Why I’m in Love with Flower Fairies
Our grandchildren love the Pond Fairy. Each summer, when we open the pond for swimming, the grandgirls love to float (or swim) over to her corner of the pond and sprinkle flower petals that they have gathered on the water’s surface as a love offering.
Storybook Farm is so remote, isolated, lonely, and wild that it seems the perfect setting for any fairy, really. So, when I saw the clothespin flower fairies, I knew I had to try to learn how to make them… and not only them, but a fairy house for them to live in, fairy furniture for them to use, and a fairy garden. (All of these ambitious projects are currently only in my mind’s eye: I picture a crate full of fairies and their accessories that the grandgirls can carry to any part of the farm and set up as fairyland during long, lazy summer afternoons.)
Want to Make a Flower Fairy or 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 slideshow 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 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 fine tipped paint brushes.
For clothing, you’ll need some silk flowers for her skirt, and some trim for her bodice. I recommend that you start with silk flowers that look like roses in shape, but as you branch out, you can go with any flower shape from which a skirt can be fashioned. I get my artificial flowers at Michael’s or Hobby Lobby. It’s really great when you hit a wedding supplies sale, as I did recently! I bought a $10 (retail) bridesmaid bouquet (which had seven blossoms on it, so I can make seven flower fairies) for half price: $5. Score! For trim, choose narrow ribbons or laces (no bigger than 1/4″ wide). Many fancier ones have pearls or multiple colors laced in. Have a lot of fun with choosing these!
To make the arms of the fairies, 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 embroidery 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.)
Here’s a Tip: You can click on any picture on this website and see it larger!
The tutorial links above can teach you how to make arms for these dolls. In summary: you’ll need the ability to drill one hole through the “torso” of the clothespin in order to insert the 5″ wire arms, then loop the wire ends to make “hands.” Then, you’ll wrap the arms with your chosen color(s) of floss, gluing the ends in place near the “torso.”
For flower fairies, you’ll need a pair of scissors and a hot melt glue gun. If you want your fairies’ hair to have updos like mine, you’ll need some smaller wooden beads and some small rosebud flowers (usually found in the wedding section at Michael’s, among other places). I also found some miniature pearl trim that I use in many of my creations.
Steps for Construction
Step 1: Paint Flesh Colors
Whether making flower fairies or their close cousins, clothespin dolls (pictured here in Step 1), the first step is to paint. You want to start by painting the heads, necks, torso area, and “legs” flesh color. My fairy was Caucasian, but you can tone the flesh any color you desire. You can buy a nice Caucasian flesh color ready mixed, or mix it yourself. 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: Overall, fairies 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 being acrylic, will become dry and 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 as a stand to let them dry. 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 dry after painting on the second coat of flesh color. At this point, they are ready for arms, hair, and faces.
Step 2: Create a Flower Skirt
While waiting for pain to dry, you can begin to prepare the flower petals while your paint is drying. Pictured here are those blossoms that I got at Hobby Lobby. Such roses are a series of six or seven layers of petal “sheets” that are offset one from another, and also graduated (small to large) in size. The first step, then, is to carefully tear these apart.
The petals come mounted on a plastic stem (usually, with a green sepal) and you’ll want to remove them from this stem. When you do, you’ll find that they each have a small hole in the center. In order to fit the clothespin doll, you’ll need to enlarge this hole. Take some scissors and carefully snip four little slits to make the hole bigger.
Here’s A Tip: Take your time on this until you learn how large these slits should be. Start tiny, then and then fit the petals (starting with the largest ones) over the doll’s neck. If they won’t quite go, enlarge the slits a tiny bit and try again. Remember: you can always make the holes bigger; you can’t make them smaller! After you’ve done your first fairy, you’ll know for certain how big to make those snips, and this step won’t slow you down.
After you’ve got all your petals over the neck, arrange them by sliding them around the body, and positioning them vertically on the body’s shaft. Twist each petal set so that the petals fill in spaces between the ones below.
When you’re satisfied, use your hot melt glue to put only the bottom petal set permanently in place.
Step 3: Make the Arms and Bodice
Start with the arms. Drill a hole through the “torso” of the clothespin, and put 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. 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.)
Use the trim that you bought to wrap the bodice of the doll. I like to start at the top and work down, generally. I loop the first run over one shoulder, across the torso, and then up and over the second shoulder, securing it with a bit of hot melt glue. Then I work my way down the body, wrapping and gluing.
In my case, for this first-ever fairy, I had bought bridal flower-making accessories that became wings. These were bits of netting, laced with tiny pearls that just matched the trim I had purchased for the bodice.
As I wrapped and glued the trim of her bodice, I positioned and affixed her wing pieces as well.
Step 4: Paint the Face and Hair (and embellish as desired)
After the bodice is wrapped, it’s time to paint the head. I confess, I find face painting nerve wracking! Refer to those links above for help with this step, and be prepared to make mistakes at first. The great thing is that you can paint over mistakes with your flesh color, and then try again.
At this stage, you’ll be painting the face and the hair. If you plan to do the updo, paint the little wooden ball in the same colors and style (attached or unattached to the head) while your paint is wet. It’s a great idea to paint a bunch of heads at once, for the same reason as I gave above: you’ll probably waste paint if you don’t.
Here’s A Tip: Some people advise using Sharpies for 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.
For this first fairy’s hair, I planned an “updo” and so I used hot melt glue to put the smaller wooden ball on top of the larger dowel cap before starting to paint the hair. I then mixed the colors of the hair and painted them on rather thickly with a brush to help give an illusion of hair texture. I used hot melt glue to affix the pearl trim in the back of the bun, and a little artificial rosebud on the front.
Finally, for this fairy, I decided to give her a wand. I made it out of the stamens of the flower that I tore apart to make her. The arms I constructed out of the flower stem wire and embroidery floss had openings to use as “hands.” Into one, I glued the “wand.”
Step 5: Presentation
I also wanted to have a special package for my fairy, as she was to be a gift for Emma, my granddaughter. So I used a jar to reference a precious bit of family history.
When Emma’s father (my son, Mike) was little, my husband led all of our kids in a campaign to trap the Tooth Fairy in a glass jar. In an elaborate plot, my husband pretended to rig our family video camera to catch the Fairy in the act, using a newly lost tooth as bait. After creating a somewhat formless puppet, he filmed a (purposefully unfocused) video of the fairy coming near to, but not quite into, the jar trap.
Harkening back to this beloved family story, I decided to give my beautiful flower fairy to Emma in a mason jar from the farm. She was delighted!
Flower fairies are easy to make! You can make them with your kids (or grandkids), who can do them independently starting at about age 8. Flower fairies 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 it does, won’t you share with the rest of us via comment?