Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Peg People Saints: A Tutorial of Sorts! Part One

I am so excited that I have actually been able to put together a bit of a tutorial on how to make the peg people saints that we use for B's seasonal table! The following will include how to make a basic saint peg doll. Extras like wings, turbans, after-thought-arms and miters will have come later. But I think this should be enough to get you started. While I will show pictures of the saints we use as examples, this tutorial will be more general. The details I will leave up to you!


  • Peg People: Here is one place to get peg people; they seem to have a lot of variety. I have always used peg people from the nearest craft store. In this tutorial all sizes are for the 2 and 3/8 inch size doll.
  • Felt: I use a wool rayon blend of felt that I got years ago at Joanne Fabrics. I haven't seen it there in a long time. You could, of course, use their polyester felt. It is inexpensive and it comes in a lot of colors, but I feel it has a shine to it that doesn't go well with the "natural" feel of the seasonal table. 
A similar product to what I use can be found at Felt The Love on Etsy.

If you want to use 100% wool felt you can find it here at Crafty Wool Felt also on Etsy. (She also sells peg people and matching thread!) Or here at Felt On The Fly also on Etsy.
(I am not affiliated with any of these sellers, nor have I used their products, nor done business with them; I found them all with a quick search on Etsy.)
  • Glue: I use Aleene's Tacky Glue.
  • Embroidery thread or yarn for hair. 
  • Scissors, needle, thread, measuring tape, pins.

And now, on to the Saints!

Saint John the Baptist is the simplest saint we have. (Ours actually does have his characteristic skinny cross. And since he does have that item, I didn't even feel the need to give him any arms!)
Note: pretty much every Catholic saint has certain characteristics with which they are depicted in paintings, drawings and statues. These help the viewer know which saint it is. For example, Saint Peter the Apostle is always shown with keys in his hand. I have almost never made saint dolls with their particular items. Mostly this is because I was making these saints quickly and simply after everyone else was in bed. Also some of these items are kind of complicated to recreate in felt. But I think it would be really cool to try to include these symbols someday. Good on you if you figure out how! : )

Basic Garment: cut a rectangle of felt about 2 and 3/4inches wide by 1 and 1/2inches tall. This is the most basic garment, and most saints have this layer even when they also wear a cloak or robe. Because not all peg people are identical, please cut your rectangle according to your own doll. It should be tall enough to stand up above the shoulder of your peg person about 1/8 of an inch so it can be gathered together at the neck like you see on St. John above.

To apply this garment you can either glue it around your peg person (this is the fastest way to do it), or . . .

 . . . you can sew it on. There is no real reason to do this unless you like the look of the seam. Either way, make sure the bottom edge of the felt is flush with the bottom of the peg doll so he will stand up steadily.

Then sew a running stitch around the neck edge of the garment about 1/16th of an inch from the edge, pull this seam tight so that the felt gathers against the peg doll's neck. Knot and cut the thread.

You can now decorate your peg doll with belts, sashes, vests, ribbon,and capes.

Red Hat King, to the left, has a fancy ribbon glued around the bottom of his body. Purple Hat King, in the middle, has a vest made of a little, rectangular strip of blue felt glued around his body. The corners of the blue felt were trimmed to create a v-neck. Yellow Hat King has a yellow belt that is hard to see under his cape. The capes are all rectangles of felt, of various dimensions, glued at the neck of the peg dolls.
Our fellow from above became a deacon, so he got a sash that goes over his shoulder and crosses at the opposite hip. I find, in most cases, it is easier and more precise to put the glue on the accessory, and then place the accessory on the peg doll, rather than put the glue on the peg doll.

Cloak or Robe: I will start with the hooded cloak that I have used for almost all my female saints. This is the least precise and most artistic garment. I think the finished piece falls somewhere between soft sculpture and toy. One of the reasons I like to dress my peg dolls in felt rather than paint them is because I like the organic way these robes and cloaks drape. I never know when I start how each one will end up. I think this gives each doll a living, dynamic look. The whole style is based on Waldorf table puppets. Here is an example of table puppets that I made years and years ago. 

The table puppets are usually about 8 inches tall. They are used in Waldorf kindergartens to retell fairy tales and other stories. The goal is to present lovely, gentle, dynamic images of the stories which do not impose themselves on the child's imagination.

My peg people are direct descendents of the table puppets, so to speak. Because of the organic nature of these dolls' construction I don't have a lot of exact measurements, or detailed patterns. But I will walk you through what I do, giving measurements along the way. I don't think it is super complicated, and I hope that you will find joy in allowing your doll to emerge organically!

