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Needle Felting a Hard-Headed Doll

I need it like a hole in my head!

Needle Felting a Hard-Headed Doll

If you are familiar with making cloth dolls, you probably know that you can use a felting needle to root natural wool into a doll’s head.

This makes the hair look like it’s growing out of the scalp.  Working with a clay doll is different because the hair has to be glued onto the head, or the doll needs to wear a wig.  Here’s a technique that allows you to root hair, even if the doll is “hard-headed.”

I was working on a porcelain doll when I realized how to do this technique.  Porcelain body parts are hollow… head included.  I had to deal with a big hole in the doll’s head, and so I made a soft cover for it.  Once the cover was in place, I realized I could root hair as I normally do with a cloth doll.  The technique works on polymer clay dolls too. I may be reinventing the wheel, but I have never seen this technique recorded anywhere.   I think I’ll coin it the ” Rooting Rivkah Technique.”  Sis boom bah!

Materials
  • quilter’s batting
  • skin colored fabric
  • glue that dries clear  
  • fine mohair (I used Alpaca)
  • sewing machine
  • felting needle
  • red nail polish 

TECHNIQUE

1.  Sew quilter’s batting and skin colored fabric in a circle, just a bit larger than the hole in the head.  Trim very close to the seam, and glue down.  Allow to dry completely.   Looks like a beanie!

2.  Spread out the mohair on a table.  Do it very carefully, especially if you are using Alpaca wool.  It’s very fine and  “flyaway.”  At this point, it’s a good idea to cover the mohair with a quilter’s mat or something flat for a while.  This will make it more manageable and prepare it for sewing the wefts.
3.  To sew the wefts, set your sewing machine thread tension to 1.0 or 1.5.  It’s a little challenging but the feed dogs on the machine actually do pull the fibers through.  If you have trouble then put on red nail polish.
Perfect little wefts!

4.  Glue the wefts onto the doll’s head.    You’ll want to make about 3 rows of wefts, from the bottom up.   Let each row dry before you move up to the next.
Note: In a pinch,  glue some “fuzzies” in between the rows.  Just clip off some extra shavings and glue them in so that the “scalp” part doesn’t show.  (If you have tons of mohair to work with, don’t worry about it!)
Notice I should have added some more shavings in between the wefts…  I’ll go in and add it.
Now the doll is ready to be needle felted…
5.  On the forehead, carefully needle wispy baby hair “under” the edge of the “beanie.”  You will have to work carefully holding the needle horizontally and poking sideways, rather than up and down.  Do it slowly and it will work.  This will help create a perfect hairline that looks very natural.

If you are making a polymer clay or other hard-headed doll other than porcelain, the head won’t have a hole in it but you can still use this technique.  Try needle felting on the beanie over a small makeshift pillow, or hold it over the mouth of a coffee cup.  Carefully remove it and glue the whole thing to the head.
What do you think?  Try it out!  And don’t forget to wear red nail polish.
This dollightful tutorial was originally published in 2008. It has been edited with the original photos intact.   Thank you for reading!