Monday, January 4, 2016

Wooden Peg Doll Tutorial - Part One: Materials and Supplies


wooden peg doll diy tutorial materials and supplies

I’ve just recently started making wooden peg dolls for my younger children and I’ve been amazed at how much fun they are to make and how well they are turning out.  I am absolutely not an artist and I read every tutorial I could find before I was brave enough to make my first doll!  Before I knew it, I was hooked and now painting these is one of my favorite ways to relax and unwind.

While you can buy painted peg dolls on Etsy, I’d encourage you to try making your own.  Here is a compilation of tips that have helped me.  Like I said, I am not an artist, so some of these are very basic!!  (Note - this post contains affliate links.  If you shop using these links, I receive a small commission but your price and user experience are unchanged.)


It’s very important to use good quality paint.  Most of mine are Americana, Folk Art, or Martha Stewart.  The Martha Stewart is the most expensive but it covers beautifully - my one gripe with this line of paint is that the color names are odd.  I needed some plain bright red and had a hard time figuring out which fancy-named-bottle contained a plain, not-too-orange, not-too-pink, RED.  I’ve also been mostly happy with the other two brands listed.  Every now and then I find that a color won’t cover well but most of them are great.

These types of paint are widely available at big-box craft stores.  We have a Michaels and a Hobby Lobby in town and they both have a nice selection.  I watch for sales and use coupons to get the best prices on paint.

Store your paints in a box upside down.  Seriously, this is one of the most brilliant things ever - it makes it easy to see what color you are using and it keeps the paint near the cap instead of at the bottom.  When I’m ready to paint, I shake the bottle well and remove the cap and just use the bit of paint that's in the cap.  Since the dolls are so small, there’s usually enough paint right in the cap.  If I need more, I just pour a tiny bit from the bottle into the cap.  The Martha Stewart paints have a tiny inner opening under the cap which means that this won't work - if I only need a wee bit, I remove the cap, gently squeeze the bottle until the paint is at the top of the bottle, and dip my brush in.  If I need more, I squeeze some into a little disposable plastic condiment cup.

Martha Stewart has a nice line of glitter paints which I've enjoyed using.  It's important to know that even though the glitter paints appear colored, they are basically clear paints with colored glitter.  They are beautiful over a couple of coats of regular paint but they won't replace regular paint.


When I started painting peg dolls, most of our brushes were very well loved from lots of use by children.  I bought an inexpensive set of Golden Taklon brushes similar to this one (my assortment was a little smaller). I've been quite happy with it.  I also got a brush that is flat and cut at an angle (I think they are called angle brushes?) which has been very helpful in painting edges like the edges of hair or clothing.   The key is to get good quality brushes in a variety of styles with several that are REALLY tiny.  Other then the teeny tiny detail brushes, you'll find that flat brushes work better than round brushes.  Sets similar to the one I linked to can be found at craft stores - just be sure to get artist brushes not children's brushes or cheap craft brushes.  $10 seems to be an average price point for a decent little set.

Now that I've painted a lot of dolls and know just what works well for me personally, I want to slowly invest in higher quality individual brushes.  Our Hobby Lobby has some that are very nice and my plan is to pick up one now and then with coupons until I have a set of professional quality brushes.  Some of the tiniest brushes in my first set seem to be wearing out a little and I think it would be better to move to higher end brushes since I've found that I really love this hobby!  I'd still suggest starting with a less expensive set so you can learn which brushes really work best for you.


The dolls I paint are small wooden dolls.  The variety of sizes and assortments was a little overwhelming at first!  The first set of dolls I made was a large set of Thanksgiving dolls.  I got the idea about a week and half before Thanksgiving (of course) and talked one of my best friends into painting with me.  After lots of comparison shopping, we settled on these sets:


For us, the big question was how big we wanted our largest dolls to be.  We were both very glad that we went with the large dolls.  The men are 3 9/16" and the women are 3 1/2" tall.  This size is easier to paint and it gives a lot more options for sizes of child dolls.  The assortment pictured is not the assortment we bought - if you click the link above, the page has an option for 50 dolls for just over $14 instead of the 40 dolls pictured.  It's the same types of dolls but there are more dolls for just about a dollar more.  This assortment gave us lots of different child and baby options.  I've used the tiniest ones for a baby Pilgrim, a baby Native American small enough to fit in a papoose sack on the large woman doll, a baby Jesus, some mice, and a couple of baby fairies.  We did NOT use the "curvy girl" dolls but this was still the best deal even with setting them aside.  I think I'm going to paint some of them black and use them as bodies for butterflies for Mary Faith.

The other option for buying dolls is to get them in bulk from Casey's Wood Parts.  These sizes and styles are identical to the ones from Amazon.  We did the math and it worked out better with free Prime shipping for us to order the assortments linked above.  Once we realized that we were both hopelessly hooked on these dolls, we went in on a large order of a couple hundred assorted dolls from Casey's.  With that quantity and free shipping, it made sense to do it that way but I'm glad I started with the smaller packages.  If I hadn't split them with a friend, they would have gone much farther.

I read online that the dolls were available in craft stores.  The only ones I've seen have been at Hobby Lobby and they are the largest boy dolls in the assortment linked above.  That's a high use size for me and it's nice to know that I can grab an extra package with a coupon if I need to.  The straight dolls can be painted to look like girls but both my friend and I are glad we got the dress-shaped women and girls in addition to straight pegs.


1.  You need some kind of clear finish for your dolls.  Our favorites have been glossy Mod Podge  if I need to brush the finish on, and Krylon Triple Thick Crystal Clear Spray Coat.  The Krylon is gorgeous and just two coats is enough.  I'm completely and utterly incapable of using any kind of spray paint without messing up my projects, so I count on Jeff The Wonder Painter to spray the finish on my dolls.  If I can't wait for him for some reason, or if part of a project needs to remain gloss-free, I use the brush on Mod Podge.

2. Pencils - regular and mechanical.  Just cheap ones will do.  I'll get into how to use these when I get into painting details.

3.  A nice eraser for erasing lines on the dolls.

4.  Something to protect your work surface.

5. A blowdrier comes in handy to help dry dolls quickly.

6.  A few emory boards (like you use for your nails) to sand off mistakes.

7.  An empty cardboard egg carton to stand dolls on their heads when they dry.

8.  You may want a few assorted odds and ends based on the design you are doing - silk flower petals, bits of felt, scraps of heavy paper, etc.

Stay tuned for Part Two in a few days!


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