A good doll should be sturdy but cuddly, in addition, to being pretty or cute, of course. But pretty and cute wears thin if the doll can’t withstand the test of love and time. That is why I sew my dolls from 100% wool felt.
Although a lot of people are sewing children’s toys, ornaments and wearable art with felt, the most are sewn with a felt blend—a blend of felt and rayon. Felts with 20 to 35 percent wool are perfect for these projects and easy to find in a wide variety of colors. A number of sellers on Etsy offer and the Internet offer wool felt blends. Wool Felt Central is a great place to start.
However, for the dolls I cannot use the blend. Wool felt blends stretch more easily and the doll would not hold its shape while stuffing. I tend to stuff most of their body parts tightly and the blend could start to pull and rip at the seams. After being packed with wool stuffing, the doll’s body and limbs are closed with ladder stitch which involves a lot of yanking with sturdy upholstery thread. I am not sure the blend would hold up to the pulling and yanking and sometimes, redoing, and more pulling and yanking.
Which brings me to another important quality of 100% wool felt. It is forgiving. I can sew on a set of eyes and after a day of living with a doll’s face realize the eyes are not quite right. The stitching for the eyes can be undone, the eyes moved, the small holes fill in and the new face beams.
Pure wool felt will not pill. As it ages it does get a soft even downy halo, and for me this seems a bit like children’s skin.
For cleaning, I recommend periodically running a lint roller over your doll. If she gets a spill on her then the dry cleaner, Woolite or a Tide Pen will work..
Felt comes in different weights, the most common being 1mm thick and 3mm thick. The 3mm is too thick for sewing dolls.
Pure wool felt is not inexpensive. It averages $60 a yard, but I think worth it. You just need layout thoughtfullyand cut carefully.
I have some wonderful sources for pure wool felt.
Purl Soho offers Woolfilz Felt from Holland in large squares, yardage and color coordinated bundles.
A Childs’s Dream also offers a similar pure wool felt from Holland.
Weir Crafts offers both 1mm and 3mm as well as felt blends.
On Etsy I have been buying felt from: