Sunday, June 12, 2011

Curly Yarn Doll Hair Tutorial

When I decided to crochet a River Song I knew that I had to get her hair right. You can't have River Song without a crazy mass of curly hair. I had seen a couple of different ways of making curly "hair," including crocheting it and unraveling it the next day, but it wasn't quiet the ringlets that I wanted. 

After a little Googling some and thinking about the general properties of acrylic yarn some I went with dowels. Like these: 


These are twelve inch crafting dowels that I picked up at JoAnn's for I want to say about a dollar for ten of them. I bought two packs because I'd always rather have a few extra than not enough. I can't remember for certain but I think I went with the 3/4" diameter dowels, but of course you can use whatever size you need. The curls will be as big as the dowel is so pick something suited to your project.

You wrap the yarn in a tight single layer from one end of the dowel to the other. There's not any real method to this. I started some of them with a slip knot but some of them I just wrapped over the end until it held itself in place. Every few wraps I would push the yarn down to get it as tightly packed on to each dowel as possible. I tucked the ends under one of the previous rows and pulled tight, but they always came a little undone. 


Next you take your pile of yarn wrapped dowels and stick them in your sink, or a big bowl or somewhere they can be completely submerged and soak them in water overnight. I had to put a plate on top of mine because the air trapped in the yarn and wood kept making them float. 

After the yarn wrapped dowels have had their soak squeeze most of the water off of them and layer them on a baking sheet. You don't have to get them dry, we're getting to that, but getting some of the extra water off speeds up the next step. You're going to bake the yarn. Yes really. No it's not scary. There was never any smoke or even really weird smells. I baked mine at around 200 F for close to an hour. You need to use a low temperature and check them every ten or fifteen minutes. Acrylic will melt, but it has to get completely dry and then get hot before it does that and that takes a while. Trust me, it was really easy and I didn't hover anxiously over the oven at all. (*shifty eyes*)

After the dowels have cooled enough to handle you get to the fun part. Grab one end of the yarn, probably the loose end that never secured right, and start pulling.


Ta-da! You have wonderful little ringlets of yarn. The curl stays. I played with it like a cat would, pulling it and letting the curl bounce back. It's more fun than it has any reason to be. 


This is the pile of yarn curls that I got off of two dowels that were leftover from River Song's hair. It took me close to all twenty dowels to make her hair. I usually latch hook longer hair than I'll need on to a doll first and then trim it to be the right length and shape. I found with the curly hair I was able to do fewer rows that I normally would. It takes up a nice amount of space. I also really liked the way she turned out with using two colors of yarn for her hair. 

I hope some of you will try this next time you need curly yarn for a project. The dowels are reusable and I'm looking for an excuse to make something with curly hair again. It does take a little time, mostly wrapping the yarn (I did it while watching tv) and waiting for it to soak and bake dry, but I think the results are definitely worth it.

26 comments:

  1. That is really awesome. I want to try now!

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  2. Thanks for sharing your technique. I look forward to trying this!

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  3. thank you so much! i am trying this with bigger diameter dowels, to make larger curls, we'll see how it works!

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  4. I wanted to thank you for this idea and this blog with instructions. I looked for 'curly' yarn everywhere and by accident stumbled upon your blog. Trust me folks, it works like a charm! Thank you thank you!!!!

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    1. I am making a Merida cloth doll for my Granddaughter for Christmas. I tried your method. The result was curly at the end, but not in the middle. Can you tell me what I did wrong? I am willing to persist.

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    2. Thank you so much! Just what i needed!

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  5. I SO should have figured this out before now... since I do something similar when making hair decorations for my girls. I wanted curly yarn hair for some yarn dolls I'm gonna make for them, this will be perfect! I did want to mention... try using wood clothes pins to secure the ends. That's what I use for ribbon... I bet it would work here too! :)

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  6. I WILL try this, how cool! What pattern did you use to make the Rose doll?

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  7. Hey, love your work.

    Please could you contact me either rivers_diary@live.co.uk or via Twitter @Rivers_Diary.

    Many thanks

    River

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  8. I know this post is a year old, but I am so glad I found this. It worked perfectly! I didn't leave it overnight in water but probably about 7 or 8 hours during the day and then it probably took mine about an hour and a half to dry. The curls turned out awesome!

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  9. Did you really use acrylic yarn? 100% acrylic? I've had mine baking for nearly two hours, and not only is it still wet, there's no curl!

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  10. I love this! I've looked everywhere for a good tutorial. You explained this so well. thank you.

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  11. What's the best way to attach the hair to the doll? Thanks for the great tutorial, it worked decently for me.

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  12. While considering to personally make a River Song doll, I needed this tutorial. I find it quite hilarious that your blog was the first to show up when typing "how to make curly hair for a doll"!

    Thank you!

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  13. Great Tutorial, Going to try this now

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  14. Hi, I'm writing a pattern for Merida from Brave. I would like to post a link to this page in the tutorial on how to do the hair, would that be alright with you?

    thanks!

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  15. hello I tried it with red heart black yarn and it changed color do you know if that's suppose to happen?

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  16. I used this method years ago (in the 70') for making hair for dolls. The only thing I did that was different is I used metal knitting needles, they worked great. You can pick these up at most Thrift stores fairly cheap.
    This time I am making a sock monkey, grand daughter wants it to have hair!! Curly, that is...

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  17. thank u so much!i was desperate to get the nice curls.now i can get it!:)

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  18. Great tutorial! I'm going to try it tomorrow, I have heaps of knitting needles (I no longer knit... but am hooked on crochet!).
    BTW, something I 'discovered' making wired jewellery when I got tired and bored endlessly wrapping thin wire around said knitting needles, I dug out my old cordless screwdriver with a drill bit attachment. This is how; insert your dowel/needle and one end of the yarn in the chuck, tighten and holding the yarn loosely so it runs freely, turn the screwdriver on slow setting and voila, done in a few seconds flat!
    Caution, don't try this with a drill, it's much too fast!

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    1. I wish I woulod have seen your post sooner about using a drill...lol....I wound yarn on 16 rods by hand. I used boiling water then let them air dry...do you think the curls will stay?

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  19. Great tutorial! This is the best method to curl the hair for a doll. I will try it. it's really very nice post.
    Human hair extensions

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  20. Hey I was just wondering how long the curls last. Do they ever fall?

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  21. Have you tried drying in the microwave?? 5- 10 seconds per try. Much less time!!! and less energy!!! I use it for paper, papermache etc.

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  22. Could you please tell me where I can find the pattern for River Song? I am more than happy to pay for it. Thanks

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