10 reasons to use Betty’s Doll Wool for Doll Makers

  1. CE Certification EN71

If you want to be a serious doll maker in the UK and the EU then you need to be aware of the CE certification of dolls. I’m not the CE police, but you need to use materials in doll making that are chemically safe for children.

Not all dyes are safe and with children’s tendencies to chew their softies you want to make sure you are using materials that are safe for them to chew.

At the moment only two of my skin tones come with the EN71 certificates (the test that proves they are safe for use in children’s toys). Since the same dyes are used in all the tones I know that all wools will pass the test, but this is a costly process.

If you CE certify your dolls and need the certificate for your files it is currently available simply be emailing me and asking for it.

2. CE Certification Flammability testing

Another of the CE tests for dolls is the flammability test. Wool is naturally a flame-retardant. Click Here for a test I did using an acrylic doll and a doll made from Betty’s doll wool.

3. CE Certification – Washability

Another test for CE certification is whether the doll will stand up to what a doll has to go through and even though wool is naturally a dirt deterrent and odour resistant it will sometimes need a good fling in the washing machine.

Betty’s doll wool is a super-wash wool, meaning it is machine washable.

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4. Naturally biodegradable and renewable

There’s a big demand today for natural products and many parents are looking for less plastic and more originality in their children’s toys. Wool is biodegradable, none of it will end up in landfill in thousands of years to come. Perhaps the thought of your hand-made dolls ending up in landfill is something you think will never happen and it’d be nice to think so.

I have a cloth cinderella doll I was given when I was a wee lass. I like to imagine she’ll be around forever because she knows all my childhood tales, secrets and dreams, but let’s be honest, once I’m gone, she’ll be thrown away. Although most of her is made from cotton, some of her clothing is acrylic, which will still be on the landfill heap when my nephews great grandchildren have been long gone.

5. Locally sourced helping small craftspeople and farms

The wool is made from the Cheviot breed of sheep, mostly gathered from smaller farmers, its journey from the farm as a fleece to the sorting centre in Bradford is where it starts its journey. From Bradford it travels about 15 miles to Huddersfield where it is turned into Yarn by a small family run mill, then I drive from my home about 25 miles away in Leeds to pick it up. I use another small family run dye house in Sheffield (about 30 miles away).

All in all, small family run craftspeople are benefitting throughout the whole process. No fat-cats, visas or passports needed in this small and locally sourced yarn.

Then from my little dye kitchen to your front door, which is probably the longest journey it’ll take.

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6. Made for doll makers by a doll maker

This isn’t wool made for clothing, every step of the process in making this wool was to make something so I could make the very best dolls I could. It’s the same wool that I used for my final project at university, it’s the same wool I used to make the dolls that go in the Northern Folk exhibition dolls and it’s the same wool that won me first place for wool innovation from the Worshipful Company of Woolmen.

It’s a wool I am passionate about produced for my passion for doll making.

7. Passing on the inspiration

I’m a bit of an enthusiast when it comes to the inspiring nature of dolls and doll makers.

I wholly believe that doll making is almost a spiritual exercise. These dolls become the tools children use to test out their dreams. Where would I be without Cinderella to tell my troubles to? Who would I become if I hadn’t been shown how to make dolls from old cigarette packets as a child? Would I be as good at cutting out if I hadn’t been bought a copy of Bunty with the weekly paper doll?

We are the dream makers, the ones who create the dolls who will be the secret keepers and inspirers of the next generation. Who will our doll owners be inspired to be through the dolls we bring into the world?

Betty’s wool comes in seven skin tones, each named after an inspirational woman of that skin colour because we believe so much in the power of the doll maker. We want the inspiration of the dolls to begin from the very moment you pick up your needles and crochet hook.

8. Raising your standards

Perhaps you’ve been making knitted and crochet toys for a while and you might even be trying to make money from it by opening up a shop online or having a local craft fair.

To be a success you need to be outstanding in what you do and a part of that is using the best materials you can find. Using wool over acrylic raised the level of skill in my own doll making. It’s helped me win awards and ultimately allowed me to do what I want in life, that’s making dolls.

