Wednesday, October 7, 2009

How to Make Felted Dolls

While living in Australia a few years back, I joined a group that made crafts as fundraisers for a local school. They provided me with the supplies and the knowledge and I learned a valuable skill while working for a good cause. My favorite thing that I learned to make were felted dolls.

I have tried to find directions online to make these wonderful dolls, but have never even found mention of them. Felting itself is a fairly common craft, but using this technique to make dolls doesn't seem to be as well known. I decided I would try my best to write tutorial.

The items you will need:

♦ felting needle
♦ wool of various colors
♦ pipe cleaners
♦ a thick piece of foam
♦ scissors

The first thing to do is cut your pipe cleaners into the desired lengths. I will show two different techniques - one uses a separate torso piece (better for adult dolls) and the other just twists two pieces together for legs and arms (better for child dolls). You can also use either technique to do both adult and child dolls.

As you can see, you are just twisting the pipe cleaners around one another and bending a bit to get the right shape.

Then take a piece of wool and tie a loose knot in the middle. This knot will be the head. (I have 3 different shades that I use for the bodies - one is dark, one medium, and one a light beige.)

Place the wool so the knot is above the top of the pipe cleaner body.

Then it just becomes a process of taking small amounts of the wool and wrapping it around the arms, legs, and torso. Also, cross the wool around the torso like an "X" so that there are no gaps in the shoulder area.

This is what it looks like after the wool is all wrapped.

The next step is the needling. The crafting group gave me a piece of large foam to use as a backdrop to protect myself or a surface from the needle. It wasn't purchased somewhere - just a piece that someone's husband had lying around. I'm not sure where you could find something similar.

Be aware that felting needles are VERY sharp!

Needling is simply poking the needle into the wool repeatedly. This firms up the wool. You continue needling all parts of the doll, front and back, until the body feels firm.
You can see the difference in the doll after just a few minutes of needling.

Here is the other technique I mentioned before - using just two pieces of pipe cleaner and no extra part as a torso. The torso will form on its own with the wrapping of the wool.

Again, notice the difference in the wool after the needling.

To add hair to a doll, take a piece of the desired color (this will be a girl, obviously - boys are done the same way - just use a much shorter piece of wool and needle all of it).

Needle the top part of the "hair" onto the head. I like to make a ponytail or pigtails for the girls.
Then I braid the wool and use a small amount of wool as ties.

To make clothes for the dolls, take some colored wool and wrap it around the body. Then needle it until it's firm.

Once you have the clothes completed, you will probably need to do some more needling to make sure everything is good and firm and shaped nicely. You can continue needling to make a slimmer torso, or a more defined neck. I know the first few times I made a doll, I would think I was finished, but my instructor told I had a lot more needling to do.

Dresses and skirts can also be made from felting, using a water and soap technique to tighten the wool. This makes for a garment that is separate from the body. I will try to get instructions for that up in the near future.

These instructions are a very basic guide to explain the process behind these dolls. Be as creative as you want! Feel free to post any questions you might have and I will try and answer as best I can.


  1. I don't know my friend. These look a little creepy to me.... How are you and the boys holding up?

  2. Creepy?? LOL Why? Because they have no face? They're supposed to be similar to Waldorf dolls, which are simple toys with no hard parts.

    We're doing okay. Looking forward to Chuck being finished with school in four weeks!

  3. I wondering the other day, when Chuck would be finished with school. I don't know how you do it. Bert's been away for two weeks and I miss him like crazy.

    On the plus side, I'm back on track with exercising and my diet has improved a bit. The house is starting to get organized too.

  4. Amazing technique! So simple...!
    Thanks for sharing!!!


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