Your Guide to Doll Skin Fabric for Dollmaking.

So you are ready to start but can't figure out which fabric to use, which colour is best, etc?. Let me tell you the differences between the most common fabrics used in waldorf-style dollmaking, as well as the many colours they come from, where to buy, and the rest.

Find the most widely-used waldorf doll skin fabrics, how to use them and where to buy them. (via fig and me blog).

(Hayley and Lily above were made with Laib Yala heavy-weight jersey in Light Peach |4355)

 

Let's get started!.

Some of you may be paralyzed by the many options in skin tone. Some of you have a few dolls under your belt but would like to try different colours and you are uncertain of what they actually look like on a doll. Let me show you and give you a little explanation of how each fabric behaves and the many colours they come in.

The two most widely-known and preferably-used brands are called De Witte Engel (manufactured in The Netherlands) and Laib Yala (manufactured in Switzerland).

Being both european-made fabrics guarantees that both attain a very high quality certification, they are both certified to the EN71 which means you can use these fabrics to create dolls for children to play with, because their dyes are safe and do not bleed.

Now, there are certain differences in weight and appearance in both fabrics. I won't go into a super technical analysis, I will just try to be as useful as possible with simplicity in mind and give you a bird's eye view of which fabric does what.

Let's start by mentioning they are both natural, 100% cotton, and they are extremely durable and have low-pill action.

What does "low pill action" even mean? This means that the doll will look really good and not get fuzzy skin for quite a few years before he or she shows lots of wear. Think of how your favourite sweater starts to look a few years down the line.

So therefore, we want to use a fabric like this one. That has been manufactured with durability in mind, that won't come with chunks of unspun cotton hidden in the folds and that it comes in a variety of colours so you can choose one that best resembles the child you are trying to make the doll after.


INTERLOCK by De Witte Engel

DWE is referred as interlock. This is a knit fabric, but if you see it from the right side or the wrong side, it looks exactly the same.

To the untrained eye this might make no big difference, but it does simplify things hugely when you are just starting making dolls.

Because of the particular way the fabric is made, it makes it very easy to use, easy to place your patterns on the grain, and when you cut it it doesn't curl up at the edges. It is slightly "thinner" than Laib Yala heavy weight jersey and it comes in a wonderful array of skin-like colours. 

The following dolls have been made with DWE fabric. Notice how even though the fabric is the same colour in two occasions, the dolls look different in shade.

A comparison on doll skin fabrics, and how they look on ready-made dolls (via Fig and Me blog).

This is due to two facts: the fabric lightens up when light wool is used underneath, and since the wool varies from time to time, we get slightly different shades.

Also dye lots vary, and when you order the same fabric colours over many years you can tell this colour variation over time (I keep a rather large bag of off-cuts and can tell you this with certainty). 


JERSEY by Laib Yala

Laib Yala, or LY from now on, is a jersey AND also an Interlock. Jersey means that on the right side it looks like knit stitches, and on the wrong side, it has purl stitches (if you are familiar with knitting you will completely understand these terms). 

Now, this fabric comes in two different kinds, the jersey (which I use) and the interlock. The interlock is normally used for either small dolls (both body and face) or for the face of larger dolls. You would then use the jersey understandably for the body.

That being said, I use only the heavy weight jersey, both on the face and the body of my dolls. I use it on small dolls, medium dolls and large dolls. There is something odd to me if you can feel the difference of the fabric within the same doll, like it's patched.

But many, many dollmakers do this and their dolls are testament to the beauty of this method. 

I can't honestly say I prefer LY to work with entirely, but I do prefer it when making my largest doll sizes. It gives large dolls such a hefty feel, very wholesome, and it holds such vast amounts of wool much better, in my humble opinion.

Some dollmakers, and doll owners, shy away from this fabric because the ribs are more noticeable. Which is one of the reasons I love it, the doll feels more made out of fabric.

