Why Needle Felted Dolls range from Pricy to Affordable

laura lee burch needle felting
Goldilocks and the three bears

Lately I’ve been making fairy tale dolls, I first started making the dolls with pipe cleaner armatures then progresses to a bigger doll with a needle felted head and body with only pipe cleaner arms and legs. The pipe cleaner dolls (the basic pipe cleaner doll tutorial can be seen here: http://www.lauraleeburch.com/blog/2011/09/beddy-bye-dolls-tutorial-2/  are small and just the right size for small children to play with and they can be made in a reasonable amount of time (half an hour each), making them much cheaper to make and sell. The larger, more detailed dolls take a lot more time (about an hour each to needle felt, plus a half an hour to an hour more if they’re clothed). I think the larger dolls are cuter, but more expensive due to the amount of time it takes to needle felt, then sew the clothes for each one. I love these two types of pipe cleaner dolls because you can’t break them, they’re bendable, soft and made from natural materials (wool is bacterial and fire resistant!)

needle felting dolls

The larger needle felted dolls have many more details such as glass doll eyes, styled hair and more intricate, sewn clothes. I make the patterns for the doll clothes; I usually end up making a sample piece of clothing first which I make alterations to, then I revise the pattern, cut out the pieces, then sew the doll’s costume. I make the dolls first because I love the needle felting process and I save the sewing for later (when the mood hits me to sew).

Pipe cleaner dolls
Goldilocks & the Three Bears-Pipe Cleaner version

As I first started to make human style animal dolls (The three bears and the three little pigs for example), I struggled with the decision of whether to dress the animals or not. A friend of mine who worked in a Hallmark shop for years once told me that clothed teddy bears that had clothing or costumes sold better than non-clothed teddy bears, so I took that as a piece of important advice from someone who observed teddy bear sales because she used this information to place the bear orders for her very successful Hallmark store. This meant that if the urge to sew doll clothes didn’t come to me as my little animals stood there naked, I’d need to “just do it” and sew some clothes for the dolls. I like to sew, but only when I feel like it, just like cooking. I’ve left the smaller, pipe cleaner dolls unclothed (except Goldilocks of course) so that their price point stays low. I have quite a few more fairy tale dolls finished, just waiting for clothes! Back to work….



Flower Friends, Waldorf Dolls

Flower kids, wood and felt dolls

 The symbolism of flowers started in ancient times, usually linked to a religion or religious deities. Nature and Flowers were seen as a reflection of the divine in the Renaissance and Victorian times. Due to the social rules of Victorian era, feelings and expressing one’s self were frowned upon, so flowers were given emotional meanings and symbolismand were used to express one’s self in an accepted way. Expression with flowers evolved into a very complex language in Victorian times, the practice spawned books about the subject, for example Kate Greenaway’s Language of Flowers (1884) and the language of flowers is still practiced today. Flowers became adornments, decorative motifs, girls’ names and special gifts. Today, flowers are present in all the major events in our lives, birth, marriage, holidays, graduation, illness and death. 

rose girl
rose girl detail

 Flowers have been the subject matter for great artistic master pieces like Van Gogh’s Sunflowers series and Monet’s Waterlilies and inspiration for great poetry, for example: Wadsworth’s Wandered Lonely as a Cloud and William Blake’s Ah! Sunflower. 

Daisy girl

 Buying and Selling flowers have a world wide market, whole gardens are devoted to flowers, they are used in teas, some are used as spices, hops flowers are used to flavor beer and dandelion flowers are made into wine. 

Morning Glory girl

  Fun Flower Facts: 

  • The rose is the best known symbol of beauty and love.
  • Tulip bulbs can be used in stead of onions for cooking.
  • California is the source for 60% of all U.S.A. grown  fresh cut flowers.
  • The Titan Arum is the world largest and smelliest flower.


Buttercup kid

Forest Friends, Waldorf Dolls

Forest Friends, mini wooden/needle felted Waldorf dolls

I started making wooden/felted Waldorf dolls using a wooden base for each doll, a felt “outfit” and needle felted head covering and tail (if applicable). Forest friends seemed like a good place to start since the forest is  a familiar place to many of us and there are so many characters that live in the forest. As a little girl, I lived in a rural area of Indiana; my woodland adventures took place on my grandfather’s farm. As I created these dolls, I imagined all of the characters that fit into the forest group because I like to make groups of things.

Tree kid

My grandfather’s name was Forest and he adored nature. He delighted in sharing magical places with us and showing us the little things that make nature wonderful. My parents, siblings and myself boarded a hay wagon, pulled by a tractor driven by my grandfather; he navigated the forest, pointing out interesting sites like the old log cabin where he was born. I was amazed at the way he found his way through the trees, without a path or road, he knew his way through these forests from growing up in them. We stopped at a slate bed creek, deep in the woods; my grandfather jumped off the tractor and waded into the creek. My brother, sister and I followed him into the water.

Turtle kid
Turtle kid, back view

My grandfather fished out several tiny, brown lizards, he called mud puppies. Being a tom-boy, I loved all the “pets” that he brought to us; I was the proud “parent” of a menagerie of animals and reptiles . I put the mud puppies in a plastic cup and carried them home to my aquarium. Turtles were another favorite gift from my grandfather, my turtles lived in a big sandbox in our yard. On this particular woodsy outing, he continued to search in the creek.

Butterfly kid

My grandfather pulled several pieces of what looked like rectangular rocks out of the creek, he handed my brother, sister and I each a piece. These rocks were pieces of petrified wood, pieces of wood that had been in the water for so long they had turned to stone. We all got back on the wagon and my grandfather continued his nature tour.

Fox kid

Chugging through the woods on our hay wagon and tractor, my grandfather pointed out a huge hornet’s nests in the tree branches above and drove safely around them. We stopped a few times and turned off the noisy tractor to observe the wildlife that wondered by during which time my mother worried that we would get poison ivy standing in the tall grasses. It seemed much later than it really was in the sunfiltered forest, but once we hit the clearing, we realized that it was only midday.

Mushroom kids

We headed through the clearing back into the trees, being careful to close the gates behind us so the cows wouldn’t get out. We drove down a steep hill to the edge of the lake and stopped. My grandfather handed each of us kids a cane fishing pole he’d made for us, we baited our hooks with worms and set out to catch dinner. My dad caught most of the fish on his own pole by casting, once we had enough to eat my dad and I started cleaning and filleting the fish. My mother and grandmother cooked the fish over a campfire.

Rabbit kid

After dinner we swam in the lake and then everyone headed back to the farm house before it got dark. Smelling of lake water and mosquito spray, I tucked away my petrified rock and made sure my mud puppies were o.k. , I laid in the big feather bed listening to the crickets chirp before I fell fast asleep, exhausted from my adventure in the forest.

Rabbit kid, back view