How to pick the right locks for doll hair

I once heard that hair is a woman’s most beautiful ornament. I think that the smile would take that honor, however 🙂

A huge amount of attention is given to hair, both by those that make and those that buy dolls. It is, in fact, one of the most important factors most buyers take into account when purchasing a doll. On the other hand, when you’re someone who’s making dolls and need to obtain hair, but have little to no experience, the dilemmas can be truly great.

How to pick the right locks for your doll? How to know which locks fit our desires and expectations?

I think that it is safe to assume that most of us who make dolls do not live in a place that has a nearby farm that produces the type of fine fleece needed for our purposes. Because of this, we are directed towards specialized online retailers, where the only feel we can get for what’s on sale is using the description or pictures. Without much prior experience, one can feel pretty confused and overwhelmed when browsing this market, unable to exactly determine which locks fit their needs and expectations.

Obtaining doll hair is my passion. I like to buy it in its raw state the most, in bulk, and hence I always have a diverse supply in my inventory. After gaining much experience through making dolls, experimenting and making countless purchases, I can provide some tips and directions. I’ll try to cover the most popular and well-known hair types.

You can buy locks in various degrees of preparation - from completely raw, unwashed, unsorted and undyed wool, to almost industrially sewn weft, ready from the go for making wigs. If you are buying raw, completely unrefined locks be prepared for a big job, which includes washing, sorting, and perhaps dyeing, and making the weft itself.

These locks are, it seems to me, a favorite, and the most common type in use. The strands have a lovely shine, and they’re available in many variants – from completely flat locks, sometimes even slightly sharp, to large and soft curls. The most common natural colors are white or gray, uncommonly black, and even more rarely brown, fawn, caramel, etc. Any other colors you find on the market were dyed. If you would like to dye it yourself, feel free to, because it absorbs color quite excellently. Mohair locks are smooth and slippery, so if you’re trying to style it (making braids or using pins), it has a tendency to slip and loosen up over time.

You can buy mohair on the market in locks or as pelt. Pelt is useful for making wigs for beginners, since the method of cutting and sewing employed is far simpler than when making weft. The only requirement is for the hair’s leather base not to be hard and difficult for processing (cutting and sewing).

Waldorf doll 19 inch

Suri alpaca locks

I absolutely love alpaca locks, and often use it for my dolls’ hair. It has the advantage of resembling human hair very closely. It is available in the same natural colors that human strands can be in, so you rarely have to dye it, unless you want a very specific color. If you dye it anyway, keep in mind that it has difficulty in absorbing color, much so than other types of wool, and you will get a more pale hue than planned. You’ll have a hard time achieving saturation and even coloring everywhere.

Alpaca hair is easy to shape into hairstyles and keeps the shape you give it pretty well. Do not use combing equipment, however, as it is very easy to damage it! For alpaca, it is often taken for granted that it is fragile and easy to damage. What I can say, however, is that this is only partially true. I’ve encountered a wide variety of alpaca, from extremely fragile strands, to very solidly strong and durable ones. As I do not have my own alpacas, but am merely a user, I do not know for certain if the differences are due to the age or sort of the animal, or perhaps the season when it was shaved, or maybe something entirely else.

These are curly locks. The strands are very durable, and the locks are large and hard to tame. I would not recommend them for smaller dolls precisely due to the size of the curls. Just to be clear, Gothland is very pretty hair, but quite specific in regards to how it needs to be worked with. As for color, it is most common in various shades of gray, from light mixed with hues of beige to dark gray mixed with black strands. Since the natural color isn’t particularly pretty, you’ll probably want to dye it, and you can never go wrong with that move. It is very good for coloring. As it tends to naturally be in many hues you will get a beautiful shaded look, especially if you are coloring it into brighter tones.

Waldorf doll Marigold

Teeswater and Wednsleydale locks

These are very small and soft curls. Quite useful, as they are suitable for both very big and very small dolls. Quality samples have nicely shaped curls, while shoddier ones have less of a definition and can look disheveled. If you bought it unwashed, but with a good shape, you must be extremely careful, as during washing there is a very real risk of ruining the form. It would be best if you searched for advice on the internet on how to wash them properly. You shouldn’t comb Teeswater and Wednsdayle locks for the very same reason. The natural colors are white, beige, gray and black (with lighter, brown tips) – all others are a result of dyeing. Dyeing is easy in terms of the hair absorbing the color well, but every time the hair gets wet there is a danger of ruining the form of the locks.

waldorf doll dress

Tibetan lamb locks

This is lightly wave-like hair with curly tips, or simply curly along the entire length. It is very soft and fluffy. I would highly recommend it for beginners, as it is sold exclusively as pelt from which it is simple to make a wig. The leather underneath is thin and soft, so it is easy for cutting and sewing. The fur isn’t particularly dense, but it is soft and gentle, and hence feels great when touched. The natural color is usually white or beige, more rarely black. Other colors are a result of dyeing. The strands do not absorb color easily, so if you want to achieve a saturated look, you will need to repeat the process several times. I had fears of damaging it from doing this, but it is incredibly durable despite the gentle look and can withstand several rounds of dyeing.

Conclusion ...

The list I have provided above most certainly does not actually end here. It would be more accurate to say that it is only scratching the surface.

It is impossible to give mention to everything, nor cover every situation you may encounter when obtaining and making doll hair. There are as many types of locks as there are sheeps in this world. Therefore, this process is an opportunity for surprises, cleverness and improvisation. There are also a number of sheep types that are not bred for their wool, but whose locks can be used to make very nice hair nonetheless. I have one large piece of pelt that I bought on a trip, for which I have no clue as to which sheep breed it belongs to. Out of it, I made beautiful hair for a large number of my dolls. Many of my buyers that wanted me to make a custom doll for them have requested hair made from exactly these locks.

There are many unexplored possibilities and this should be used as a chance to express creativity and maybe make some interesting discoveries. Ask around in your local area, or perhaps when you are travelling. Maybe you find something fascinating - one can never know.


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