But to each their own. You need to use them, and see which one you like best. 

Laib Yala also comes in many different skin-like shades, and like DWE, it lightens up considerably once you stuff the doll with wool. Take a gander at some of the dolls created with this beautiful fabric.

A simple, yet thorough guide, to waldorf doll skin fabrics, and how they look once stuffed  |  via Fig and Me blog.

Now, these are not the only two companies producing fabric designed and manufactured especially for dollmaking. There are quite a few more, but over the many years I have made my dolls, these are the two that are most mentioned in the dollmaking circles due to quality and consistency.

These are the ones I have chosen time and again, having tried a few others and being terribly disappointed. Poor fabric is a painful mistake to make, especially when you invest at least 20 hours of your life making a doll. Nobody got time for that.


Weir Crafts Premium Doll Fabric

Now, I am going to mention this interlock fabric, although I have never used it myself. I am mentioning it because several professional dollmakers do use it to make their dolls, and although it is not comparable to DWE for example, neither does the price.

It is a much more economical fabric, but with high quality and nice skin tone shades. You might fall in love with it, if you do use it and have encouraging words about it to other dollmakers, please write them in the comments.

Do pay notice that Weir Dolls manufactures two kinds of knit fabric, and I am recommending the PREMIUM kind. Like I said, I have never used it so I can't personally attest to its behaviour or life span but it comes recommended as a good choice by people I like. You can be the judge and then let us know.

Some handy tips on working with traditional waldorf-dollmaking fabric, via Fig and Me blog.

( Robin up above was made with Laib Yala Light Peach | 4355, I just love this shade! )

 

TIPS.

I will give you a few tips on how to use these fabrics:

1. Do not pre-wash. For everything else, I always recommend pre-washing fabrics. However, with these dollmaking knits, you are going to encounter more issues than by leaving the fabric alone. Especially with LY. I repeat, do not prewash (unless your fabric comes in super dirty, in which case I would contact the supplier). 

2. Pay attention to the the stretch of the fabric when placing your patterns or designing new ones. Normally you want the ribs to go on a vertical fashion on your pattern pieces, so that the stretch occurs to the sides. In very limited situations would you place the piece with the ribs at an angle, so make notice of this when working with these fabrics.

3. I normally use a normal pencil to trace my patterns on these fabrics. I use a pencil with a soft lead, but not too soft. For most of my dolls, I trace my patterns, then sew over the lines traced, then I cut leaving a handy seam allowance all around. I find that tracing the actual seam line gives you better results with pattern placement and accuracy.

4. Make sure to leave space as seam allowance in between the pattern pieces but not too much. If you follow my method, of tracing the seam line-sewing-then-cutting you need to leave plenty of space between the pattern pieces. But don't go crazy! These fabrics are very expensive and I am very stingy with their use.

5. Dark skin tones are beautiful and not many dolls are made with them. One of the problems is the embroidery of the eyes. In order to make the eye embroidery pop from the dark colour one has to get real crafty: add white dots above the iris, do white to the sides, or use very bright colours for the iris. Either way, if you are itching to make a doll with a darker skin tone, take in consideration what colour you are going to choose for the eyes and in which way you will highlight them from the fabric (a handy eyelash does the trick for me!).

6. I normally use just red beeswax to blush the fabric in all the right places, but you can experiment too. Sometimes I have used orange or a bit of brown, depending on the skin colour I am working with. It pays to have a different set of beeswax crayons so you can blush cheeks, ears, hands, elbows, knees, bellybuttons, eyebrows, or bums with just the right shades!.

7. I keep a bag with all the fabric off-cuts of my many years of dollmaking. I use these little bits to make "blushers" for my dolls. This fabric is expensive and not only that, I like to make use of as much of the materials that come into my dollmaking studio as possible, so I try not to throw away these little bits. I just cut them up in rectangles and I blush them deeply with my red beeswax and I include them with my dolls. You can also use them for ears, you need so little! Or for the tender parts of boys (giggle!), or added belly buttons, or to make faces of really tiny dolls. Get creative and use all those wee bits of dollmaking skin fabric.

