Sunday 30 August 2015

How to make a lambswool wig for your heavy!

Today I decided to make a lambswool wig for one of my Little Darlings by Dianna Effner and thought I'd photograph the process in the hope that it'll help others who might want to make wigs for their dolls but are not sure where to start.  The process is very straightforward and I've taken lots of photos along the way, so hope you are sitting I shall begin!

What you'll need:

This is just a guide to what you'll need, and most people will already have a lot of these items.

Masking tape
Cling film (transparent sandwich wrap)
Sharp craft knife
Straight pins
A pencil or pen
Craft glue which I will speak more about later (ignore the Tacky Glue in my photo above, you don't need that!) 
A small piece of cotton fabric
A piece of paper to draw a pattern on
Sewing needles, preferably designed for sewing leather
Thread to match your lambswool
A piece of lambswool or you can also use faux fur
A doll as your model!

Firstly we're going to make a pattern, if you already have a pattern for your particular doll then you can skip this bit, but I didn't so had to make one.

Taking a piece of cling film/sandwich wrap, cover your dolls head and face right down to the neck, tie something around her neck to keep the film in place, pulling it down nice and tightly.  This really is to protect your dolls face and forms the basis of the wig pattern.

(Don't worry, she won't suffocate as she is not really real! ;) )

Then you want to start applying the masking tape, tearing it into thin strips, you wind the tape around the dolls head covering the cling film.  I usually start at where I want the hairline to be.

The great thing about masking tape is how stretchy it is, so you can easily stretch it around the tops of the ears, as shown below:

Take it down low at the back, to where you would like your finished wig to sit.  You want it just low enough that it sits naturally without folding or bunching up if the dolls head leans back:

And across the forehead at the front:

And over the top too.  You want to cover the whole head with tape and a few thin layers work best:

Don't worry if yours doesn't look too neat, don't forget I've done this before!

At this stage, before you remove the newly formed wig cap from the doll, you want to mark out where you want to cut the pieces.  Using pencil I've marked roughly where I'd like my seams to be on my finished wig.  I've also marked the pieces with F for front and B for back.  You'll see that I've gone from the forehead, roughly a few millimetres in from the end of each eyebrow and then up and over the top of the head and down the back.  You don't want your centre piece to be too wide, so if you feel your own head towards the crown, you probably have sort of 'corners/ bumps' roughly above your ears at the crown?  You want to pass through those on your doll.....if they have a name I'd love to know it!!!

It doesn't matter at this stage if those lines aren't perfect, you can see that I've redrawn mine a bit higher in the photos below:

Mark each piece with back and front, it just makes it easier when the pieces are cut out:

Now we're ready to remove the masking tape 'helmet' from the doll, so just carefully snip into those back seams a little, just enough at this stage to pull the cling film off the dolls head.  Below is what it'll look like. 

Then trim all the cling film off from around the edges, only leaving that which is inside the 'dome' underneath the masking tape.

The photo below is of no importance whatsoever in this 'tutorial' but I thought Ellie looked quite the Mekon in the Dan Dare stories, only not green and not evil!!   

Now you want to take those scissors and carefully cut along the lines that you've drawn on your masking tape 'wig cap'.....  the centre piece is a bit bumpy because it is moulded from the rounded part of the top of her head, but just flatten it down nicely and you now have your three pieces which will now become the basis of your pattern:

If you're confident about adding seam allowances as you go along then you could use your template above as your actual pattern but if like me, you are prone to gaily cutting away and then afterwards remembering the seam allowances....or lack of them, you might prefer to draw around the above pieces onto ordinary paper and then add your seam allowances on to the pattern before cutting it out.  You will need seam allowances on both sides of the top centre piece as well as the front of it, and the same goes for the two sides, along the top curved edges and then along the straight bit leading to the curve which goes around the ears.   I've added about 5mm but you could get away with less. You don't want to have to trim the seam allowances after you've sewn your wig together, so use as small a seam allowance as you feel you can cope with.  

Cut out your pattern and then at this stage I suggest making a cap in a scrap of fabric so that you can check your fit.  

I used a piece of ordinary cotton fabric, mark your 'front' and 'back' and then sew it together.

You can see that the fit is good on Ellie so now I can proceed.  Awww she looks like a little Novitiate!

It was at this point I decided to make the centre part of the pattern into two pieces for a better fit at the crown.  I forgot to take photos of where I marked the cutting point in the pattern, so I will explain it.  Going back to those 'corners' on the crown of our heads, I just cut straight across there on my pattern.  I then retraced those pattern pieces onto paper and added a seam allowance to the cut edge.

Below is the piece of lambswool that I'm going to use.  It is lovely and curly and measures 16cm wide by 11cm deep.  This is just big enough for a size 7 inch wig.   Anything bigger and you'd probably have to get a seamed piece.  This piece is seam free but if you get a piece that has a seam it isn't a problem and the wig can be made in just the same way.  I got mine on Etsy, from FUNwithTROLLDOLLS, this seller ships very fast from the US and doesn't charge a fortune for shipping either.

