Curious about what my dolls look like underneath and how I make them look like that? Wonder no more….
People often ask me how I make my dolls, and the answer depends on how detailed they are.
The next question I often get asked is what is the going rate to buy a doll like this. We’ll get to that in a minute.
It all starts with wool, rolled firmly into a ball sightly larger than I want the finished head. It must be firm, so the head retains shape.
Then the ball of wool is inserted into cotton gauze, similar to a sock ( in fact the first time I did this it was a sock, I didn’t have all the fancy supplies) and it gets tied firmly around the neck and then down the “muff" or “spine,"which is essential to a sturdy head.
Next the head gets tied at the eye line and chin line with string and sewed in place at the sides to give the face a form (sorry I missed taking a pic of that...). Depending on the look I am going for, I may stop here, like Adeline here, a more traditional and simple Waldorf style doll (standard round face). Or I may add a cute little nose. If I want to make an art doll, with more detailed features, this is where the fun begins…and the hours.
When I make an art doll, the facial features are created using needle felting. If you are not familiar with this technique, it’s actually really cool. Wool is a bit sticky, as in it sticks to itself, and it likes to felt (ever accidentally wash and dry your favorite wool sweater? Or hat, as in my case? Better save that one for your kid’s dolls now!). Needle felting is achieved using special felting needles that have little barbs on them, causing the wool to felt down to itself. So essentially, I repeatedly add wool where I want it and poke away with the needles until I get the shape and hardness that I want. It takes many hours of attention and love to do. When it is finished it is really firm…think softball. It takes more wool and time than you think! For this reason, art dolls take much longer than simpler Waldorf inspired dolls.
Once I am happy with the head/face I have created, I then add the skin colored fabric, which is pulled very tight to show all of the facial features. With a standard round face doll, eyes and mouth are added with embroidery thread (or sometimes just eyes). The same goes for the art dolls, except the thread used on the face is placed specifically to enhance the wool features I added underneath, so it takes a bit more planning and care; where you sculpt with the thread really changes the way the face looks. It’s really an awesome process to see the face emerge. After this the cheeks are blushed with a beeswax crayon, and maybe I add freckles.
So that’s how the doll heads are created. As you can guess, the process has many steps and takes hours to do.
These are two faces ready for skin fabric, one a bit simpler, the other more detailed. It may be hard to imagine what it will look like at this point, but it will be pretty cute I promise :) I can see it.
As for the price, it really depends on several variables-size of the doll, materials used, how detailed, outfits and accessories, etc. When I first discovered Waldorf dolls and Natural Fiber Art Dolls, I fell in love. I wanted to make a doll for my daughter, so I started researching and set to work. I discovered it takes lots of time, love, attention, and skill to make a cloth doll in this way. These dolls are also made with high quality natural materials, no synthetics, and it takes a pound to a pound and a half of wool to stuff one doll of average size! Then add in clothes, hair, etc. It takes me weeks to make an art doll start to finish (part time hours, with homeschooling and all.)
I really, really love doing this. I never imagined I would call myself a doll maker. I appreciate you so much for being here and reading along on my journey. Thank you.