7.30.2010

Doll Hair Tutorial (Ponytails)

Added August 2012:  For more in-depth instructions on doll hairstyles, a step-by-step tutorial (and templates) for embroidering eyes and faces, and patterns for 16 vintage-inspired dolls and toys (including the dolls below!!!), please refer to my book, a Fall 2012 release from Stash Books.


Available for pre-order through Stash Books (C & T Publishing), Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powell's...



(Original post follows)


Over the past year, I've received several requests for help with doll hair. I've admitted to many of you that I just sort of "wing-it" and that my process isn't the most expedient, practical, or intelligible. I'm sure there are more effective ways to attain a similar look...but, hey, I like it. It works for me. Maybe this will help someone out there :). A few things...

First, please keep in mind that I am self-taught and am by no means an expert at any of this! Quite the opposite.

Second, there are already several great tutorials out there, like this tutorial and this one, both illustrating two common methods for working with yarn and cloth dolls. And Beth at By Hook by Hand has an AMAZING tutorial on crocheting a wig/cap which can then be used to create various hairstyles for Waldorf or cloth dolls here. Check those out!!! Please!

But for those who have asked...
The method I use involves lots of pins and lots of hand-sewing. I started using this technique on my first doll over 5 years ago (it was a Waldorf doll) and I have used it in various ways ever since then. It was a picture in this book, Kinder Dolls: A Waldorf Doll-Making Handbook, that started me down this path. If you click on this picture below, you might even be able to read the description.

I prefer this technique because the dolls that I have made thus far are meant to be played with by kids. Using this method, I feel like the hair is very secure since each strand is sewn to the head individually. Also, I like working with the yarn...building the hairstyle as I go...adding more yarn if I need it, adjusting the length of each loop, etc. That, and I don't know how to crochet a wig! But after viewing Beth's tutorial on flickr, I may just have to give it a try!

But whereas this book has you wrapping yarn around pins and then back around a needle/focal point (where you later sew/attach a ponytail or braid), I make longer loops that become the ponytail/braid or curls, etc. - whatever hairstyle I'm going for. I have to say, there are advantages to doing it the book's way - you can change out the ponytail/braid at a later point if you need to, etc. And I have used this technique once when attaching buns (I didn't want huge ones at the end :) ). But usually, I use the process described below.

Materials
I use upholstery weight/carpet thread that best matches whatever yarn(s) I'm using. The yarn I use is either bulky weight or super bulky weight. It's easier to fill in the head this way. My favorite yarn is wool or a wool/mohair blend. Lamb's Pride by the Brown Sheep Co. has a great bulky weight yarn that I like to work with. There are lots of great yarns, though. A few blends I've used I've found to get "fuzzy", but Lamb's Pride and 100% wool hold up well.


Step One - Find and Mark your Part(s), Hairline, Ponytails
First, I play around with the yarn and decide where I want the part (usually to the side...it helps me to not focus on issues of facial symmetry or the lack thereof). I place a pin at the front/beginning of the TOP part ( the pin is not shown in the picture below) and the back of the TOP part (BLUE pin), and then another at the center/top of the head where the BACK hair part will begin (WHITE pin). I then place three more pins about 3/8 to 1/4 inch apart in front of the BLUE pin (PURPLE, YELLOW, RED below). The placement of these pins depends on the size of the doll's head, the weight of the yarn, but it really doesn't matter that much because I end up going around the head a few times to fill in any gaps. So, no need to fret over this step.


I place a pin or a long thin doll-needle behind the doll's ears around where the ponytails will be fastened and secured later with a hairband (GREEN pin below). I also use a knitting needle placed behind the doll's back and secured by a few hairbands (acting like a belt). The placement of the knitting needle marks the length of the ponytails (though keep in mind that the yarn will spring up a bit when complete). This sounds confusing, I'm sure. Maybe these pictures will help.


Step Two - Start Wrapping the Yarn
Okay...so I leave a long tail of yarn on the side (that I'll cut even with the ponytail when done) and start wrapping the yarn behind/over the GREEN pin, in front of the WHITE pin, clockwise around the BLUE pin, back behind/over the GREEN pin, down around the knitting needle, back behind/over the GREEN pin, up around the PURPLE pin, etc.

