Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Making Yarn Doll Hair using a Wig Cap

Wig cap sewn in place on a Crochet Bleuette Doll.

Sewing on the Wig Cap

The head is already fastened to the neck and now it's time to fit the wig cap. The cap is made with the hair color, in this case blonde (Vanna's Choice, Mustard color), using a hook one size larger than that used for the skin (Lily Cotton, Cream). The yarn I've used for hair is nice and stretchy, allowing me to mold the wig cap around the head.

I had the eyebrows in place but when I started to fit the wig cap I realized they were making me feel like the hairline had to recede too far, so I decided to remove them until later. That way I could fit the hairline where it belongs and add eyebrows where they need to be. Yes, it's a little harder to embroider eyebrows when the neck cavity isn't open, as that's where my yarn entered and exited, but there are ways to do a simple little line like an eyebrow on a closed head.

One problem I ran into was a slightly flattened top on the head. I wanted the head to be very tightly secured to the neck, and in snugging the head down into place, despite warnings not to, I managed to create a flat spot on top. I decided to simply stuff under the wig cap, taking care not to make the head too big or let it bulge oddly. The hair doesn't need to be attached through the scalp, only the cap. I used some fiberfill to carefully round the top of the head again. (In the end I used about half as much stuffing a shown.)

As to the fit of the wig cap, it's a personal choice deciding how large you want it to be. I find that it usually looks oddly small when you hold it up, but it stretches out like a 1950s style swimming cap when you push it onto the head. So don't be alarmed if it looks way too small--unless it's made of cotton.

If you use cotton for it, be sure to carefully crochet the shape of the head in a slightly larger size. I suggest multiple and frequent fittings to be sure you're on track.

As a rule, I make the cap large enough to sit fairly close to the ears. With polyester yarn you can even shape the hairline a bit, tugging it down into place at the neckline behind the ears.

I pin the cap in place in the back and front with large pins so I can stretch it to fit. The reason for making a wig cap is to cover the skin color, especially when you have dark hair on lighter colored skin. It also gives more volume to the hair.

I simply stitch it in place with a blunt-nosed crochet needle, going around the edge of the cap with a strand of hair yarn cut one and a half head circumferences long. As you begin stitching, leave about a 2" tail. Be sure your stitches grab the scalp, and try not to stitch into the very edge of the cap, in order to leave the last row of crochet Vs free for attaching the hair.

The wig cap stitched in place. 
Tie your yarn off and bury the ends in the head. I don't think you need to tack it anywhere else on the head. Just try not to picture the five-year-old swinging the doll by the hair...

Applying Hair

The hairline will look much more natural once the hair is attached around the edge. Most important to me is understanding which way the hair will lie on the head. This can determine how convincing the hair ends up looking.

Different kinds of hair require different consideration, of course, but for this doll I'm making straight Caucasian hair. I'm keeping it very simple, not separating the yarn into strands, which gives a bit more texture to the hair.

I discovered that whichever way I PULL the yarn through the wig cap is the direction it lies in place. For instance, for this doll I want bangs pulled forward over the face, The locks need to come down over the forehead, while those behind the bangs will lie flat to either side.

I figure out where the lock of hair needs to be, then poke my hook under it and check to make sure that the direction I will PULL is the way it should go.

The direction you PULL the yarn determines the hair's direction.
The two tails of yarn will be pulled through the loop.
The loops lock the tails in place, holding them down. 

Here you see the first row along the hairline, creating the bangs.

To be continued...

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Bleuette Doll In Progress- Head, Face, Hair

I've made quite a few amigurumi creatures recently, but only one that was a doll. The pattern was cute but I was less than pleased with the outcome, mostly because of the yarn colors I ended up using. I was anxious to get started and used some beige yarn I had on hand. That made the skin color too dark for the yellow hair I chose, giving her an odd, over-tanned look. Experience is such a good teacher, isn't it? If I hadn't used half a skein of yarn, I'd cut her hair off and give her dark brown hair instead, but it doesn't look like that is going to happen.

Instead I decided to make a second doll. I analyzed what it was about doll #1 that didn't please me, and realized that I wanted one with more authentic little girl proportions. I was delighted when I found a free pattern for a Crochet Bleuette doll.

I like the history of the design, even though this is a contemporary take on it. Still, how charming is it that the original Bleuette was made in France from 1905-1960? This new design in crochet is an excellent reinterpretation.

A doll's face is critically important, don't you think? I wanted little girl eyes, and after doing some Internet research I decided I wanted to keep them large, simple and colorful, but somewhat realistic looking. I embroidered both eyes before I realized they were too low!