 

A fabric guide on most widely used brands for waldorf dollmaking. Via Fig and Me blog.

SUPPLIERS.

As usual, these are my recommended suppliers. Not only do I buy regularly from them (the ones in Canada and the US), they are trustworthy individuals that will go to great lengths to ensure you have a pleasant dollmaking experience.

 

AUSTRALIA

Winterwood Toys

 

CANADA

Natalie - DWE

Monika - LY

 

USA

Reggie's dolls

Weir Crafts

 

UK

Debbie

 

The Netherlands

Kamrin

 

**If you live in Europe and in the future you want to obtain certification in order to sell your toys legally as toys for children, you will need to comply with a rather long list of requirements, and my dear colleague Maike Coelle from Feinsleib has created a handy booklet that can guide you through that process.  I won't go into any of that here on the blog.

***If you want to figure out the requirements to comply with selling dolls and toys in the US please join the US Toy Compliance Facebook group where there is a pool-full of vast knowledge to aid you in the process. 


So that's it folks! I hope you find all the above useful. I was going to post a gazillion photos of the many dolls I have done over the years, but since the blog is already full of them, perhaps that would have been overkill.

If you think it can be helpful to you, I can start mentioning shades, types of fabric and specific colour of hair in future doll posts, so you can compare what the fabric looks like once stuffed, and some pretty colour combinations, if you are the kind of dollmaker that is after that. 

Like I mentioned, over time dye lots vary. Also, the wool varies, so you are never playing with static materials. Which is one of the many reasons I love this kind of dollmaking. Very organic, very experimental. 

If you have a preference of a fabric over another, let me know in the comments as to why. Also, if you are in the know of some super secret doll skin fabric manufacturer, don't be stingy and share the wealth!. The more we support them, the happier everyone is.

Now I must go and tend to my wool children, hope to come back soon with some VERY exciting news in the pattern-making front. Oh, I am such a tease!. 

Posted on July 4, 2017 and filed under tips + tricks, dollmaking.

Eileen exploring the garden.

My sweet Eileen has such an adventurous spirit, except she only explores in the garden. She knows she is not allowed to leave the confines of the house, and stays put. I like it when the dolls listen to my rules.

Eileen is a natural fiber art doll, made with cotton and wool, and wearing her handmade clothes. 

Bright and early she got up. Full of energy and pep. "I want to play outside" she demanded. And so the day started. 

In a shroud of blankets and still half asleep, I proceeded to boil water for tea. Some toast in the oven, butter out of the fridge.

"Can we have jam today? Pretty please?" she asked me with those all-seeing eyes. One look at her and the frosty jam jar came out of fridge.

I have no backbone for these woolen children. None at all. 

Eileen, a custom natural fiber art doll, by Fig and me.

Eileen in the garden, welcoming summer. By Fig and me. 

The hungry pilgrimage to the breakfast table. The linens. The napkins. The cold butter and knives. Cups for tea. Sugar. All the necessary things to enjoy a spot of breakfast before the day turns us all over.

Eileen helped so eagerly. She asked where the napkins were and why they were so pretty. And could she please choose the fancy cups this time? Not the thick ones, the special ones with gold rimmed edges.

She requested sponge cakes, scones, blueberry muffins and crunchy granola. I told her all we had was toast. We were in dire poverty with not even an ounce of flour to our names. But not for long I reminded her.

We shall pay a visit to the magical grocery store where we can stock up (the savages ate it all this weekend!) and then I will see about those sponge cakes, and those almond-covered scones full of lemon rind. Maybe even blueberries too (though we have to use those frozen) and yes: crunchy granola is a must. We have a trusted recipe full of coconut flakes, maple syrup and dark chocolate chunks. Indulgence at every corner.