This makes no sense, right? My husband is chuckling at me right now as I read this out loud and says I should just make a video. Maybe on my next doll. Here are a few pictures that might help.


After I've wrapped the FOUR pins on top of the head with yarn loops that are all also wrapped around the knitting needle, I wrap the yarn around the knitting needle a second time to temporarily hold it in place (see below) and start to work on hand-sewing the loops at the TOP of the head.


I work with FOUR pins at a time because it makes things manageable for me. Plus, it's easy for me to keep track of how many rounds of four I used up the side of one part so that I can make sure to use the same amount on the way back on the other side of the part. I don't want one ponytail bulkier than the other.

Step Three - Start Sewing
This picture below shows the first loop of yarn already secured. The second loop is being secured. I take the needle and thread up through the loop of yarn. Then I take a stitch through the doll's head...

(I tried to do this as a right-hander would...)

...and then BACK through the loop of thread and pull/tighten.


I then re-enter the needle into the doll's head at yarn loop #2 and exit at yarn loop #3. Sometimes I simply remove the pin holding the yarn loop and bring my needle up in that exact spot.


Again, up through the yarn loop.


The first four loops are secured*.


I place the four pins in place again, slide the first four yarn loops off the knitting needle (temporarily tying them back out of the way) and wrap the yarn around the pins/needle again...



When I switch to the other side, I simply go across the head a few loops back and make sure to secure this piece of yarn while stitching down one of the loops on that side. I never cut the yarn - not until I'm completely finished.


This picture below shows Round #1 of the top-right side completed and the four pins placed on the left side and wrapped ready to sew. Pay no attention to the color of these pins...I forgot to keep them consistent here :). The YELLOW pin is marking the hairline, that's all. The other four are the pins I'm wrapping. I try to place the pins on Side 2 in between the loops on Side 1. It's easier this way (to provide coverage, too).


As I work down this side of the head, I tie the loops I've sewn toward the front to keep them out of the way. Well, it looks like I failed to actually tie the purple thread in this picture, but you understand, right?


Is anyone still trying to follow this?

Okay, once I get to the top of the head (the WHITE pin) I move the part to the center and start down the back of the head in the same manner. Wrap four pins, (always going around the GREEN pin - up/over on the back part) and wrap around the knitting needle, sew/secure, etc.



Step Four - Filling in Spaces/Styling the Hair
I go around the head a SECOND time at the very least on the top of the head, to fill in any sparse areas and to give more of a style to the head (making sure the hair has enough length to sweep like I want, etc.). For me, it depends on the weight of the yarn and the recipient of the doll (if the doll is going to sit on a shelf, like the one for my Mom, I'm less concerned with how thoroughly "covered" the head is). And I'll often use more pins on Round Two...but always making sure to use the same amount on each side of the part. I often also start using a doll needle instead of the GREEN pin behind the ears (it's easier to use at this point, though you can use it from the beginning, too).


Once I have the head filled in like I want it, I cut the yarn, making sure its end is on the opposite side of the head from where I started.

Step Five - Secure, Secure, Secure (if Needed)
Even once I'm done with the yarn, I often go around the head here and there and secure a second time with the upholstery/carpet thread, especially if the doll is for a wee one - not necessarily every loop, but until I feel like things are really secure.

Step Six - Make Ponytails
I use regular hairbands for the ponytails, usually in a color matching the yarn, but not always. You may want to finger-comb the loops and play with them a bit to get the style you're looking for. Again, depending on how young the child is, I also secure these ponytails to the doll's head going through the hairbands (like the yarn) with the carpet thread and then through the doll's head using a doll needle and through the hairband on the other side and back and forth. I didn't take pictures of this part. Let me know if anyone needs to see one.

And that's it! Clear as mud, right? Let me know if I need to clarify anything.

AND PLEASE leave a comment if you find this tutorial helpful.
If its helpful to enough people, I'll put together a few more showing how I make curls, etc.

85 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for posting this! I know that had to be time consuming to put together. I totally followed you and I can't wait to try it myself. I'm sure mine won't look nearly as good as your though! :)

    Greta

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  2. This is wonderful! Thank you! :) I'd love to see your other tutorials! :)

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  3. This is an excellent tutorial for applying yarn doll hair. I can NEVER get good ponytails. Now this I think I can do.

