just remarkable how it can be so detailed and so tiny. Thank you for sharing.

  2. You definitely piqued my curiosity with this one! I’ve starred the location on G maps and asked if any of my friends are up for a road trip!

  3. OMG!!!!!!!that is the Mary Starker Sampler from the Colonial Williamsburg Collection that I have been working on FOREVER! I am inspired to soldier on now, Thank You!

  4. Thank you soooo much for this post! I have been smitten with the Thorne rooms at the Art Institute of Chicago ever since I was a little girl, but never imagined that there might be another museum somewhere else with more tiny rooms to drool over 🙂 I never knew about this museum but now I will _have_ to find a way to visit it!

    1. I’ve been to this museum and it’s amazing. There’s another museum in Maysville, KY that is equally worth seeing., The Kathleen Savage Browning Miniatures Collection at the Gateway Museum Center. William R Robertson, one of the world’s greatest miniaturists, who lives in Kansas City, designed the displays in both museums. He and his mother have collaborated to produce miniature pieces involving the finest woodwork, metalwork, and needlework.

    2. Thanks, Missy! I will have to put the Maysville KY museum on my list. I usually go to KY once a year, so that will be something to look forward to! Yay!

  5. I’ve been hooked on miniatures for years. I hope this means you’re thinking about developing some miniature projects.

    1. Hi, Marlene – I have one miniature project available, but it’s not miniature like these. It’s this Thousand Flowers collection of designs:
      https://needlenthread.wpengine.com/2018/11/a-thousand-flowers-four-tapestry-smalls-available-now.html – I don’t have the kit in stock right now, but the e-book is available.

      I probably won’t be planning any real miniature works anytime soon, as I have a few projects in the wings to take care of first. But that’s not to say something won’t creep up in the future! 🙂

    2. There are quite a few miniaturists who offer either charts or entire needlework kits in 1:12 (dollhouse scale). If you google, you’ll find them easily. There are also miniature needlework groups on facebook where you can chat with other miniature needleworkers for inspiration and assistance.

    3. Oh yes! For example, I love Janet Granger’s work, and also Natalia Frank. I’ve done a tapestry or two – the Cluny tapestries – in miniature scale. Great fun!

  6. I have a lifelong love of miniatures and sometimes purchased tiny accessories with intention to eventually add my stitching, or even fill a dollhouse rolltop desk with what I might make from scraps normally too small to save. Twisting up thread to resemble floss skeins or wound around chopped wooden toothpick thread spools can always accompany wee plastic scissors on a surface. Maybe you’ve motivated me to open that drawer again until I can get to the museum in the future.

  7. Thanks for sharing this. I’m headed to KC for a week starting Friday. I think I might need a side trip with some friends after we check out the national VFW Convention with our spouses. KC is a great city to explore!

  8. Hi Mary,
    What an amazing outing – thanks for sharing! The miniature world is indeed captivating and one I disappear into when I am not stitching. If ever I find myself anywhere near Kansas ( a little far from South Aus) I will hope to be able to see it in person.

  9. So pleased to hear that this glorious museum is still going – We used to visit a friend in central Missouri and almost every time we came into town the place was closed! And yes, they do have a fabulous collection! Thanks so much for sharing. Stay safe and well. Charlotte

  10. Thank you so much for posting this, Mary. There are wonderful miniature museums across the country, but I still think KC has my favorite. As an avid miniature needleworker, I hope some of my work will be on display there someday. If you have excited the urge for some to try their hands at miniature work, there are several on-line groups to support the activity: https://groups.io/g/Petitpointers emphasizes petitpoint, but members are interested in any fine needlework. Facebook has three active groups: Miniature Needlework Society, Needlework in Miniature, and Dollhouse Miniature Needlework Group. I’ll be posting a link to this article on all of them.

  11. I was so delighted to see the exhibits from the Toy and Miniature Museum. I know most of the miniature needlework artists! I’ve also done some of their kits. I am so happy to know the museum still exits. Miniatures were my vocation for about 30 years and I still belong to the National Association of Miniature Enthusiasts (NAME). 46 years this year.
    Thank you so much!

  12. Dear Mary

    I love miniature things and the photos above of the miniature embroidery items in the museum are absolutely beautiful. I would love to visit the museum and could spend hours in such a place. How did they make all those tiny accessories like the scissors needles etc. such artistic work and so beautifully constructed. All the photos are my favourite, but I think the photo of the quilting, crochet, knitting, embroidery and lace-making has to be my top favourite. Thank you so much for sharing your outing to the Museum of miniatures it looks absolutely gorgeous.

    Regards Anita Simmance


  14. I did a double take when I saw your first photo. I have a full-size version of the same sampler. It was a stamped embroidery kit that I completed summer of 1978 just before I married. I rushed to finish it before the wedding so I could use my maiden name (concerned that marriage might not last). I believe the kit was a Paragon if memory serves me well. Oh the marriage has lasted so far.

  15. At 92, I became a builder of a doll house. It came in a 48 pound box, with over a thousand pieces and then ten months later I had a 58” X 28′ cottage red doll house, with added additions of a sun room and a gazebo all made by me. I found out later my sons didn’t think I could do it. I used my dining table as a work bench so I was without a table for those ten months working daily and many hours a day. Now I’m ready to change some things and having one room in the style I would like did this in a minute. My main problem was my tools I had to work with, now I know what I need so practice is a great learning time.

  16. This so interesting! I would love to spend hours here. The tiny granny squares – gah!

    I recently watched a show called “Best in Miniature.” It’s a competition of miniature-makers, and it works like the Great British Bake-Off. It’s a Canadian-UK production, but you might be able to track it down on a US streaming service. It was fascinating and fun!

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