Clara How-to part 1: Ringlets!

Let's start out with… I'm no expert. Honestly, I faked my way through this. I think it turned out cute, not too too hard and I hope it'll hold up well. It'll definitely be worse for wear after being played with but ringlets aren't exactly ever practical are they? I always use yarn for doll hair because I like the look of it but also because it's easy to find. I use Brown Sheep Company's Lamb's Pride wool/mohair yarn on most of my dolls and that's what I used for Clara. Wool roving or some other sort of doll hair may be way easier to manipulate into ringlets. I don't know. There may be more info on that on art doll forums or somewhere. Feel free to post any info you find here in the comments!

Caveats, Warnings, Info

I would strongly suggest reading through the entire directions before starting, to see if this is for you.

I mentioned in my last post that this is not a polished & tested how-to but rather a brain dump of how I did this. As such, it might not be suited to everyone but if you're willing to improvise – go for it!

Another caveat, this is an adaption for a pattern I have available in the shop — Elise/Elsa Elf — and not a complete how-to for the dolls.

How I got from A to B

I had a few misses during ringlet trials. My big idea was to wrap the yarn around a big fat knitting needle to make the ringlets. First I tried covering the needles with brown fabric and then spraying that fabric with glue and then winding the yarn hair around sticking it to the fabric. That worked like a charm, very sturdy ringlet, but there was no bounce, no give, they were super stiff. They wouldn't bend around the head. Then I tried just wrapping the yarn around the knitting needle and sewing the yarn together along one side, and then both sides. Both times it was just a flop. When slid off the needle they immediately fell flat against each other. They were still in circles but flat. And the one side sewn up was a twisted spiral mess. These are the flops, left to right – glued to fabric, sewn up both sides, sewn up one.

So then I went to a double layer idea and this is how I did the ringlets I have now. The bottom layer is coated in a white glue/water mixture and then a second dry layer of yarn is wrapped on top. The glue layer keeps the ringlet's form and the top layer is the pretty soft hair layer. After the glue is smashed and cracked the ringlets would end up long super loose spirals so I hand sewed them together up the side so that they'll keep their shape.

I used size 13, 15 and 17 needles. I'm lousy with knitting needles (garage sale score!) so this wasn't a problem for me but if you don't have a lot of needles on hand you will have to do your ringlets in shifts.

How many and how long: I made 11 ringlets ranging in size from 5.5" – 17". Here's the exact breakdown (9", 3 – 5.5", 10.5", 16", 14", 12", 6", 17" & 14") About half of these are sewn to head folded in half. This is one of those times where you'll have to wing it. You'll want to make a bunch of ringlets and then play around with them on the doll's head to see how best they fit.

The steps for making ringlets

supplies: waxed paper, aforementioned knitting needles, paint brush, white glue, yarn (ignore that tape, he snuck in there).

1. Wrap your needle in waxed paper and dab a little glue under edge to keep it closed. Start wrapping yarn around needle neatly and evenly, wrapping until you get to the desired length (see above). Do not cut the yarn when you're finished.

3. Mix some white glue with water, about 1 part glue to 2 parts water. Using the paint brush, coat your ringlet with the glue mixture on all sides making sure it's nice and covered, letting it sink into the yarn.

4. Wrap a second layer, neatly and evenly over top of the glued layer until you reach the end. Leave a long tail of yarn, about 20" and cut. Now they need to dry overnight and they'll be ready to sew up the side the next day.

5. The last ringlet making step is to shore up the side of the ringlet with some stitches. Using a tapestry needle and your long yarn tail, insert your needle between yarn rows 2 and 3. You'll have to poke through the stiff glued layer. Bring the needle out 2 or 3 rows up the ringlet and then back through ringlet where you went in. Continue in this manner, stitching every 2/3 rows together until you reach the end. No need to knot off but leave whatever yarn tail you have left – this will be what you will use to attach to the doll's head.

Okay, digest that. Please feel free to ask questions! And I'll be back this afternoon with the rest of the hair instructions, and how-to's for the dress (easy) and shoes (easy).

12 thoughts on “Clara How-to part 1: Ringlets!

  1. Seanna Lea says:

    I don’t know if it would be much easier or helpful, but Knitting Mochi has a pattern with ringlets of curls. The knitted curls are much less tight, so they might not give you the look you are hoping for.
    If you don’t have the book, the general idea is: Cast loosely on the (even) number of stitches you want the curl to be and then more tightly bind off in the following fashion: k2tog, k2tog, pass first stitch on the rh needle over the second. It makes a nice loose curl. I want to experiment with it to see how it works for tighter curls like the ones you have in your tutorial.

  2. Shelly says:

    My mom used to make ringlets for her tole painted dolls (back in the day!) out of twine by getting it wet, wrapping it around a dowel, then baking it until dry. The ringlets held quite nicely. I wonder if it would work with yarn and for this application?

  3. Allison says:

    A very long time ago, with my aunt when I was probably 10 years old, I made a doll who had ringlets. I think we used liquid starch like you’ve used glue here – dabbed it on after wrapping the yarn around dowels? and baked them in a low-temp oven? I didn’t find a link to any process like that when I did a cursory search, but… I remember that they held up well even when I played with the doll.

  4. Tina says:

    Hi there, the ringlets look great! For stitching them I was thinking that a suture (surgeons) needle could be helpful. They’re curved and you can get them in various sizes with a round edge or a ‘cutting’ (angled) edge. I used them a lot in my work as a textile conservator and once you get used to them they are really handy and make it much easier to do those sort of stitches. Ours were purchased from a supplier in London but I guess you can probably get them online. Love your blog and your work – so inspiring! x

  5. Christine W. says:

    I took a doll making class a little while ago and the teacher mentioned that you could make ringlets by baking yarn wrapped around a knitting needle at a low temp. I haven’t tried it yet myself though.

  6. Mimi says:

    Hi I’m so excited to make this doll tomorrow. I’ve bought all the supplies and I’m ready to roll. I just have one question. What do you mean by shore up? Could you show some more pics or describe more? I don’t get it at all.
    Thanks anyway!

  7. Debbie says:

    Here’s another idea if you don’t have any knitting needles. How about wooden dowels? Knitting needles in the sizes you used, 13,15 and 17, are roughly equivalent to 5/16″, 3/8″, and 7/16″ wooden dowels. They usually come in pieces about 3ft long for less than a dollar each, so you could purchase two or three of each size for easily less than $10 and have plenty to make all of your ringlets at once. Most craft stores (like Michael’s or Hobby Lobby) will have all the sizes you need, and sometimes even Wal-mart will have them (but maybe not all the sizes). If not, try the hardware store.

  8. jennie lee says:

    Hi! I love your ringets, you can acheive the same/ similar results without glue at all by wrapping it around a knitting needle or a hanger wire spritzing with water till damp and baking (yes baking) on a cookie tray or pan for 300 degrees for 23 minutes.
    Wait till the needle or wire cools before unwrapping the wringlets. They will be curled like human hair. You can spritz some hairspray afterwards and they stay!
    This only works well on woolbased fiber yarn like merino wool etc. Cotton has less of a hold.
    I do this on my clay dolls.
    Hope it helps!

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