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  4. Yes, this is VERY helpful! Thank you so much for sharing and for the great process pictures.

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  5. FANTASTIC!!! you know this makes so much more sense to me than the whole crochet thing. Of course that may be b/c I don't crochet LOL. I may be working up the courage to start a Christmas present for big sister. Although she might break my heart, Her AG doll sits abandoned in her closet while she plays mostly w/ a cheap baby doll that drinks a bottle :( Maybe if I make her some fun dress up clothes...

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  6. This is a great tutorial! Your dolls always have such wonderful hair styles, and it is so generous of you to share how you achieve this.

    Would love to see how you do curls :-)

    Beth

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  7. Awesome! Thanks for doing this. And would love to see more.

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  8. Great! I'm glad this seemed to have made sense to you guys :)

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  9. I just found your blog, this doll is so cute! Do you sell them?

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  10. I've got a few books on doll making, including the waldorff one, but I have yet to start making one. Thanks for the tutorial. It will come in handy, I always find pictures more helpful.
    Your dolls are SO beautiful.

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  11. wow. I'm so amazed. I would LOVE any tutorials you put up!

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  12. Thank you so much for this tutorial. I have that book and have tried a few methods of attaching doll hair and this looks great. I don't enjoy crocheting and other methods have taken me forever! I can't wait to try this.

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  13. @ MaryJanes - Thank you. And not yet. I hope to have dolls ready to sell sometime this Fall.

    @ Vicky, Aubrielle and Tracy. Thank you, also. And have fun making your dolls :).

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  14. Thanks for the tute. I would be very interested (and happy) to see more techniques if you are up for posting them. Your dolls are beautiful!

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  15. Thank you for the tutorial. Most of my childhood dolls were cloth ones with yarn hair made by my great aunt. One of them has hair that seems beyond hope, and I've been thinking I should do something about it. I think you've helped give me the confidence I needed to try.

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  16. Wow, those are the most beautiful dolll I have ever seen! You are amazing! Do you make your doll patterns available to buy?

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  17. Excellent tutorial, thanks for sharing :)

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  18. Fantastic tutorial! Your dolls are so beautiful, and their hairstyles are one of their most defining feature (besides their gorgeous eyes!). Thank you so much for sharing your techniques with us!

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  19. OMGsh! This is exactly what I have been looking for! Thank you so much for being willing to share your tips and techniques!

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  20. It's great to hear that some of you have found this helpful! Thanks so much for letting me know :)

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  21. You are so thoughtful to take the time and make the effort to develop and share this excellent tutorial. More to come? Let's hope. Your dolls are simply beautiful. I, too, am curious to know whether you will one day publish a pattern.

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  22. hi bybido,,,
    tq for the tutorial,,,
    i'll wait for the doll pattern

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  23. Thank you for the great directions. I make dolls to give to the orphanages in Mexico, and I was never happy with my hair.

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  24. This is an awesome tutorial! :) i just started using yarn for hair and this is very very helpful.

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  25. Es genial!!!
    me encanto su método, muchas gracias por compartirlo.

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  26. I really love your dolls and this tutorial is so helpful. I wish u soon upload the doll pattern.

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  27. This is super helpful .. I'm attempting adding some yarn hair to two dolls for my twins. I usually stick with felt. Your dolls are beautiful ... I love their eyes which always seem so difficult to me.

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  28. Hi, just thought I'd let you know I followed your tutorial to make the hair for my daughter's doll yesterday. Easy to follow and, although, no where near as good as your dolls, one happy little girl. Thank you!

    http://domesblissity.blogspot.com/2011/03/dolly-for-my-daughter.html

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  29. This was the clearest tutorial on how to make doll hair! THANK YOU! I am a brand new follower - I love your dolls....they are so cute
    Maria

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  30. How much arm-twisting would it take to learn your technique for curls? Pretty pretty please?

