When it comes to choosing a hair style for your natural cloth doll, the daring dollmaker wishes to employ natural fibers. Wefting locks, wether alpaca or sheep’s wool, is very easy once you get the hang of it. Let me show you with this mini tutorial.
There really is no mystery, and I am sure there are many other ways to do it that will give you a desirable result. This is the way I am currently wefting fibre, especially suri alpaca, that is so thin and troublesome to work with.
I try to buy the fiber as clean as I can, and already combed into bundles, so that I spend less hours doing just that.
Once I have all the fiber laid out in front of me, then I find a suitable yarn that matches the main root color. I say “root color” because Suri Alpaca, and a few other kinds of wool locks, have lighter tips.
I try to use either a mohair blend yarn, or one with a little bit of angora, so there are wisps of fiber already in the yarn, that will aid the fibers you will be wefting to stay together.
If you have raw alpaca, or wool locks, washing them is not difficult either, it just takes more time.
You just grab the whole thing and dunk it in warm water, taking care not to agitate it too much so that it won't felt. Just swish it around in some mild soap (I personally use Eucalan for everything) and let it sit in the water, if the water is super cloudy with dirt, replace and repeat, until you have clean water.
One nice thing is that alpaca locks relax beautifully in the water; but don't worry if you were after the tousled-hair look, letting the locks air dry will bring them back to their slightly curly selves.
Of course, if you blow dry them they will straighten up a bit, but not much (unless that is what you are trying to do and you then employ a soft brush to hold the fiber down while blow-drying).
Step 1. Attaching the fiber to a strand of yarn
I find it is best to work in small batches of fiber and yarn, as to not get it too tangled.
It will help if you have something to wind it onto as you are sewing it, so that everything stays put, and you don't have a massive clump of fiber on the other side of your sewing machine.
I have plastic bobbins, but you can use a piece of rectangular-shaped cardboard and just wrap the alpaca as it comes out of the sewing machine, so that it stays pretty and untangled.
You are going to use a tight tension on your sewing machine, and a very small zigzag stitch. Grabbing a length of yarn, place it under the presser foot of your machine, and you will attach small bundles of fiber to this length of yarn.
It is a slow process because the alpaca gets stuck to the front of your presser foot, but easy does it. I try to minimally space the bundles of fiber and also to not use big chunks, as I like the hair on my dolls to fall very naturally and even.
Once you have sewn the length of weft you need to cover your doll’s head, and this depends on several factors: wether you are using alpaca or something chunkier like Teeswater; how much space you are going to leave between rows once you are sewing/crocheting into a wig; and obviously how big your doll head is, then you are going to sew for a second time the entire thing.
I will explain this in the next step.
Step 2. Fold over and sew again
When you sewed the first time, you had a bit of fiber to the right side, which looks wispy. This “bit” will be folded onto itself, and sewn down again with another length of yarn to serve as support.
You will then have two rows of sewing: on one side of the weft you have even and long fiber, and on the underside of the weft a stubby and short length of fiber protruding.
This is the underside of your weft, and the side that you would normally sew down onto the head of your doll.
If you wish, you can trim it so it is not very visible, but since Suri Alpaca is so fine, I leave it for added coverage and also support of the whole thing. If it’s something chunkier, I do trim it.
Once you have completed these rows of sewing, sew over each one again to reinforce your weft. This will give you a four-times-sewn weft.
To finish your weft you will then brush it and therefore lose quite a bit of fiber.
If you feel like too much is coming out, you can secure the fiber even more by using liquid seam sealant along the yarn length, or a little bit of water-based glue, just enough to ensure there is no mass break-out of fiber while you brush it.
If using glue or seam sealant, you obviously have to wait a day until the whole thing is properly dried before proceeding to use it on your doll.
When you feel your weft is strong, and there is minimal shedding of fiber when you run your fingers through it, you can then proceed to crochet it into a wig.
I recommend using the same matching yarn you used to sew with to make the cap. You can also skip the whole cap thing and sew it directly to the doll's head covering.
I did just that with a few dolls with very small heads, as I felt it was the best way to avoid a bulky wig. But now I sew it down to a small crochet cap, so I don’t have to sew it directly on the doll’s head, it is easier on tired doll making hands and fingers, but it is up to you to decide.
Suri Alpaca is a beautiful and natural hair style for dolls, unfortunately it is not recommended for a child’s doll.
One needs to be very careful when dressing the doll, there are wisps of hair everywhere, and you need to be quite gentle when brushing it and de-tangling it in order to keep the doll looking spiffy.
In my opinion, this is a hair style suitable only for dolls that will be handled by collectors or much older children.
Exploring ways of achieving “natural” hair styles for dolls seems to be at the forefront once you start sculpting their faces more pronouncedly.
Lord knows what other doll hair-styles will be in vogue in a few years time, but for now I am happy to say that using natural wool locks or alpaca seems to give the dolls a modern, yet timeless appearance. Hope you agree.
If you have any questions about this method, recommendations or extra tips to give me, please don’t hesitate to comment. Hope this is of help to you!.
If you have purchased raw alpaca and would like to learn how to clean it and not ruin it, I highly recommend this video by Nicolle's Dreams. This is almost to a T the process I follow to wash my locks, except I do not use liquid detergent, I use baby shampoo.