paper mache boat pattern

And instructions. Epic instructions.  They just go on and on.  I hope to add more concise printer friendly instructions later but my Christmas brain just isn’t capable of it. We are making  Mediterranean inspired little sail boats with lateen rigging – a single triangular sail on a relatively short mast.

What you will need:
download pattern here
large cereal box
scotch tape
exacto knife
newspaper- 2 colors
wall paper paste
paint brushes
skewers. dowels or twigs
heavy duty thread
needles – various sizes

(click thumbnails for larger images)

Download the pattern here and cut it out on the dotted line – the solid lines are for scoring –  there are little triangles on one end  – you can fold those back to trace the line onto your cardboard and poke your pencil through the tip of the V on the pattern to mark your cardboard.

Use a ruler to draw the lines as shown on the pattern. I’ve highlighted the lines to score in red. Use the BACK of your exacto knife to score the lines in red and then gently bend the boat into shape……

Bring the edges together and secure with lots of scotch tape – they shouldn’t overlap but just meet and last tape the front tips together.

Trim any  excess  so the back edge is smooth and now you should have a little boat shape. Cut a strip of cardboard that’s about 1 ” by 3″.

Bend that strip into a little triangle shape that fits inside your boat and tape it in , just a little closer to the front (bow ) than the back (stern), this will hold your mast. You’re ready to paper mache – I recommend 2 layers using different papers – so you can see when a layer is complete. You don’t have to let the boat dry between layers but I like to. I start with the inside of the boat closing up the little triangle space – you don’t have to fill it – just close it up.

Notes on paper mache – I find it easiest to do the edges first and  the smaller the pieces of paper the smoother and stronger the finished result.   I use golden harvest wheat paste. Add your second layer of paper, let it dry completely then paint it. I used a mixture of latex and water color.

Now you’re ready for the mast and yard ( part that attaches to the sail) . There are a number of things you can use  – dowels , skewers, twigs – today I’m using a bamboo skewer for the mast  and an 1/8 inch dowel for the yard. I have painted both. Poke a little hole with your exacto knife and insert your mast  ( insert the pointy end of the skewer), secure it with glue and trim the top to the desired length  – this will depend on the size of your boat ( if you have made the pattern larger or smaller) – my mast is 9 inches tall and my yard  is 12 inches long. Use your exacto knife to cut a little notch in your mast about an inch and 1/2 from the top.

The notch will help the button you’re going to tie on stay in place. Tie the button as tightly as you can with your string and secure with a dab of glue.  Place the boat on a large piece of paper and lay the yard in place – we’re going to make the pattern for the sail. Hold the yard in place but slide the boat out and draw a triangle shape for your sail.

I like to make a note on the pattern to remind me which side the mast goes on.  Cut out your sail. embellish as desired and use a heavy duty thread to sew it to the yard.

Poke holes in the boat for attaching buttons for the rigging. This is a pain in the ass and you need to use something very sharp, I used a really big embroidery needle. You can use as many buttons as you like. I like to have lots of rigging options so I used 4.  Once the buttons are on lay the sail on the mast and find the best spot to attach.

Add a length of about 4 inches to the sail where you would like it to attach to the mast  and just wind the string around the button on the mast. Attach several inches of string to the bottom corners of the sail and wind those around the buttons on the boat.  Tie a loop of string the the mast for hanging, secure it with glue and tie an extra piece of string around  to make sure it stays there.

That’s it!  I hope you make boats!

You can share your boats here if you like:
I’d love to see!


  1. susan travers

    Thank you so much for sharing boat love (especially with those of us who drool but can’t actually buy). Your work and art is so amazing, so inspiring – everytime I see a new piece, my heart giddy ups! Merry Christmas to you & yours! Now I’m off to make a boat….

    • Sasa Terry

      That’s so nice I love this websit 2 I need it for a school project and I’ll get a PERFECT score and if I do well I will mention this site so my class mates and teacher can use it 2 bye for now bc I have to make the boat now…

  2. Thank you also for sharing your pattern and instructions through a wonderful tutorial. I love your work and check here often to see what amazing art you’ve done. I love your boats, so creative. Merry Christmas!

  3. I looked forward to the tutorial this week so much! And it’s great! I already printed the pattern and will start as soon as possible. I May change the rigging, but we’ll see.
    Your work is amazing, Ann. As I’m a boatbuilder (for real) I absolutely love your ships. And the owls are charming, too!
    Thank you!