Lay your piece of lambswool down with the skin facing you.  You want your curls to be lying in the natural direction of growth as this will determine how you lay out your pattern pieces:

The two side pieces are laid out with the hair falling below them, just as natural hair would look at the sides, and the other two pieces, the centre front and centre back, are laid out so that the hair goes towards the front in both cases.  I hope you can see in the photo below what I mean:

As my pencil didn't show up well on the skin, I used a biro and drew out my pattern pieces.

Then using a very sharp craft knife I carefully cut around the pattern, you don't want to cut off the hair, you're almost 'scratching' the skin rather than digging deep into it with the knife.  So carefully cut around all the pieces and then pull them away from the skin, the hair should just pull apart from the rest and not tear or be cut away.  You can see below that the cuts aren't really deep, they are slightly ragged as I've torn the 'cut' pieces free.

We now have four pieces of the wig, a left side, a right side and the two centre pieces, 'CT' below is for 'centre top':

Now it's time to start sewing up the wig.   You will need to use a strong sharp needle and thread that matches the colour of your lambswool.  I used brown thread and a needle designed for leather.  Taking the two centre pieces you want to line them up and sew them together, leaving the seam allowance.  Try to keep as much of the lambswool pushed down between the skin as possible as this makes it easier to sew.  It was at this stage, having stabbed myself three times with the leather needle (yes, it works really well on skin too!) I decided to go over my hand sewing with my sewing machine.  Again, if you are going to use a sewing machine, use a special needle designed for leather as other needles might break or damage your sewing machine.

Once you've sewn the two centre pieces together at what will become the 'crown' of the wig, you want to pin your sides in place.  You have to carefully pin so that the curves match and your front and backs line up. 

Once you've sewn your side pieces to your centre piece, turn the wig the right way out and try on your doll.  Yes, sweet little Ellie IS in there somewhere!!!

Now you want to glue up the seam allowance along the front of your wig, all the way around from in front of one ear to the other ear.   Turn the seam allowance to the inside, and hold it there until glue has dried.  You are basically making a neater edge to the front of your wig so that when the hair is styled to one side you don't see the skin of the lambswool.

You will need to use a glue that isn't going to come undone if the skin gets damp, I used Beacon Fabri-Tac which I bought on Ebay UK.  It can be used for lots of craft projects and is a permanent adhesive, but I do believe you can also use a hot glue gun and glue sticks.

Try to keep the glue from spreading into the hair, but if a little bit does go into it, you can carefully snip off the affected hairs, as long as it's not great clumps that you're removing!!!

Once the glue is dry, which with the Fabri-Tac was pretty quickly, I sprayed my wig with plain water and just shook it out to separate the curls.  You don't want to drench the skin itself in water, just the curls.  And then you put the wig on your doll and style as you wish!!!

And here you have it!  The finished wig being modelled by Ellie my beautiful Little Darling, hand painted by Dianna Effner!  

I hope that this tutorial on how to make a lambswool wig has been useful, I do sometimes struggle to explain things so hope it's also easy to understand.  If you need anything clarified, please either leave a message below for me or email me on

Thanks very much for looking, I hope you all have a lovely week ahead!

Monday 24 August 2015

A dolly purchase.....and review!

Today I went to the vet to get dog food and on the way back, erm...I got sidetracked and went into a toy shop that we've previously only passed by in the car!  I was a bit naughty and purchased a doll :)  It wasn't my fault of course, I blame Farrah Lily, of Cozy Comforts and Dolls
because this morning I was reading an entry on her blog entitled 'July Doll Haul' and I was so envious of how some people are able to physically walk into a shop and buy nice dolls rather than always on the internet.....I wish I'd been into dolls when we used to spend our holidays in US!!!  So you see, I'm completely innocent here ;)

The doll in question is from a Spanish company called Antonio Juan and they produce several sizes of all vinyl or vinyl and cloth dolls, including baby dolls who have the cutest faces and belly buttons!!   Anyway, I digress, I bought a 45cm tall doll who was marked 'offerta'....always a good label to see on anything you're interested in.  She's all vinyl and is a child's play doll.  I thought I would do a review of her box opening etc and hope you will enjoy it.  There are a lot of photos, so maybe grab a nice cup of tea and a few biscuits, just in case!!!

The Box

The box is very sturdy and rather attractive, with pale pink background and decorated with pink roses and polkadots.  The  company logo features prominently on the front.  As you can see, I had a little helper!!!

This silver sticker is self explanatory.

The back of the box is just as attractive as the front and has all the company's information as well as the warning that the doll is not suitable for children under 36 months 'due to small parts'....Phew, I'm just old enough then ;)

Like most other doll companies that I've come across here in Spain, the Antonio Juan company is located in Onil which is in Alicante.  I would love to visit this area but it's quite a way from here....maybe one day I will take the high speed train link and go from there!   The company itself was formed in 1958 and has been in the same family for four generations and they pride themselves on their product.

If you go to their website, there is a really good video of the complete process of the dolls being produce, right from the initial sculpting in clay, right through to the completed dolls being put into boxes for shipping out.  I was amazed to watch the hair being rooted, the machine operator has to really be on the does explain how some of our Sashas and Gregors have some very 'odd' rooting patterns sometimes, because I'm sure the process would have been pretty similar back then too!