Eileen, a natural cloth art doll by Fig and Me. 

After the meagre breakfast was enjoyed and we had thoroughly licked our chops from the butter and jam, we got dressed and headed outside. What a welcomed sight.

A cloudy day!.

Oh! Shall we even attempt to wish for rain? Old people say that this year not even the peaches grew fat and that all the apple trees had such few blossoms that we are bound to dream of apple pie the rest of the year, all the way to Christmas.

But what are those adult concerns to a small wool child? A girl so full of life, of interest, bursting with so much curiosity that no mother shall appease her. 

She promptly climbed the ladder and got on top of a branch to check on the peaches. Still much too green.

She started singing them a song, and telling them a story about a distant relative who got so huge that it grew out of its tree, and tumbled down the land, through meadows and farms, until it landed on the sea and bobbed its way, and flew! to America.

She told the peaches that we must always dream big and strive for growth and purpose. That it doesn't matter wether you are a low-watered peach or a single leaf, we all have our part to play and we all should do it gladly. 

Such wise words for an early morning I thought.

And still those clouds do smell like rain. But I shan't think of it, or I will jinx it.

Eileen, wearing her garden overalls made of linen and red gingham. By Fig and Me.

Eileen in the garden, by Fig and Me. 

Eileen in the garden, by Fig and Me.

She then checked on the grapes. Oh! but such abundance! Such fatty disposition! What a great display of life and use of resources! she thought. 

Comparing the grapes to the peaches, the poor peaches come out like pitiful heathens. No use to even call themselves fruit at this stage.

But Eileen uses kind words to all of nature gifts. In the same way she spoke gently to the underachieving peaches, she denoted pleasure and encouragement to the grapes.

"Do not saunter, and do not get high on June my dears. All in due time. Little by little your skin will grow thicker and your juices sweeter. And that is all well, as it should be. Take pride on the wonderful work you have done so far, such trusty and old woody vines you are. Over centuries you have provided your fruit, and over centuries people grow you and enjoy your presence. Thousands of pictures of your image adorn living rooms and many a dining room. You have been turned to bronze effigies and poems have been written on your name. The times of plenty have always been celebrated with your name, be it in wine or full form. Yet here you are, just growing and fulfilling your destiny, day by day". 

I dare say, where does she get all that? surely not from me. I have no green thumb, nor place in the kitchen either, those have always been part of the many talents of my loving husband. He cooks like an angel and everything he plants grows as if mad.

Maybe Eileen absorbed some of his poetry too because you have to hear her to believe it.

Eileen, enjoying the garden. By Fig and Me. 

Sweet Eileen, a custom made Figlette doll by Fig and Me. 

And a poet she is. A poet that dreams of gardens and tending kitty cats. A girl who loves frills and full skirts, but also likes to get her hands dirty in the garden and play with the roots and the dried blooms.

A girl that will tend many hearts over her life, and hopefully bring many smiles too. I love it when dolls like Eileen remind me of how simple it is to feel happy.

How, though pain and turmoil can be in our lives, we all have a chance to blossom, to be kind and encouraging to others. No matter life circumstances. 

Just something as simple as playing with dolls. Or reading a book. Or working in your garden. 

Eileen, a cloth doll made of all-natural materials. By Fig and Me.

Thank you so much Nikie, for allowing me the chance to see your Grandmother in my dreams and bring me so many memories of mine. I went to the past and came back with this little doll for you.

I hope she brings you comfort and a little peace from the hectic world. She is made with much love, just for you, and I took care to let her know so much of the great woman that inspired her. Hoping that a meeting happens for the two of them, one day, hopefully soon.

I hope her poetic nature keeps striking back, and that you allow her time to play in the garden. I also hope there is a furry friend around to keep her entertained and making all those catnip pouches she loves to sew. You know how making things for those she loves makes her so happy. 

With much love, from my hands to yours!. 

Fabs.