From left to right: St. Ann, St. Patrick, St. Mary, (Little St. Mary), St. Brigid, St. Joseph, St. Joachim. (Sts. Ann, Mary and Brigid have the basic hooded cloak.)
For the basic hooded cloak you will be cutting out an approximate half circle. The piece is about 5 and 1/2 inches along the straight edge. This is the edge that frames the face. From the middle of the straight edge to the middle of the curved edge is about 3 and 1/4 inches.

Again, please measure according to your own doll as not all dolls are identical. I usually find a corner of the felt and use that as my starting point. Measure from the corner of the felt up and over the top of your doll's head. Let the felt go past the doll's base 1/4 of an inch or so on each side to give yourself some leeway for sculpting it later on. Cut a notch in the edge of the fabric to mark where the fabric hit the base of the doll.

Now to measure the length of the cloak in the back. Place the doll on the fabric and fold the straight edge up over the head to frame the face. The straight edge should lie right on the forehead of the doll. Place a pin to mark the base of the doll.

Now fold the felt so that the corner meets your notch.

Cut a generous curve, through both layers, from the corner to the pin.

There is your semi-circular cloak!

Next I put glue on the peg doll; a stripe from ear to ear like a headband and a stripe from the headband down the back of the head to the nape of the neck.

Then I lay the cloak over the head, straight edge in front, and press it into the glue and hold it there until it holds itself.

Next, I put a line of glue along the inner edge of what is now the front of the cloak, and press it down to the body of the doll. This gives the cloak some stability when it comes time to sculpt it. Let all the glue dry completely.

Trim any excess fabric around the base so the doll stands evenly.

Each of these saints was sculpted a little differently. I sculpted Sts. Mary and Ann using mostly glue. Mary has a few stitches here and there. St. Brigid, on the other hand, was sculpted entirely with needle and thread. In either case, I usually just push and pull the cloak around until I like the way it looks. I try to pay attention to where the cloak meets the body or where it meets itself. When I have found an arrangement that I like, I fasten it down with a dot of glue on the inside of the cloak or a few stitches. I'll just point out a few features as starting points.

From left to right; St. Mary, St. Ann, St. Brigid

St. Mary ended up being very symmetrical. You can see in this photo from the bottom, how the folds of her cloak are almost identical on both sides. This is very different from St. Ann, in the next photo. St. Ann's cloak has a lot of flow to it. While St. Mary's cloak is glued down almost completely all the way around, St. Ann's cloak is only glued in about four places.

St. Mary's arms stand out away from her body because she is able to hold baby Jesus that way.

I just fastened the tips of her cloak together with a few stitches.

I used a needle and thread to sculpt St. Brigid's cloak. I think I did this mostly because that is how the table puppets are made. It leaves more marks, so to speak, on the outside of the cloak than gluing does. This might be unappealing because the stitches are hard to hide and might look messy, but I think it allows for more precise shaping.

I stitched down the folds around her head and neck, and all along under her arms. I don't remember if I stuffed her arms with anything, but sometimes it helps create a more real look if you fill the "sleeves" of the cloak. You can use stuffing or little bits of left over felt.

And one more thought about St. Ann; I like the way her arm stands out away from her body. I did this because one of the only ways a viewer knows that St. Ann is St. Ann in iconography is that she is always accompanied by a young St. Mary. With her arm out like that, little St. Mary always has a nice place to nestle. To form her arm that way, I adjusted the way the front of her cloak is glued down. So, instead of gluing it straight down like in the burgundy example doll above I glued it further up and further back.

For the Robe: I cut a shape like this:

I have never had a pattern, so you'll have to measure according to your own peg doll. The long straight bottom edge is the bottom edge of the robe. The middle of the upper curve sits at the back of the peg doll's neck. The two horn like points are drawn up and over the doll's shoulders and become the front edges of the robe. I usually glue them down like I glue down the front of the cloak. Then I gather, and pull, and tack down with glue or thread all the folds, until I like the look.

Hat: The little shepherd hat is a circle of felt about 1 and 3/4 inches diameter. I stitch a running stitch 1/4 of an inch from the edge and pull it just tight enough to fit the head of the doll. I glue it down with out any hair underneath. I think that is a lot to chew on! Of course there is more, and I look forward to posting about priests, hair, and accessories!


  1. I am so excited about this tutorial! These look so much easier than the painted ones I've seen (for my skill set at least). Thank you!

  2. These are so great!! And all your step-by-step pictures are perfect. I see these as a project in my future! -Gina

  3. Wow! Thanks, you two! I am so glad it looks useful. Please, please let me know if I need to clarify something! The whole thing feels more like a discussion than a lesson, if that makes sense, and I know sometimes the paragraphs get dense. Have fun!

  4. Thank you so much for this! I just got a rec for your blog from a friend and I love it. This is perfect for doing Montesorri CGS at home.