notes on stuffing

When I post photos of a doll that I really like, it is hard to do the next post and push it down towards the bottom of the page!

Some notes on stuffing. I am very particular about the stuffing I use. I am brand loyal for the most part. I want to know what I am dealing with when I open a new bag. One of my craft mantras is “limit your variables”. In other words, get to know your materials and happily experiment, but don’t be adding so many new things all the time that if something goes wrong, you won’t be able to identify what is the problem.

The first thing I learned about stuffing is that there are 2 varieties of polyester type stuffing. One type feels bouncy, slippery or oily- those are different ways I’ve heard it described. No matter how much you stuff a piece, it will still be squeezable. I think this is probably good for kids toys and pillows. It is what is most available at the big craft supply stores. I use a different kind. It feels “dry” to me, not slippery. You can stuff a piece rock hard with it. You can make a creature stand on it’s legs using this type of stuffing. When I was making dolls with painted body parts, I could stuff them hard enough that I never worried about paint cracking. If you are in a store and the bags of stuffing have finger holes poked into them, you can be sure that someone was trying to figure out which kind of stuffing was in the bag.

I use Super Fluff, by Buffalo Batt. It comes in a loose roll and the fibers are combed in one direction so I can pull long tufts of it off the roll when I am stuffing a doll.

I’ve been stuffing more of my dolls with wool batt from West Earl Woolen Mills. I found the wool batting handled very much like the Super Fluff. I was happy. The top wool fluff is from my order of last September.

The lower wool is from the more recent batch I got.

Okay, so here is my current aggravation.  I have bought new supplies of both types of stuffing in recent months- 20 pounds of wool, 40 pounds of Super Fluff. I have started using them and imagine my surprise- both types of stuffing have changed… humph. You’d think that a highly manufactured item like polyester stuffing would be consistent over the years. The new batch is not as soft and somehow seems less refined. Is anybody else using Super Fluff? Have you noticed it? I am sure I will get used to it, but it was an unexpected surprise.

The wool is very different. In a natural product so it is not so unexpected. The 5 pounds I bought in September must have been some of the last of the domestic wool. The new order is from the Australian wool. The new wool is much softer, whiter and the fibers are longer… all sounds good, right? Well, it is very different to work with. The old wool stuffed like the polyester and the new wool just doesn’t. So, there will be a readjustment and a learning curve.

And here is another kind of stuffing I’ve tried- Back in September I asked if anyone knew about reclaimed wool stuffing. It seemed like an obvious product to me. Thank you to Lisa who left a comment on the post and directed me to a source.

Here is a photo of the recycled wool fiber-

I was able to use it for some of the cushion/pillow type dolls- like the tikis. It wouldn’t be good for small detail stuffing but worked fine for bigger things. There are 2 reasons that I won’t be ordering more. The main reason is that shipping it from Portland (area) Oregon to Boston (area) Massachusetts adds so much to the cost that it is prohibitive. The other (lesser) reason is that it is messy. The tiny wool bits got on everything. Actually the new wool is pretty messy too- I am working on that. Get out the sticky paper fuzz picker-upper.

The last kind of stuffing I use is a homemade kind- my wool scraps from projects-

I don’t use them in all the dolls, but when I do, it adds a nice firmness and weight- good in the swaddled babies, for instance. I just put a handful in the core and surround it by softer stuffing.