dear little paper mache boat ornament : a free tutorial

free tutorial : dear little boat

Everybody loves to go boating.

I’ve made you something!  A free tutorial for a dear little paper mache boat ornament. The boat is 5 and 1/2 inches long and 6 and1/2 inches high – a very nice size for very nice mice or tiny rag dolls.

tiny rag doll

ann wood : boat ornament

They are quick and simple to make (really quick! make a bunch) and only require little bits of fabric, cardboard and other things you probably already have.  And the pattern scales up easily – if you’d like to make a larger boat. I think it is helpful to read through all the steps before you begin.

To get started download the dear little boat and sail templates here.

little boat tutorial

* You can click each image for a larger view.

1. Place the boat template on your cardboard and trace the outline. Mark the fold lines (the dashed lines on the template) in colored pencil. Use the BACK of the exacto knife to lightly score the fold lines. Cut out the template.

2. Gently fold at the scored fold lines.

3. Bring the front sides and bottom together.

4. Tape over the tabs with masking tape – it’s helpful to tear off several little pieces of tape so they are ready when you need them.

5. Tape over the outside seams as well.

6. Fold up the back of the boat and tape over the tabs as well as the outside cardboard seams.

7. Fold the boat bottom flap tabs toward the print side.

8. Fold the bottom flap into the boat and tape over the tabs

9. Fold the sides over – into the boat.

10. Tape along all the edges. We are ready for paper mache.

paper mache tips: Because the boat is small and our armature is sturdy – one layer of paper mache is enough. If you are making a larger boat use at least two layers. Tear small pieces of newsprint – roughly an inch or smaller – small pieces of paper create a smooth sturdy result- use the smallest pieces for covering corners, tight curves and edges. I like commercially prepared wall paper paste – available at most hardware stores Collect text scraps for embellishing.

11. Begin with the edges – paint paste onto the boat – apply a piece of paper and paint paste over.

12. After covering the edges fill in the rest of the areas. One layer of paper is enough for a small boat – two will make it even sturdier. If adding a second layer there is no need to wait for the first to dry.

13. Optional – When the boat is fully covered add text embellishments. allow your boat to dry completely.

14. I like the newsprint to show so I paint lightly with water color and acrylic paint thinned with water.

15. Pin the sail pattern to a double layer of cotton – right sides together. Stitch as shown – leaving the bottom corner open for turning right side out.

16. Trim off the excess fabric at the corners and turn right side out.

17. Press the sail – fold in the edges at the opening and stitch closed. I added a whip stitch with contrasting thread all around the edge and several patches.

18. For flags fold a two inch wide strip of fabric in half and press. Cut off 4 or 5 one inch squares. Stitch through the folded side with embroidery thread or string. Leave the ends long.

19. Glue a wood, spool or bead to the bottom of the boat ( wood glue is best). Apply glue to one end of a wood dowel or skewer cut to 6 inches in length.

20. Insert the glued end into the bead or spool and allow to dry completely

21. Add lengths of thread or string to each corner of the sail.

22. Use a large needle to poke a whole through the front and back of the boat and tie on buttons.

23. Make a loop in a piece of thread or string and tie it to your mast – add a little glue to the mast and wind the ends around. knot and trim off the excess.

24. Thread the loop through a wooden bead and glue in place. You could alternatively cover the top of the mast with a little flag.

paper mache boat ornament

Finally to rig the boat tie the sail to the top and bottom of the mast and wind the front string around the front button. Attach the flag string to the mast and buttons.

Send somebody little to sea!

very nice mice free sewing pattern

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  1. Just in time to make Christmas gifts. You are so generous with your talents, thank you!

    • Claudine Thomas

      Ditto. Thank you so much for your generosity! You rock, Ann!

  2. A very sweet present for your readers. I’ll surrely make one for … me !
    Merci beaucoup de France,

  3. Thank you, Ann. I certainly agree with Sally; your generosity is greatly appreciated. Thank you. And, I hope you are, or soon will be, back in your lovely apartment.

  4. What a nice thing for you to do. I love little boats and will certainly give this a go.
    Thank you.

  5. Oh my, so sweet!! Thank you so very much for this adorable pattern/ tutorial. Let the Christmas making begin!!

  6. Patricia Cusumano

    I think these are great & it’s so nice of you to share them , I was thinking how maybe they would look as a Christmas tree decoration adding some small greenery & tiny balls what do you think could even make a Christmas mouse with a stocking cap like the Night before Christmas using the boat like a bed

  7. Alexandra Henshel

    So charming, I want to make 20! Thank you for sharing this lovely, adaptable, fun pattern! ♡

  8. Evelyn McElroy

    Ann, thank you so, so much! I can’t wait to try my hand at this. So generous of you, and the tutorial is so detailed. You are wonderful!

