Each clothespin doll only uses scraps of fabric and trim, but they are so adorable that they are my new passion de semain.
How I Discovered Them
As I’m always a sucker for miniatures, I started a new Peg Doll board, and began to research these fascinating toys. I was astounded at the variety of applications for them, and the skill with which many crafters and artists render them as everything from nativity scenes to families to doll house residents to Christmas tree ornaments to wedding cake toppers–and more!
True confessions: To date, I’ve got more than 190 pins on this Peg Dolls board, so if you’re looking for inspiration, take a look!
As I pinned more and more of them, I found out about their close cousins, the clothespin dolls. Somehow, these seemed easier to me because they were a bit larger than peg dolls, so I started by making a few of them.
The two pictured here are the first two I made. The green and gray doll was my first. Her face and outfit were a total steal from this doll I found on the Internet. The second doll was more of an original.
While in search of even more inspiration (and instruction for dressing clothespin dolls), I discovered–and subsequently lost my heart entirely to– the clothespin flower fairy dolls. Pictured at the left is the first clothespin doll I made! (Big, contented sigh.) On another post, you’ll find detailed directions on how to make a flower fairy. Some of the techniques listed there apply to clothespin dolls: such as the painting phases of making them.
NOTE: All of the links in this post are set to open in separate windows, so you won’t leave this page as you check them out.
Want to Make a Clothespin Doll?
The first step is to find out more information about making clothespin dolls. There are a few good tutorials offered online, and for those who come behind me here, I’m going to collect and list them for you here.
- Leslie Shepherd’s tutorial was the most complete and overall useful, especially because it included not only constructing the basic dolls, but dressing them as dolls (not fairies). THANKS Leslie (if you ever see this!)
- Emily Lefler creates amazing video tutorials for many details in making what she calls flower fairy dolls. These are not, strictly speaking, clothespin dolls. However, they are close cousins, and I got a ton of great ideas from her!
- For painting heads/faces of my dolls and fairies, I found the following sites helpful:
After Research, Gather Supplies
I am not ready to do a full blown tutorial here (though, if I get enough comments–cough, cough–I could be persuaded to do so!). I do want to offer some pictures and hints of how I made my clothespin dolls and flower fairies.
First, you have to order your clothespins, complete with stands and heads. It turns out to be harder than it would seem to find these! The pins and stands are relatively easy. I ordered mine for the best price from Blicks. Here’s a (non-affiliate) link.
The “large heads” (so called) are also known as dowel caps. What’s tricky about finding these is to locate a 1.25″ to 1.5″ ball with a 1/2″ to 5/8″ hole drilled in it. The best source that I’ve found for them is at this Etsy shop: Clickity Clack. This link takes you to a (more expensive than Blick, but offering more of them and with heads included) bulk option for 25 complete dolls. Looking around Clickity Clack, you’ll find the head beads sold separately if you want to make fewer dolls.
After ordering the wooden parts, you’ll also need some decent quality acrylic paints, some spray fixative (your choice of matte or glossy finishes) and a small variety of very fine tipped paint brushes.
For clothing, if making you’re clothespin dolls like the ones pictured above, you’ll need some scraps of cloth (or felt) and trim. Generally speaking, you use a 5″ circle of cloth, cinched around the doll’s waist with a bit of 1/4″ ribbon, or the like. I use fray check on raw edges of quilting cotton, rather than trying to hem these tiny garments.
To make the arms of the dolls, you want to get a package of flower stem wire (ideally, the white, wrapped kind such as this one linked from Hobby Lobby) and some floss in either the flesh color of the doll, or the sleeve color of the outfit. (Look at the three dolls pictured here, and notice the three different ways I treated their arms.) The tutorial links above can teach you how to make arms for these dolls. You’ll want a power drill, or at least the ability to drill the clothespins in order to insert the wire arms.
Steps for Construction
The first step is to paint. You want to start by painting the heads, necks (shown here), and legs (to be) flesh color. You can buy Caucasian flesh color ready mixed, or mix it yourself. For darker tones, most people will want to mix the color themselves. I recommend doing two coats of the flesh tone, especially if you’re doing Caucasian dolls, but some people like to let the wood grain show through on faces.
Here’s a Tip: These dolls require only a tiny amount of paint! Depending on how many dolls you are doing, quite a bit of any color you mix probably will be left over (and become dry and be useless) so if you plan to mix your own flesh colors, plan also to paint as many dolls as possible at one sitting.
After each coat of paint, you can use a drinking glass to let them dry as pictured right. Notice that I’m not showing the dowel cap heads in the picture above: just the necks and legs are shown. It takes only about an hour for the heads to be ready for hair and faces.
I confess, I find face painting nerve wracking! Refer to those links above for help with this step. There are little tricks to know, such as when painting eyes, do the dark color first, and then place the tiniest white dot below or above center to achieve a realistic eye.
Here’s a Tip: Some people advise using Sharpies to draw faces. I found them easier to use than paint, but beware: high gloss fixative sprays will run the ink of Sharpies! Because I like the high gloss look on fairies, I don’t use Sharpies anymore. I stick to paint.
Generally speaking, be prepared to paint over mistakes on the face, especially as a beginner. The good news is that, if you make a mistake using paint for faces, it’s relatively easy to simply paint flesh color right over the face, and start again after it’s dried. Not so much when using Sharpies: that ink is harder to cover.
After I’ve got the face as I want it, I then mix the colors of the hair and paint them on rather thickly with a brush to help with an illusion of hair texture. I used hot melt glue to affix the pearl trim in the back and a little artificial rosebud on the front.
Drill a small hole through the “torso” of the clothespin, just large enough to insert a 5″ piece of floral wire through it. Loop the ends of the wire to form hands, then starting with the wrist, wrap three strands of embroidery floss tightly around the floral wire, working towards the hands. (On my dolls, I used either alternating colors of floss or mixed colors, to give style and texture to their “sleeves.”) After they are done, work back towards the shoulders, wrapping over your starting place and continuing up until you run into the clothespin. At that point, put a dab of craft glue on the end and hold it in place for a minute or two until it holds tight. (If you are mystified here, see Slide 5 of this tutorial.)
Dress the Doll
The last step is to dress the doll. The basic pattern is a 5″ circle, with a small hole cut in the middle (1/4″ to start and then enlarge this slightly with snips around its edge (as you would when easing a curved seam). You should layer the colors of clothing as I did for both of these dolls.
Clothespin dolls are easy for adults to make, and children who are about 8 years old (or older) can enjoy making them, too! They are beautiful and satisfying–and addictive! I hope this post inspires you to try to make one for yourself–or some young person that you love. If you have questions, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll do my best to answer!