How to Make Spun Cotton Doll Heads

Written by jane schmidt
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How to Make Spun Cotton Doll Heads
Beautiful spun cotton doll heads have the look of delicate porcelain. (Michael Blann/Photodisc/Getty Images)

The tradition of making spun cotton toys and trinkets dates back to the early 20th century. This craft originated in Eastern European countries and spread to the United States in the form of durable and whimsical Christmas tree ornaments. Today, spun cotton dolls are making a comeback among people who love the vintage look and feel of the art form. While bodies are made from a wire armature, making spun cotton doll heads requires a different technique.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Small foam balls
  • Craft knife
  • Wooden dowel
  • Craft glue
  • Spun cotton
  • Hairspray
  • Acrylic paint
  • Small paintbrushes
  • Yarn
  • Fabric remnants

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Carve the foam ball to roughly resemble the shape of a human head. Make the ball flat and pointed at the bottom for the doll's chin, with indentations for eyes and a protruding area for the nose.

  2. 2

    Put a dab of glue on the end of the wooden dowel piece and insert it at the base of the head-shaped foam ball, where the doll's neck will be. Let dry.

  3. 3

    Holding the end of the wooden dowel, spread craft glue generously over the head-shaped foam ball and at the top of the dowel where it meets the foam.

  4. 4

    Pinch a piece of spun cotton against the glue-covered part of the dowel and hold it there firmly with your thumb.

  5. 5

    Working from the dowel upwards, wrap the doll head armature with spun cotton pieces, pulling the cotton snugly and using your fingers to press it into the glue. Keep wrapping until you reach the top of the ball.

  6. 6

    Spray the doll head liberally with hairspray and set aside until it's almost dry.

  7. 7

    Roll the doll head gently between your palms to smooth the cotton. Press the cotton into the carved indentations in the foam to help accentuate the doll's facial features. Let the glue and hairspray dry completely.

  8. 8

    Paint eyes, lips and cheeks using acrylic paint and a thin paintbrush. Use a dabbing motion to paint effectively with the grain of the spun cotton.

  9. 9

    Glue yarn or fabric on the top of the doll's head to form hair.

  10. 10

    Attach the doll head to a body form with the wooden dowel.

Tips and warnings

  • Carve different face shapes from foam ball bases to make multiple doll heads.
  • Use fabric, miniatures or other findings to fashion hats and accessories for your doll heads.
  • When gluing spun cotton onto foam ball, keep your fingers clean or else they could start sticking to the cotton. Keep a clean damp cloth handy for wiping if this becomes an issue.

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