I love talking to people about the dolls I make and I love being able to tell them that the whole doll is made from wool and explain the benefits of using a higher quality product.

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9. Gaining customers

We’re in a world where more and more people are asking questions about the making process and the effects materials have on the environment.

Many parents are moving away from the high street plastic and commercial. Dolls that look like their owners are becoming increasingly popular and with seven tones to choose from you can be even better at making that doll to be perfect for each customer.

10. Because you care

Whether you want to be the greatest Etsy doll maker or whether you’re making a doll for your own child, it’s important to consider the effects of your doll making. I keep saying I’m not a yarn snob and if you can only afford acrylic or just don’t believe in using wool that’s fine.

Knowing the process of your materials, knowing the minimal effect on the environment, knowing the benefits to small businesses along the making process are things that entice your customers to come to you. These are all things that modern parents care about and it’s something you should care about.

Inspirational Yarn – Betty’s Doll Wool

Over the past seven days I’ve introduced you to seven names that make up the seven skin tones of my doll wool.

Last year I was obsessively making dolls for my final university project, these Northern Folk dolls were a challenge to me, a doll maker, in whether I could produce a doll that was locally sourced, naturally made and inspired by local folk.

The main part of the dolls was the yarn that I used to crochet them with, at the time I used an acrylic wool. This is pretty much what 99.9% of knitted and crochet dolls are made up of.

The only skin tones I could find was a few browns and the only lighter skin tone was Sirdar Hayfield which is a budget acrylic yarn.

Over the last few years, and with the introduction of amigurumi, crochet doll making has increased in popularity and yet the shades of yarn remained the same.

I think one of the problems was yarn manufacturers thinking only in terms of clothing and in reality, who wants a flesh coloured jumper?

Another problem was the use of acrylic, I’m not a yarn snob, not at all, but we’re in a situation where we need to take a serious look at plastic and it’s effect on the world.

It seems crazy that the Media seem obsessed with our use of plastic straws and yet celebrate Christmas jumper day, a day when we all buy a new acrylic ugly jumper which we’ll wear only a handful of times before discarding.

So, It had to be done, I had to make a wool yarn in skin tones, just for my final university project, and I admit, at the time I had the intention of continuing to use acrylic after university because, well, not only am I not a yarn snob, but I am very much against yarn snobbery.

After months of testing dyes and wools and turning my kitchen into a dyers studio I found seven tones that I liked.

I chose the Cheviot sheep as a breed for the wool, being a Northern sheep breed, I might not be a yarn snob, but I’m certainly passionate about Northern quality.

I found a family run mill helping me keep big fat-cat companies as far away from the project as possible, and a local small dye company with a similar family feel. I can’t trace my wool back to the sheep, but pretty close. The farmers take the wool to Bradford, it’s spun in Huddersfield and using dyes from Sheffield I create the wool in Leeds. Even the pipe cleaners I used for the armatures came from a small factory in Huddersfield.

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It seems a shame to keep such a great wool all to myself, so after university was over, and I spent some time sorting out my health (for those who don’t know, I’ve done all this whilst being quite ill – No they still don’t know what’s wrong, but the last time I saw the Cardiologist they were thinking about heart failure, but don’t worry, I’m on the up!) I decided to manufacture the wool.

Naming the wool

As many knitters will know, yarn comes in colours and each colour had a name. So, I spent a long time trying to work out what to name the tones (I call them tones rather than colours because they are skin tones and it keeps us thinking we’re all equal in tones rather than separate as colours).

I saw tones named after food (strawberry, chocolate, honey) and tones named after drinks (Latte, Coffee) but it didn’t seem right, in fact it felt wrong.

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The above tone chart comes from Windsor and Newtons felt tip range… Putty! Who on Earth wants to describe themselves as Putty? Isn’t putty that off-white stuff you use on windows?

Then there was my personal feelings about dolls and doll making. There was so much research about the effects of dolls on children and I decided the whole doll making process had to be one of inspiration.