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  31. What a great tutorial! Thank you so much for sharing, your whole blog is an inspiration :D

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  34. We understand the part and getting the hair on the sides, but what about the back? Does the hair from the top simply cover that area? I didn't see a picture in the tutorial of the back of the doll's head. My 10 yr old daughter is giving the method a try and is really enjoying herself. Any comments would be helpful.

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  35. There is a picture of the back of a head under Step Three (the blond doll's head), right before the start of Step Four. The paragraph above the picture explains how you then have the yarn go over the pin/needle by the ear.

    "Okay, once I get to the top of the head (the WHITE pin) I move the part to the center and start down the back of the head in the same manner. Wrap four pins, (always going around the GREEN pin - up/over on the back part) and wrap around the knitting needle, sew/secure, etc."

    Hope that helps!

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  36. I love the tiny Oliver + S dress you made for her :)

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  37. Wow...what awesome talent! One of my fav things to do...is making dolls. This will be incredibly helpful. Thank You.

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  38. Since I´m officially in love with your creations now, I couldn´t resist pinning the picture of the little ice cream dress. I hope it´s OK but please let me know if you don´t want your pic pinned.
    María

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  39. I gave up doll making almost 20 years ago because of "hair frustration". Seeing your post, perhaps I can do it nicely after all!

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  40. Thank you so much for the tutorial. Doll hair is much less intimidating now :)

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  41. Huge Thank You for this awesome tutorial! I am usually have to see in person or hands on type of person, BUT your tutorial was SO clear I totally under stand, I am doing the happy dance !! Thank You ! Thank You !

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  42. Are you SERIOUS?!!!
    You're releasing a book? Yay!
    After stumbling across your blog (thanks to Homemade by Jill) several weeks ago, I HAD to make your rag doll. I made my own pattern and have embroidered her face (my first time...and she's SO cute!). Right now I'm slogging through her hair which is nearly complete.
    She may remain naked as I've put so much effort in already. But that's Ok.
    Can. Not. Wait!
    Julia D.

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  43. I'm looking forward in reading your book. You have wonderful tutorials. Thank you for sharing your techniques.

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  44. Lovely dolls, when do you do the faces ?

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  45. Thanks for going to such effort. Really appreciate you taking the time to do so. You have been a big help to me.

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  46. Muchas gracias, esta muy bien explicado

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  47. Such a fantastic tutorial! I've just started making felt dolls and and this is perfect for the girls but I was wondering, would you use the same technique for boys or would it be slightly different because they probably wouldn't have a parting?

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  48. O, I have searched and searched for a tutorial on doll hair (made with yarn). Thank you so much for sharing this. I immediately ordered your book!

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  49. THANK YOU--got your book, love it! Thank you for making a positive difference in my life and in the world :).

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  50. I make dolls for a long time, and the worst part for me, is the face and hair. I have been trying all methods, felt hair, crocheted wig, painted hair, but stil not completly satisfied :(
    I buy your book from Amazon (should arrive tomorrow) and decided to take a look at your blog, and I am really pleased, I am going to try this method, it looks fairly easy and the end result is amazing. Thank you so much for being so inspiring.
    Aldina

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  51. Fantastic tutorial! The only thing better would be a video of you doing this step by step :)

    I just bought the ebook from Stash Books and cannot wait to make a doll for my daughter's 2nd birthday :) I envision making special occasion dresses for her and the doll to match as well!

    Looking forward to seeing more tutorials - may one on shaping the head and stuffing it perfectly?

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  52. Wow, I have no need at all to make a doll but your tutorial makes me want to give it a try. This was an awesome tutorial, you did a great job. I'll be coming back often to read your blog!

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  53. Wow!!! Thank you soooo much! This is a great tutorial! I am working on hair using a crocheted "wig" cap and love it but was wanting to figure out how to also do hair this way since I really like the look you can get with the bulky yarns. Thanks again! And I think everyone should BUY YOUR BOOK! I saw it at our local Barnes and Noble and thought it was AMAZING! It's on my wish list for my birthday! So happy to find your blog!

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  54. Wow this is so cool! I hope you make more!

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  55. I read through everything again, and I am not following. :( You explained how to sew on the yarn hair very well. I understood this part. I also understood to loop around the pins. (well, I think I understood.) I didn't really understand everything else, but I will try anyway. Crafting is all about winging it. lol. Thanks, though, this will be very useful to me. :)

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  56. Thank You! Beautiful dolls and lovely tutorial, I'm buying your book, you have me hooked!

