Mad in Pursuit Notebook

Winter Wilma doll

Dollmaking: Winter Wilma Comes to Life

Feb. 1, 2016. If you are ever lonely, make a doll. As long as your mind is open and imagination unfettered, you will have a companion, usually congenial, always opinionated. The "quickening" usually comes when you give your lump of stuffing a face. From then on, you are "co-creating" and the rest of your work will be a conversation.

Anyway, I wanted to kick off 2016 with some dollmaking.

Goals: (1)Try a new method... so I zeroed in on needle felting. (2) Create something that reflects "now" and a sense of place. I was originally thinking "lake" and "water," starting with the color blue.

Learning Resources: Needle Felting: Sculpting People With Wool by Terese Cato and YouTube videos by Peggy Nyberg, Sara Renzulli, Gypsy Felting, and Teri Jackson. For clothes, I also consulted Finishing the Figure: Doll Costuming, Embellishments, Accessories by Susanna Oroyan.

Step 1. Made a wire armature from 14 guage copper wire -- a 36" length for the head and body and an 18" length for the arms. (Image below.) This created an armature of 10." This heavy copper was tough to manipulate, so next time I'll go with the lighter 16 guage steel (which is often recommended). I got copper because that's what Home Depot had (in 6-strand cable).

Wire armature for felted doll, with bag of core wool

Step 2. Wrapped the armature in core wool* and began shaping it with a felting needle,* which transforms the fluffy wool into firm felt.

Step 3. The idea is that, once you have your shape, you begin adding layers of colored felt* to sculpt physical features and clothing. The face stymied me. I tried a realistic version (too lopsided), then a more abstract version (below, too stark). I added felt "enhancements" like eyeliner and eyebrows, but... ugly. She was not happy. (*Purchased from Felt Alive.)

Felted doll, ready for next step

I always struggle with my tendency toward literalness and lose track of my sense of play. So I forced myself to browse Pinterest till I found a whimsical model to inspire me. And I admitted that my felting skills were not up to subtle details yet. So her face was appliqued from scraps of wool fabric. Blue. And I felted blue wool to her scalp.

Step 4. Now she began to speak to me. And she didn't really relate to the fabrics I'd picked out that I thought were "watery" (drape-y silks and tie-dyes). No, she was not Water. She was Winter. I dragged out my box of previously felted old sweaters.

"Wilma" (or so she calls herself) fell in love with Jim's old ski sweater. So I made her a hat (from a cuff) and a coat (from a sleeve). Then we decided on jeans (from an indigo-dyed silk twill blouse) and white sweater (from an old sweater dress).

Again, I felt the tension between realism (the cute coat, hat, jeans, etc.) and folksy abstraction (stumps for hands). So I got out the book again and tackled hand-making. Success! A little large but... ski gloves. And very expressive.

We finished up with a pompom for her hat, frosty-sparkly hair (sewn on in loops, then cut), warm woolly boots, and a glass bead for jewelry.

Wilma turned out to have the gift of turning a frosty day warm. Her arms fall into a natural "how 'bout a hug" pose. And, really, who could resist?

Felted doll in winter clothes


THE SUDDEN SILENCE: A Tale of Suspense and Found Treasure (2015) Thailand: lovers of ancient treasure tangle with international black markets. Delia Rivera pulls Martin Moon back into the game and their quest turns deadly. In paperback and Kindle editions.

TRIBE OF THE BREAKAWAY BEADS: Book of Exits and Fresh Starts (2011) Time after time, Mary asks herself: Do I go or do I stay? She finds her power in her ancestors: Smart women turn discontent into action. An illustrated memoir in paperback and Kindle editions.

PASSION AND PERIL ON THE SILK ROAD: A Thriller in Pakistan and China (2008) The twin forces of revenge and redemption drive Nellie MacKenzie and Taylor Jackson on a crazed adventure into the heart of Central Asia. They grapple with issues of ethics, trust, rage, and bitter heartbreak -- as well as the intrigue of the international antiquities trade. In paperback and Kindle editions.



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All pages in this website by Susan Barrett Price are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. [The snowstorm image at the top of this page came from Wikipedia, under a Creative Commons license.]