As humans are mammals, hair is usually present. I wanted Aria, my little ball jointed doll, to have vibrant red hair, and I started by attempting to make a nylon wig. Several hours later, I had finished watching the entire Back to the Future trilogy, my floor was covered in orange spider’s silk, my fingers were sticky with glue, and I had a shabby, unnatural, “If Mattel made a Cousin Itt Barbie” wig. To maintain some sense of pride, I’m not showing those photos.
Still, the process taught me some things, and one of them was to try a different type of hair. I opted for Tibetan lambswool because I wanted a natural fiber and had seen some beautiful little dolls with curly woolen locks. In Tibet the sheep are used for meat and the wool is a byproduct that is then dyed and sold. I chose one I thought matched Aria’s eyebrows and the overall color I had in mind, and a couple of days later I had a nice square of wool in my mailbox.
This fiber is so fluffy and amazingly soft. Holding it in your hands is like holding a piece of fresh bubble wrap, because it’s hard not to mess with it. If you’ve ever held a hamster, it feels very similar. I buried Aria in there to get an idea of what she would look like with hair before starting.
I needed a removable wig for access to the back of the doll’s head if I ever had to restring her. I made a wig cap by first covering Aria’s head and body in plastic wrap (which gives one an odd feeling of malevolence). I then painted on a layer of wood glue and pressed down thin strips of silk to make a close-fitting hat about the thickness of a fingernail, resembling a 1920’s bathing cap.
I had tested several glues in making the first wig, but settled on wood glue because it
- Dries hard and translucent
- It is nearly odorless, non-toxic, and easy to handle
- It is very strong and made to adhere to natural fibers
- It does not stick to plastic wrap
I cut the cap to shape and started working with the wool. The best thing I could come up to keep the curls together was to stick them between two pieces of painter’s tape over some wax paper. The tape kept things in place long enough for me to paint on the wood glue and snip off what I wanted once dry. I worked my way up the head and eventually Aria had lots of wild hair.
Speaking of which, I have the fabrics picked out and sewing will commence shortly :-).