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  57. I absolutely love your book!!! I've made two so far and am getting ready to start a third! I am wondering if you indent the eyes? It doesn't say to I the instructions, but in the photo's, it looks like you do? Thanks for a great book- can't wait to see what you come up with next!

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  58. thank you for the tut. it's really helpful

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  59. Hi Jill,

    Very helpful tutorial, looking forward to trying it. One question. When you start the second side of hair, you say you cross over and don't cut the yarn...in the picture, I can see what you mean, but doesn't that mess up the part? This is the only item that confused me. The strand of hair you show in the picture crosses the part---what am I missing?

    Thanks
    Kristen

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    1. You cover that strand up as you work that second side. Does that make sense? You won't see it as it is somewhat buried beneath the loops on top of the head.

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    2. beautiful! I 'am buying your book Story dolls. will this book ahve hair instructions in it? I love the doll on the front my mom is a doll maker and I will give this book to her. she fell in love with your faces. and with your adorable little girls i am one of 5 girls . can not wait to get htis book. Wanda

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  60. I. Love. This. Hair! Thank you so much for sharing. I'm trying to figure out how to make a doll for/ with my sweet little girl.... Heading over to amazon.com to get a copy of your book. Thanks again!

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  61. Haven't tried it yet but I love it! Can't wait to try it, and you book looks awesome, especially how you do the eyes, thank you!!!

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  62. Thanks for this tutorial!! I loved it so much, I just bought your Storybook Toys on Amazon. I foresee much use from the book, and from this tutorial!

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  63. Ok. So I bought your book and LOVE IT. And although this is totally off topic (sorry!), I also found an extremely unexpected toy that I had to make right away for my son's upcoming 3rd birthday. My son has a fascination with children's rhymes. Humpty Dumpty is one of his favorites. So much so, that I often find him playing with a plastic Easter egg, singing and sometimes just reciting the song. He will carry the egg around all day long. I think *this* Humpty Dumpty will be a huge hit. Heh. It's all done except for the decorative buttons. If you want to see a picture of it, I can link you to my blog or photo album. :) THANKS SO MUCH!!

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  64. Wish to be more confident as well as trendy without having changing ones original hair do, below your locks wigs will let you accomplish ones ambitions. Just try out one more suitable hair do to offer time to to be able to lure people’s eyes as well as indicate yourself once you enroll in functions or maybe employ a holiday. May be you'll probably be and so sexy, sweet, elegant or maybe neat once you wear your favorite wig in which beyond your imagination. Thus simply undertake it, you will get the result, We hope you can like another hair do.

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  65. I loved that doll. I'm from Brazil, I would mold the doll. How can I get.
    Thank you and congratulations for the project.
    e-mail.rosangela_lauria@hotmail.com

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  66. Great tutorial.
    Your dolls are divine ... their hairstyles are wonderful.
    There are few people who help us do the hair and the features of the dolls.
    The pattern of the body and clothing are important, but no details of these features and hair, NEVER dolls are beautiful, because they simply do not know how to do.
    Thanks very much
    Magda

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  67. I am making my second Waldorf doll for my second daughter (my first was for my eldest daughter) and I may go back and redo the hair I did that first time around, love the look you have for your beautiful dolls! Would love info on the curls as well if you ever get around to that.

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  68. This tutorial is amazing. Thank you! Your dolls are gorgeous.

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  69. Excellent....I found this super useful for my cloth doll making and very easy to follow......thanks

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  70. Totally helpful thank you so much!
    I just purchased your book and can't wait to get started!

    Any more tutorials you could do would be great especially with the doll hair and seeing how you actually do your eyes would be awesome

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  71. Thank you so much , i m so happy i found your tutorials...it was totally helpful

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  72. Great tutorial made the whole process much easier to understand. When I read the directions in your book I was slightly confused but now I get it. The photos really made the difference.

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  73. Thanks, this is really a great tutorial,

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  74. Thank you!! Busily working on Christmas and this helped a lot!! :)

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