  4. The boats are delightful. I will save the pattern on my computer and make them with the children next spring. Thank you!

  5. Merci beaucoup pour ces informations!!
    Thank you so much!!!

    Viki (a french fan of your job!)

  6. Hi Ann…I’m a lurker/subscriber and so admire your work. I lust after your owls, swoon over your birds and would paddle a million miles to have one of your ships! Unfortunately I cannot afford any of your luscious beauties right now. I was elated when I saw this post and maybe after the holidays I may craft a wee boat of my own! Thank you for the lovely holiday gift!

  7. Thank you for sharing your fabulous tutorial. I’m looking forward to making boats with my sons as soon as possible! Merry Christmas!

  8. I’ve been admiring your boats for some time now! Thank you SO MUCH for posting a tutorial 🙂 I will have a room filled with boats in no time!

  9. These boats are reaally nice, I’m looking forward to make a float…you are really kind, thank you so much…ciao for now 🙂

  10. These boats are reaally nice, I’m looking forward to make them…you are really kind, thank you so much…ciao for now 🙂
    PS: I’m impressed for the very detailed and clear explanations, BRAVA!

  11. Oh Ann, thanking you for taking the generous time to create this paper mache boat tutorial. I’ll be hoping to make time to create a few to drift acoss the ceiling in the bedroom’s ceiling, they’ll be sailing off to the land of Nod. Thank you again.

  12. Wow! This is so generous! I check in on your blog from time to time and I love your work – all of it. Often I’ve wondered how/ if I could make these boats as I think their gorgeous. Thank you so much for sharing!

  13. Great boats! I made one a few months ago (my own version, very similar process) and have tried several times to keep the sail mast up…with failure. How did you do yours? I used a dowel, but I think it’s too heavy. Would love any tips. Thanks so much!

  14. Just looked through your tutorial (slowly) and saw what you did. never mind!! lol (laughing at myself…is that lam?).

  15. Hope you don’t mind me linking to this tute – we’re all heading for a long break with our children – and I would love to give this a go with kids (I know it won’t be as beautiful as yours!) thanks so much!

  16. Hello Ann

    Thank you so much for the pattern and instructions, I shall be making boats for my young grandson’s bedroom in the new year, he is just about to go into a ‘big boy’s bed’ and needs all the encouragment he can get – he likes his cot.

    Wishing you a very ‘Happy Christmas’ and ‘Good Wishes’ for the New year.

    Julie in the UK

  17. Thank you, thank you, thank you!! These are so wonderful and will keep my kids busy over the holiday break! 🙂

  18. I love your boats and now i’m very happy that i can make it by myself. Thank you so much.

  19. Just descovered your blog and love it, I fell for the boats and the birds! I will try to make a boat for my son and an owl for me, many thanks for the explanations, will come and visit again with pleasure to see more ideas, amitié Martine

  20. ABSOLUTELY DELIGHTFUL! You are so generous to share this with us!

  21. LOVE LOVE LOVE IT-been waiting for you to do a tutorial so that I can pretend that I have even a fingertips worth of the talent you have!
    Happy holidays!

  22. Ohhhhhh I am soooooooo grateful for this tutorial and can not wait to get started!thank you so much!xoxo

  23. Thank you so much for this tutorial! I found you via Ulla’s blog – and I’m so thankful.

    I believe after the holidays are over, I shall be creating a fleet of ships!

  24. I have been incurably in love with these beauties the moment I set my eyes upon them. Thank you for this lovely tutorial!

  25. What a fantastic present, thank you. I fell in love with your
    ships a couple years ago and have always wondered how you
    set one up. I definitely will be trying one of my own.

  26. What a kind gift to all of us who wanted a boat and now we know your secrets and how-to’s. I can’t wait to try a boat after the holiday’s. Thank-you so much for sharing!!!

  27. Ann: This is awesome! Thank you so much for the tutorial and the pattern. I want to make one for my son for a small Max character (where the wild things are) to hang about in. Thank you so much- it’s a wonderful present! you rock!
    xo, calamity kim

  28. Oh wow this is so wonderful, thanks so much for this tutorial I think I will spend some of my Christmas holiday freetime making one of these!