After pouting for a while, I wrote that off to experience, turned the head around to the other side, and did another set of eyes, recalling from my drawing days that eyes are generally in the middle of the head, although kids' eyes are just a little lower than that. Then I carefully picked out the first set of eyes, knowing the area would be covered by hair.

The second go made me very happy, so the experience was worth it. Let's face it, I'm in that stage of development where if you paid me a minimum hourly wage, this doll would have to be priced at $500! I bet I've redone each one of her various anatomical parts three times over. Maybe four. Not to mention her eyes and hair.

Yeah, if experience is the best teacher, I'm on the steep part of the learning curve and about to fly off the track. But as I said to my husband, it's tedious but oddly satisfying to do. When my fingertips get sore, I take a day off.

I consider this an art, not a science. The fact that her eyes are each a tiny bit different works. I like the color and shape, and especially the light catches, made with three stitches of white floss, which makes them look a little more realistic.

Then I started on her hair. Boy, hair takes a lot of time! First I did a lot of Internet research, exploring a lot of information that's shared by this very generous community. After looking at wigs made of human hair, acrylic or mohair, I decided I needed to make something at home rather that buy one. I saw straight hair and curly hair; buns, pigtails, ponytails; yellow, brown, green, purple, brown, and black hair.

As you can see, in the end I chose black yarn, which I like with her fair skin color and blue eyes. I crocheted a wig cap, so her white scalp wouldn't show through. I used a larger hook and made the top part of the original head design for the wig cap. Then I split my 4-ply black yarn into two 2-ply strands and threaded them through to make this loose, fun, layered hairstyle.

I thought I might pull her hair back into a ponytail or pigtails, so when I designed the hair I made sure the locks went all the way around the outside edge. I began with the part in front, actually placing the bangs first. Then I made several rows down the sides of her head, angling some strands forward and some back, as you can see. Once the top half of her head was covered, I started rows from side to side all the way down the back. Oh, and I'd say they were placed two rows apart, not in every single crochet.

So this is the head complete with hair. I like the look, so far. Keep it simple, I kept reminding myself, and I think I did.

I'll add more steps as I go along. Stay tuned.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Amigurumi Toys: Pig, Bunny, Mouse and Octopus

I've had a lot of fun crocheting amigurui toys for my little friends and my granddaughter! Thanks to the many designers, whose helpful free patterns are linked above my creations. 

(I made mine bigger, about 3" in size, by scaling up the yarn and hook size.)

(I made mine MUCH larger, maybe 4" in size, by scaling up the yarn and hook size.)

Crocheted Yellow Sunhat, Toddler Size

For my granddaughter's fourth birthday, which is in July, I crocheted a silly-fun sunhat for her. I liked the yellow yarn, one of the crayon colors.

Here's the pattern I used: Free Ruffled Brim Sunhat Pattern… with thanks to the designer. It was a little bit big, but I'm sure she'll grow into it. In the meantime it will look great on a teddybear, no doubt.

The flowers were just experiments, and I honestly don't recall how I did them. I tied a piece of yarn to mark the center back, which makes it easier for kids to get it on right.

"The Day the Crayons Quit" Amigurumi Crayon Toys

For our granddaughter's fourth birthday I decided to crochet the crayons from the book "The Day the Crayons Quit," by Drew Daywalt. It looks like a very cute book, and since art runs in the family and our granddaughter loves to draw, it was a natural choice. Her daddy got the book for her, and I got to be creative. 

These four were quite fun to do, and certainly not hard to make. I used several patterns showing how to make colored pencils, and adapted them with a few changes. Here's one I found most helpful: Free Crochet Pattern: Colored Pencils , with thanks to the designer! Once you get going with amigurumi it's pretty simple to make a tube shape. 

The expressions were most fun to make, though I kept them simple, as much like the original drawings as I could. I used embroidery floss for the arms and legs, making a little loop as a hand, and knotting the legs. I also added knots near the body so that the floss wouldn't slip through too far, for fear it would tangle.

 These characters just made me laugh, and I treasure a photo of the grandgirl holding them happily!

Queen Anne's Lace Scarf

You can find the free pattern here: Queen Anne's Lace Scarf With many thanks to the designer, who also provdes a video to watch!

This is a simple design that works up quickly and is fun to do. I plan to make one in a fall color to use myself, since these two were given away to friends. 

Here's a detail shot to show you just how pretty it is. I particularly liked the slight shine to this yarn. It was a "find" at Savers! I love it when a nice yarn turns up at a reasonable cost like this.