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.

12 thoughts on “notes on stuffing

  1. My second big box of wool from West Earl just arrived at my doorstep today. I kept thinking about the Amish woman you visited at the store when I was on the phone placing my order. Was it her? I guess so!

  2. It is very frustrating being creative sometimes isn’t it. I suppose part of being creative is being challanged with the products we use from time to time. I have a problem with cardstock. I am really fussy about the type of cardstock I use. Some of it just doesn’t fold nice and crisply. Good luck with experimenting with new types of stuffing!

  3. I’ve recently had the same issue. I’ve been using Mountain Mist for years and loved it, but recently it has changed and is very stiff, sort of scratchy, and hard to work with. I also use lots of wool stuffing which has seemed pretty standard over the years but I’m due for a new batch so we’ll see… sigh…why do they mess with what works fine?!

  4. Mimi, I just started using bamboo fill ( you can buy it an Joanne’s), and I like it. It stuffs pretty hard, more like woold would do, I guess. It is messy (lint pickup needed) but oh so pleasant to work with – very silky feeling. Also, it is not puffy. This fiber is made in the USA, and of renevable material. Of course, it is pricier than regular synthetic fills, but they always have coupons there for 40% off, so maybe it can work for you.

  5. Mimi, I can relate – a few months ago I bought a large amount of toy stuffing, but it is terrible, I don’t know what it is supposed to be used for – it’s both far too loose and bouncy but also has hard lumpy bits! Ah well, this is proof to me that you can’t buy unless you’ve handled it first:) I used to make tiny teddy bears and would use glass beads to get them very firmly filled. I like the idea of using wool clippings.

  6. West Earl wool batting changes all the time. Maybe it will change back to what you liked about it in the first batch. The second batch sounds perfect for what I like to make and how I use it- rolled around a chopstick. The long fibers sound dreamy . I hope they still have some! I try to purchase smaller amount through the seasons, just in case a batch is not to my liking.

    The oily or slippery polyester stuffing is probably silicon coated. Polyester stuffing also comes in short and long staples and different deniers. It’s frustrating when the quality you are used to changes, isn’t it.

    The price of polyester fibers are directly tied to the price of oil, since they are petroleum resin based. It’s no wonder the quality has gone down. : (

  7. Thanks for this information on stuffing. I have a question: I have been trying to track down the collective name for the wool scraps, thread bits, yarn pieces that are leftover from projects. I collect them and use them in different ways and would really like to ‘remember’ what they are called. There is a term – but I have forgotten it. Can anyone help?

  8. Found you on whip-up — wow! Your blog rocks. Thank you!

    I got some non-spinnable wool scraps nearly free from the shepherd down the road. It was mostly second clippings, so the fibers were too short for good spinning. Some of it was already felted and there were a few clumps with too much vegetable matter to bother reclaiming. I wouldn’t have bought it from a store, and there was some work involved and a lot of waste, but it worked out great for me.

    The bamboo stuffing Vesna mentioned sounds great — I’ve never seen it at my Jo-Ann’s, though. Rats and mice.

    I will have to read through more of your blog, as you’ve probably already dealt with cotton stuffing. I like it because it packs hard.

  9. I have made many stuffed toys, and I have used old nylons (pantyhose) for stuffing. The toys dry quickly after washing, the nylons are free – just snip into managable pieces, and use the waistband (and control top) for other uses (big elastic bands are great for holding over stuffed scrapbooks together). I have kept my light coloured stockings separate, for use in pale dolls. Polyester batting wrapped around the nylons can reduce bumps if you are stuffing bigger items like pillows. Try shredding thin cottons too.

  10. I am so excited to see this thread! I love keeping it all recycled.

    I want to try Earl Mill when I run out of the huge garbage bag of polyfill at a discount fabric store in SF on Mission and 17th that I just got. I should have a holiday line that will feature wool stuffing.

    The other possibility, that I like even better, is wool fiber reclaimation, a topic which was in one of the earlier comments someone was discussing. I found this company through one of the comments on a blog. His material for the mixed colors currently runs about 2.45/lb! It is coarser, and not good for fine stuffing, but looks good for general use. Tell him fixedgeargal sent you.

    Paul L. Dunster
    Washtucna Fiber Regeneration
    P.O. Box 458
    Washtucna, WA 99371 0458

  11. Pingback: Softie Making: resources for making handmade softies » Blog Archive » Tip #6 Notes on Stuffing by Mimi Kirchner

  12. Beaverslide Drygoods has a quilt batt that is domestic. They have a web presence. Also, Frankenmuth woolen mills sells quilt bats and these have worked well for me for pillow dolls. I like the wool stuffing not only for the warmth and the weight, but also because needlefelting on the surface of the doll is quite successful if the doll is stuffed with wool. This seems to hol true even if the doll is not made of wool fabric. You have a great blog, and I really admire your dolls.

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