To view the video scroll down slightly and it can be found on the right hand side of the page.

One interesting thing of note here, I saw other dolls in the toy shop that had exactly the same face moulds as dolls from another more well known doll company called Paola Reina, so I don't know if they're connected in any way.  I'm still trying to find out.

Inside the sturdy cardboard box, once you take off the lid, there is a plastic 'window' which is used to protect the dolls whilst on display in the can see the glare of my flash which decided to go off for some reason! This window is easily removed and can be stored in the lid of the box.

There were two choices left in the shop, one, a blond with blue eyes,  was wearing her first Holy Communion dress and this is the other one, who is dressed for winter.   The inside of the box is nice, as you can see it's bright pink with white polkadots.  Polkadots are very popular here in Spain and used on a lot of flamenco dresses.

Here she is without the plastic window:

And a close up.  

She was very easy to remove from the box as she was only held in with clear elastic bands attached to two separate plastic pieces, one around her neck and the other around one of her ankles.  Despite only having the two anchor points, she seemed very securely fastened, I was surprised that there was nothing else keeping her so neatly tied in.

Here is the inside of the box, you can see the two plastic anchor points here.

Here she is released from the box......."phew" she says "thank you for letting me out!"

Close up you can see her knitted beanie hat is attached with one of those tiny plastic ties, which had to be snipped to remove it.  Her hair is held in place underneath the hat with a clear polythene band.

My intention when I saw this doll was that I might 'customise' her and usually I would remove the eyes and replace with my favourite glass eyes, but these actually are quite nice eyes, so I shall wait and see if I go the full whack and remove them.   I think her eyebrows would do with a bit of filling in as they are quite basically done.  I am not overkeen on these eyelashes but if I keep these eyes then these lashes would probably stay too.   She has a cute botton nose and nicely sculpted pouty lips!

Her clothes are very nice.  Her outfit is made up of 7 pieces.  She wears the pink knitted beanie, a grey knitted scarf which has knots on each end, a pale pink quilted/padded coat with  hood and pompoms instead of buttons.  The fabric is really good quality and the hood is lined in white cotton.  I was surprised, seeing how nicely made the outfit is, that the seams aren't 'finished' but I guess you can't have everything!

Underneath her coat she wears a sleeveless cotton blouse/angel top in a small flowery print, and a corderoy skirt that flares out from a 'yoke' or wide waistband.  Again I was surprised to see that their seams weren't finished, but the items seem well made apart from that.  They do however do up with velcro which I don't really like but then these dolls are aimed at children who would probably not mind in the least.

Under the skirt she is wearing white knitted tights.  Finally she has a pair of leatherette ankle boots with laces and remind me very much of the ones Ruth of Ruthsdolls makes for our Sashas.  These ones are in a nice neutral beige.   

Now let's look at the doll herself.  Firstly, once released from the polythene band keeping it in place, you can see that her hair is lovely and thick, it's very well rooted with a neat centre parting.  It's cut into a shaggy bob which I like, as well as the fact that it is not all the same length, it's cut into layers at the back.  The hair itself is of very good quality, it feels silky and smooth and has body to it.  I was able to comb it through straight away without it getting tangled and flyaway.  It's also not a 'solid' unnatural colour, it is deep brown but as the light hits it so you can see slightly lighter shades in there, which makes it more like real hair. 

Now on to her body.  She has a child-like body with 5 points of articulation, being at her neck, shoulders and hips.  Her head will move up and down as well as from side to side, which gives her quite a lot of expressive posing.  You can see her looking up in the photo above and looking down in the photo below.  Her head appears to be strung with elastic but I don't know if her arms and legs are strung the same way, they seem to be fitted into the body.  When she sits her legs go out in a 'triangle', which I'm not overkeen on but then most of my dolls tend to stand up for that very reason.

Although her body is quite 'child-like' with a rounded tummy,  I do wonder if it  really 'matches' that well with her chubby toddler like face and her chubby hands?  She has a more defined 'waist' which small children don't really have.  You can see this more clearly in the photo below, showing her back view, she almost has a 'curvy' figure. 

She does have very cute hands and feet, they are particularly well sculpted and both hands are slightly different.  There is a lot of detail to the nails too.

I had hoped that this doll would fit some of the many American Girl sewing patterns that I have here but having measured her and compared with those dolls, it would seem that she is more on a par with the Kidz n Cats, having a much slimmer torso.  I will try out some of the AG patterns on her at some point in the future but for now she'll have to wait!  

My overall opinion of this doll is that she is definitely worth the money I paid for her.  I paid 45 euros and believe the usual price is 55 euros.  So not a big price tag for a doll with such good quality hair and outfit.  I think the outfit alone would have cost more than that if I'd bought something similar separately!  As I said above, I bought her with the intention of customising her and I might still do a few things to 'personalise' her, but for the moment I think she's really very cute just as she is!!!

I hope you've enjoyed reading about this new little girlie who's joined my dolls here in sunny Spain and I hope there weren't too many photos! ;)