The doll Eli, made over

Mad in Pursuit Notebook

Eli: Doll Refresh Becomes a Transformation


I was thrashing around for an early winter project. My head is into dollmaking, but no new ideas gained traction. I decided to refresh a needle-felted doll I made in early 2016: Eli.

Problem. Eli was my first attempt to needle-felt a face, slavishly following directions from a book. He had some character but was not handsome. I did make him a fine wool cloak with a hood. This covered up a lot of imperfections and made him look like a mendicant preacher.

The other day, when I pulled off his cloak, I was appalled at the half-assed job I did. When I looked back at my notes, I found a tale of frustration and a final burst of let's just get this done. OMG.

Plan: If I could soften his garish face, I would upgrade the clothes under his cloak and see what I could do about his awful hair.

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Results. One thing let to another.

  • I added pale wool to cover his lips and brow and to tone down the orange complexion.Gave him a simple mouth.
  • I made a patchwork of felted suit wool as his outfit -- pure whimsy.
  • I gave the antique leather baby shoes a neatsfoot oil treatment and replace the disintegrating laces.
  • The hair -- oy. I tuned in to a wonderful video on making hair for needle-felted dolls from Living Felt. It gave me just the right confidence to turn a ball of yarn (abandoned crochet project) into a glorious mane. Used a bit of the same yarn for new eyebrows.

[Continued below the images]

Eli head, before and after

Doll Eli, before and after

His adorable cloak doesn't fit right anymore, but he doesn't need it. I gave him an antique belt buckle and more embellishments may come along. And I have to remember to fix that scrunched up finger. I like that he can stand on his own two feet.

Learning. Working with upcycled materials has taught me that it's okay to take something "finished," pull it apart, and reinvent it. Eli is a good example of this. I fall in love with my dolls, scarves, quilts, etc., but they shouldn't be too precious. Ripping them apart is about humility, but it's also about confidence. What did I learn between 2016 and 2022? I know my materials better. I'm a little more patient with new skills. And it's always good to be overstocked with supplies: fabric scraps, yarn, neatsfoot oil, cord, antique trinkets, etc., etc.

Maybe in a few more years Eli will get another reincarnation.

Till next time... keep learning!


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Books from Mad in Pursuit and Susan Barrett Price: KITTY'S PEOPLE: the Irish Family Saga about the Rise of a Generous Woman (2022)| HEADLONG: Over the Edge in Pakistan and China (2018) | THE SUDDEN SILENCE: A Tale of Suspense and Found Treasure (2015) | TRIBE OF THE BREAKAWAY BEADS: Book of Exits and Fresh Starts (2011) | PASSION AND PERIL ON THE SILK ROAD: A Thriller in Pakistan and China (2008). Available at Amazon.