Monday, February 26, 2007

Needle Sculpting Cloth Faces

Have you ever wondered how to transform a cloth doll head into a fully featured, three-dimensional face with detailed nose, eyes and smile? It's done with a needle and thread. There is lots of information out there about how to do it. I'm not posting about the technique; rather I want to show you something exciting that I discovered today.

For those of you who have been needle sculpting for a while, you know that you need to use a long needle, which can reach from the back of the head and through to the front. Traditionally, you can use a long dollmaker's needle. However, it's a bit on the thick side, and can leave hole marks in the fabric. Doesn't make for a very pretty face!

Most of us have been using John James Long Darner needles instead- particularly size #7. The needles are thinner, and don't really leave holes. Of course, using 200-thread count cotton fabric helps- it's more forgiving and the stitching doesn't tend to leave holes as much- but still.
In any case, as far as I know, these darner needles have been the standard for needle sculpting. But, they aren't as long..... oh well, that's what there is- and we make do.

Today I discovered something wonderful.

I was in a sewing store and noticed that they sold beading needles. These needles are very, very thin. So thin, that you can pass them through small seed beads.
Well, that's great. I've got lots of [ordinary] beading needles at home. But here's the kick- this shop also had LONG beading needles. Longer than darning needles, and almost as long as dollmakers needles! And, very thin. I had NEVER seen that before.

Take a look at these two needles. Look at the difference. The top is the beading needle, and is actually thinner than the John James on the bottom. The size is not accurate in the picture- in actuality, the darner needle is a bit more than 2.25" in length. The long beading needle- it measures 4". Now that's a big difference!!!
Have you ever seen this in the States? I don't think you have. I searched and searched on the internet for such a thing, and have never found it. Is it available in other countries? I don't know. But if so, I hope you'll buy one!

This was probably the "find of the year" for me.
I bought a whole package!

Note: The doll you see above is called RUTH. She now lives in Arizona with her best friend, Pam. Pam is one of those special like-minded creative people I have met and befriended over the internet.

I am not able to teach needle sculpting on my blog, because it is so much work to post all those pictures! However I do have a wonderful class available. Ruth is that class. It actually includes a complete tutorial about needle sculpting and coloring a face. She also happens to be pregnant, which is a very interesting pattern. If you'd lik
e to make her, please click here for details. Click on the photo to enlarge.


  1. Wow, that really looks like a great find. How strong is it compared to the #7s? I find that after I finish with one head my needle is nice and curved. Probably because I bend it with such force. At any rate I'll have to keep an eye out for this super long beading needle in the stores. Thanks! :-)

  2. These needles are sharper and thinner- but probably not as strong. I haven't tried it yet, but I have a few in case one breaks!

  3. I picked up July's Soft dolls & Animals mag and found Ruth to be a fun doll to make for my sister...who admittedly has SEVEN kidlettes (several adopted) but I know this doll will be a great addition to her BIG family. Thank you for sharing your pattern and passion. :)


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