  9. This is something really special, and very kind. Thank you so much for doing this… I love your creativity and visiting your blog is a real treat.

  10. Thank you so much for sharing this, Ann! I can see a Christmas tree awash in little sailboats.



    • I hope you have fun with it – I’m making lots of them too!

  11. I have purchased a small, white feather Christmas tree and am busy making every ornament for the tree! I think a few boats will look great on it… Thank you Ann , I always look forward to your blog.

  12. very nice indeed…i love everything about HOME MADE…..
    this is very much something i will do for my grandson with a special verse in mind.
    thank you so much for your tutorial…..

    • Wonderful Vivian – such a sweet thing to do for a grandson.

  13. Found the little boat project on Pinterest. As a social worker in Vermont with 7-17 year olds this is a perfect solution to keep the indoor season lively. Thank you for your thoughtful contribution both to our kids and community skills workers.

  14. caroline lister

    Thank you for the beautiful little boat pattern. Very kind of you to share it for free.

  15. I am in the process of making my first little boat, I absolutely love it. My favorite part is making the sails with the little patches. Another nice thing is that the materials are so simple, did not have to go the store to buy stuff. This one is for my great grandson, I’ll make a little treasure chest and put some “loot” in. thank you so much Ann. I appreciate your generosity. Atie from Southern California

  16. Kathie Mack

    Hi Ann Wood. Your little boat tutorial is wonderful & you’re very generous to share your pattern & instructions. I wouldn’t worry about anyone trying to compete with your talent. You’re very talented & generous. Thank you very much! Kathie

  17. So, I started a dear little boat yesterday (xmas eve) and finished it today. Customied for my future brother in law, who happens to love boats and have a familial connection to the Clark Thread co. How perfect could this be? It was a hit. Thank you!

  18. Thank you for the pattern! You are very generous in sharing them with us! It was quite easy to follow and thus create a beautiful little treasure for a very special Christmas gift. However, I did encounter one slight issue: my mouse’s fit in the boat was much tighter than the one you are showing in your tutorial. I might have stuffed him a bit more perhaps, but luckily he still fits!

  19. Thanks for sharing this pattern. I’ve had so much fun making a little love boat valentine for my sweetie. Thanks for your generosity, which is as inspiring as your work.

  20. Fran Boydell

    Thank you Ann. I have just finished my first ‘dear little boat’ which is sitting on the mantlepiece. I love it. It will go from Australia with my husband to our Grandson in Texas who claimed it when he saw it on FaceTime.
    Inspired by you I have also used the top part of a takeaway coffee cup as an armature..moulded gently to an oval base. It works well and is perhaps more like Reepicheep’s coracle.
    Something to redeem the situation when you forgot to take your Keep Cup!

  21. Jeanette Acland

    Fran B above introduced me to your beauty-full work. Thank you for your inspiration.
    I finished my dear little boat and my family, one 64 and the other 25, were delighted with it.

  22. This is “Cartapesta”, not “Papier-Mâché”.

    “The ‘cartapesta’ is the original term of Italy to name the technique that uses pieces of newspaper cut by hand joined by a glue to form objects, superimposing the layers of paper interlaced with each other and the glue again and again so that when hardening It gives us as a result a much more resistant and stiffer surface, the more layers more rigidity, with a result similar to cardboard.
    It should be distinguished from papier-mâché, a technique in which the base is pulp or paper pulp to mold the object or shape desired.
    It is used as a craft to make figures of all kinds, such as masks for carnival or adornment, sculpture]] s, frames, jars, trays, etc. To wrap as a decoration to another object, or to create hardness to fine surfaces of objects.
    The most ideal glue is the vinyl glue and the best paper is the newspaper because it is very malleable, but other types such as paper napkins can be used, among others.”
    It is left to dry and at the end with a fine sandpaper the surface is smoothed and later it is decorated with paint and if it is wanted that it has durability in the time a layer of varnish is applied to all this process.
    (Source: Wikipedia)

  23. I know this is an older post, but I just saw the picture of the doll go past my pinterest feed and I had to come and say that she reminds me of the little dolls from the Beatrix Potter book, The Tale of Two Bad mice. ^_^ Sooooo cute!

  24. Sandra Buzzard

    Turned out perfect! Thank you so much for the pattern.

  25. […] This just makes you go, “aaawwww” it is so cute. If you want to make one of these little boats to decorate your Christmas tree or give as a gift pop on over to the link Ann sent in to her blog Ann Wood Handmade for the step by step tutorial on how to make a recycled cardboard boat ornament. […]

  26. Jan Garood

    Your little boats are divine! I’m in lockdown in Melbourne, what better thing to do!

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