button blanket peg dolls

Button blankets are an important part of Pacific NorthWest Indigenous culture. 

In British Columbia classrooms, we endeavour to bring First Nations Principles of Learning into the daily life and culture of our classroom and school communities.

Learning about the artistry and significance of button blankets is one of the ways that we recognize and honour indigenous knowledge in our classroom.

Beautifully adorned blankets are worn as capes at ceremonial events. The crest on the back tells about the wearer's family. The blankets tell the story of people, places and events. They tell of the wearers position, roles and responsibilities in the community. They are a unique way of "learning and knowing" (Fine Arts, UVic).

They are powerful statements of identity. Yukon Museum

Over the holidays, I saw a button blanket doll tree ornament. Since it was well above my budget for sensory bin additions , and it looked pretty straightforward, I decided to make some myself.

As I was making these clothespin dolls, I was thinking that they made fine tree ornaments, but I wanted something that could stand up to add to my button blanket sensory bin and for small world play.

Peg dolls were the answer.

These are pretty straight forward to make - no need to be super crafty!

what you need
red felt (thicker, better quality felt is a good idea - having something with "weight" for the blanket works best
black felt (dollar store felt is fine for this)
black wool (for hair)
black acrylic paint (for "angel" style peg doll only)
sequins (I used iridescent - silver could work too)
good scissors
craft glue

two ways to make button blanket dolls

for a "giant" peg doll  - ordered from Stockade
1. Cut the dress out of black felt and the cape out of red felt.
2. Cut out decorative strips of felt for the dress and cape. I looked at the diameter of the sequins I was going to use, and determined the width from that.
3. Using craft glue, glue the decorative strips and sequins onto the dress and the cape. Allow a few minutes for the glue to dry.

4. Cover the peg doll's body with craft glue,
and attach the black dress.
5. Cut out  and glue on the crest for the back of the button blanket cape. Add sequins or "bling" where inspiration dictates.
6. Find the centre of the cape - put a thick line of glue down the centre of the cape  - attach to the back of the peg doll.
7. Put a good sized drop of glue on the inside top corners of the cape, and attach to the front of the doll.
8. Cut a number of 3 inch lengths of black wool for hair. Glue them onto the peg doll head. Glue wool onto the back of the head.
9. I would destroy the doll if I tried to add any facial features, so I didn't.


for an angel peg doll - ordered from Stockade
(I don't have step by step photos for this doll - but I am sure that you can extrapolate from the previous doll)
1. Paint the doll's body with acrylic black paint.
2. Glue on red trim and sequins.
3. Cut out red cape and black crest.
4. Glue black crest and sequins onto the cape with craft glue.
5. Find the centre of the cape - put a thick line of glue down the centre of the cape  - attach to the back of the peg doll.
6.  Put a good sized drop of glue on the inside top corners of the cape, and attach to the front of the doll.
7. Glue additional sequins onto the front of the cape as inspiration dictates.
8. Glue on wool hair.

Please click [here] or on the graphic for a free pattern printable. Remember, this is a starting point for your creativity.

The images are from School District 79's Aboriginal Education page on the school district website. They are available for anyone to use for educational purposes.

I chose the orca because it was the right shape for the blanket, and it looked manageable to cut out a small image. I have included the sizes that I used on the pattern page.

other button blanket resources

Secret of the Dance
author: Andrea Spalding
illustrator: Darlene Gait
Orca Book Publishers, 2006, 2009

summary: In 1935, a nine-year-old boy's family held a forbidden Potlatch in faraway Kingcome Inlet. Watl'kina slipped from his bed to bear witness. In the Big House masked figures danced by firelight to the beat of the drum. And there, he saw a figure he knew. Indigenous elder Alfred Scow and award-winning author Andrea Spalding collaborate to tell the story, to tell the secret of the dance. (Orca Books )

Orca Books has compiled some teacher resources.

I have "read the pictures" with my students, but I find the book is better suited to students grade 3 or older. 

Last year we did this project as part of our learning inspired by The 6 Cedars by Margot Landahl. I had cutouts of each of the animals from the book (wolf, raven, salmon, beaver, bear and orca), and the children were asked to chose the one that they felt represented their strength. 

button blanket sensory bin


No comments

Back to Top