  29. Thank goodness for cereal boxes;) I am going to show this to my Mr.. He is always making fun of me because I save and use them too! I just wanted to see how you were and to wish you and yours HAPPY HOLIDAYS:)

  30. Oh, I am so excited about this! I am going to make one soon, thank you for sharing this! I am a big fan of your boats, your colors, style…. so nice. LOVE your birds too! Happy holidays!

  31. thank you so very much, i shall be making one for my partner, who just loves sailing.

  32. I have been living and working in Greece for almost 25 years now and have always liked the Christmas custom of decorating boats with lights rather than a tree. Needless to say I will be making your adorable boats for all my friends for Christmas 2010!

    Thank you so much for sharing the very detailed instructions and photos with all of us.

    As we say here, Chronia Polla or Happy New Year!


  33. Ann, these are absolutely beautiful. Thank you so very much for giving us the tutorial. I am going to make a large one with my children these holidays for the games room. Just gorgeous. Thank you, thank you, thank you. xo

  34. Thanks so much for sharing these! I have been fascinated by your website for quite awhile and I look forward to the chance to sit down and make a couple of these ships!

  35. Wonderful dress – wow – thanks for sharing that picture. The bird looks very interesting. When will your book be out?

  36. What a lovely, generous gift to your readers. Your little boats are a delight…I might have to try and make one for my art room. I love their sense of whimsy.

    Thank you.


  37. Great idea… I want to try it… wondering what fabric you use to get that kind of texture/ shape?

  38. I teach art to preschool and 9 Kindergarten boys. I think that they would love making one of these?
    Thanks for all of the visuals. Your work is wonderful!

  39. As an art teacher and Mom, thanks for the very detailed instructions! As the daughter of a ship captain, (he died long ago) thank you for a lovely project to help my seven year old daughter connect to her grandfather whom she will never get to meet.

    I just discovered your blog and find it very inspirational!

  40. I am so excited about this little boat! I am going to use it to teach a friend of mine’s son (who is in kindergarten and is being home schooled) about the Christopher Columbus and the Mayflower. He loves art and really likes learning. Thank you sooooo much for this pattern! I can hardly wait to see what his is going to turn out like!

  41. andrea marty

    having trouble downloading the pattern to a mac. Can anyone help? dying to make this gorgeous little ship today!

  42. Mari Jovan Fernan

    Hey, Thanks for sharing. I fell in love with your boats…and always wondered how the masts were secured. Very similar to masts construction on ship kites. But yours are ….aahhhh breathtakingly beautiful.
    Thank you for taking the mystery out of it. I hope to share something with you someday.

  43. What a great idea! I will so do this with my son when he grows up~ yay!! I’m excited!
    Thank you!!

  44. Thank you Ann for the generous gift!! I can’t wait to make a few of these for my grandsons bedroom!

  45. These instructions are incredibly vague and skip over a lot of important details. Things like the size & shape to make the sail, positioning of the ‘rigging’ and how & where to attach everything might be obvious to you, but I ended up wasting some good materials to no purpose.

  46. Well perhaps ‘incredibly vague’ is an exaggeration; I was really frustrated! Sorry for the negative comment.

  47. What material did you use for the sail? I think that paper-cloth, which seems to be quite the craze now, would work.

    Thanks for the great pattern.

  48. How adorable! We are re-doing our family room in an old vintage beach theme..I can’t wait to make one of these! Thank-you for sharing your talents!

  49. Merci d’avoir proposé le tutorial du bateau. j’ai essayé de le faire avec plus ou moins de bonheur. Je tenterai d’autres expériences…
    J’aime beaucoup ce que vous faites, les bateaux et les chouettes.
    Merci encore.

    This is translation :
    Thank you for having proposed the tutorial of the boat. I tried to make it with more or less of happiness. I shall try the other experiences…
    I like very much what you make, boats and owls.
    Thank you still.

  50. Thank you, this looks a great project – gotta give this to husband to do, it’ll keep him occupied for hours!

  51. I LIKE YOUR BLOG A LOT!!! I’m trying this tutorial today. I’m so excited. When I’m done I’m planning to post it on my blog. I’ll send you a picture too.:)

    I want to make a castle too. But I haven’t finish browsing your blog, so I don’t know if there’s a tutorial on it. But if you do or know some where that does, do let me know! That’ll fulfill my dream that was never fulfilled as a child. 🙂

  52. oh you are clever, i am going to make one of these for my nephew’s room. thank you!!

  53. I will likely sound like most of the other comments here but let me add my voice by saying: thank you very much for sharing this pattern! I can’t wait to try it and greatly appreciate you sharing a small piece of your talent with us 🙂

  54. These are so beautiful!! I am going to try a simplified version with my ESL summer school class this August here in Spain – I love your site and am now starting my own version of 100 horses in my house – thanks a million, mil gracias y un abrazo muy fuerte –

  55. Thank you soo very much for sharing this tutorial of your amazing boat design. You are a treasure that I found this morning and I intend on keeping you…hehe! Seriously, I appreciate you sharing this craft and I adore those gorgeous whimsical and so very vintage bedroom curtains; I think once my daughter sees this photo she’ll want this for her bedroom to dream of her secret island hideaway.You are some artist!
    p.s. Luv the birds, owls and spiders….way too cool!!! Bookmarked your site and need to read about “Mud-lurking” ….sounds like my kind of fun and the sea.Thanks a bunch for shedding light and adventure my way.

  56. Thank you so much for sharing this! I teach art to a group of home-school students and they will have a ball with this project!

  57. Gracias por compartir con todas y todos tu creatividad. Desde Mallorca, una isla de España, te agradecemos que nos hayas hecho pasar una tarde de Navidad muy entretenida haciendo tus barcos. Proximamente queremos hacer uno de tus castillos, aunque no encontramos los planos.
    En España el día 6 de diciembre nos visitan los reyes magos de Oriente y nos traen regalos. Este año les pediremos un castillo de Ann. Qué te parece? Hablarás con ellos?

  58. Hi,

    I would like to thank you soooo much for doing this website because you just saved my life from being killed by my teacher so thanks ALOTTT!!!!! 😀

  59. Wow my teacher really liked the boats =) but she said that it is supposed to sit so it needs a flat surface but i wonder how!??


  60. Sooo awesome. And the most vital thing imo is that you are using actual sail rigging design! I am always irked at seeing cute boat projects with no sense of how it might actually work on the water. Thank you! 🙂

  61. I love, love these little boats and plan to make a few along with my grandson. Thanks so much for the tutorial and your beautiful work.

  62. Thank you so much for putting this up here and uploading a free pattern! That is so awesome!!!

  63. Ann
    Thank you so much for being so generous as to sharing your designs with us. I have had an idea for a long time to make a boat based upon some lines from a song. I have put it off as I really had no idea how I would make the boat. Mine will be very different from yours but your idea of making a cardboard template has given me a starting point. I shall probably make myself one of your little boats too to hang in my studio and inspire me. Lovely.

  64. Ann,
    I just linked to your website via “future girl” site. I am sorry to hear internet users are using your ingenuity as their own, and worse for their profit. I hope you’ve notified the more well known sites ( and they at least give you the recognition you deserve. So many sites no longer offer instructions or merely use their sites as a commercial for a business. Thank you for your generosity and I hope you receive the rewards you deserve.

  65. Wow, Ann! Thank you for sharing this pattern and tutorial. I was just admiring you ships this morning, thinking I should make one for my boyfriend’s brother’s wedding. Seriously, infinite thanks. This how-to will go a long way for me!!

  66. marygabriella

    Grazie per aver condiviso questa meraviglia. Un grande abbraccio

  67. Jodi Kincaid

    Thank you so much Ann for sharing this pattern! Your boats are delightful! The little whale also makes me swoon. 🙂
    Thank you for being generous with your gifts. Thank you for sharing your talents! Happy New Year!

  68. Thank you Ann for the inspiration, the creativity and the generosity of sharing them. I have just purchased your books, and am in the process of doing my first boat…and being a bit obsessive about details, even cutting into some old clothes to get the right little patches of colours on the sails….hunting around for old buttons, ripping up a very old favourite nightie (australian for nightgown :-)) as it was the most beautiful material for the sails, finding the right pages of the newspaper to ensure the words that come through the paint are in tune with the feeling of the boat, and experimenting to find the right shade of paint for the inside and outside of the ship…..the list goes on. If i get even close to my little boat resembling some of your incredible beautiful creations i will be very happy.

    Thank you again.

  69. What a great project to do with my grandkids. In a couple of weeks it will be school holidays here; it’s the middle of winter, and what better than an indoor project that can be done in stages over a period of time. Great idea, thanks for that!

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