I can’t remember the day it happened, but after weeks and weeks of searching for tone names and looking at images of people from across the world. I decided on using names of people for skin tones. Each person had to be a woman of that skin tone who could be an inspiration to doll makers, doll collectors and most importantly players of dolls.

It was important that when a child held a doll  of a darker skin tone, they knew that there was no limits to who they could be in life. People like Mae Jemison, who had dreams of going into space as a child, tell the young children of today that their dreams can become reality, that no one has the right to quash the dreams of the young.

No one can stop a plus sized young girl like Shelby from being an athlete. Sports companies might not make plus sized athletic wear, thinner people might try their best to body shame larger children into dieting, but size doesn’t matter in our dreams and Shelby, with her Princess attitude proves just that.

Coming from wealth or coming from poverty, having two parents or none, having the best paid education, attending funded courses or learning later in life makes no difference in getting where you want to be in life.

I have the privilege of being a doll maker, it’s a magical job where I have the power to inspire the next generation simply by making the dolls that will inspire their dreams.

So here is the wool, ready to buy and inspire…

The seven shades will be available on my Etsy shop and on the shop on this website.

The wool comes in 100g skeins, plenty enough for one of my Crochet dolls which are 15″ tall. It’s a thicker side of DK weight yarn but works with 3mm-4mm needles to create a tighter fabric to help avoid stuffing showing through, this is vital for those who make dolls to sell since it’s a requirement of the EU safety laws.

So far only two tones (Shelby and Malala) have been tested to EN71 safety, making it safe for doll and toy making. and it passes the doll flammability tests. It’s going to cost a couple hundred pounds to have all the wools tested so I want to see if it’s popular before spending so much money on testing.

I’m going to boast here…

It’s the only wool of its kind in the world (I searched high and low but perhaps there’s another wool out there) which is made especially for doll making, produced fully in the UK (and apart from the sheep themselves) is produced in Yorkshire.

It’s currently priced at £18/100g although I will do an introductory price and wool shade cards for retail and large orders will be available very soon.

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Inspirational Yarn – Michelle

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Michelle Obama, the inspirational woman behind tone number 5, now does anyone not know her as the first African American First Lady of the US?

It’s a strange thing (as a Brit) the idea that a woman is known by the job of her husband, (I think our Theresa May is married but no idea who he is!) if Barack hadn’t become president would she still be considered an inspiration? You bet she would!

Despite being known more for being married to a president (and what a president!) she is a lawyer, writer and university administrator. Passionate about poverty, young people and living healthier, but mostly I think of her attitude towards bullying.

Her aim high attitude, to not let the bullies get you down, to rise above them and concentrate on being the best you that you can be is what inspired me.

‘When someone is cruel or acts like a bully, you don’t stoop to their level, No! When they go low, We go high!’

Michelle Obama – Lawyer & Writer

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Inspirational Yarns – Shelby

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Shelby is the name of our third yarn tone and is named after Shelby Sinar.

Shelby is a women’s wrestler for UK Womens Wrestling, perhaps not the most popular of sports and Shelby might never be a household name or olympic medal winner.

However, it takes real courage to get into a ring and use quick thinking and athletic skill to win matches. To do all that whilst being in a created personna too, which I think is a skill that’s not given enough credit for.

But what makes Shelby inspirational for me is her courage to do this while being a larger woman than the stereotypical athlete. Shelby fights under her characters name of the Plus-Sized Princess.

‘For years they told me I wasn’t an athlete, that I couldn’t do sports. I find certain things difficult, but I will never let someone tell me that I can’t do it.’

Shelby Sinar – Female Wrestler

As a plus sized woman I’ve experienced the bullying, the comments from strangers who feel it’s acceptable to comment on my size or perceived lifestyle. The fear that someone is just waiting to put me down, even as I write this blog post I’m aware that someone most likely is going to make a comment about larger people because it’s a bullies last stand.

To be a larger woman and put yourself out in public is one of societies last taboos, but let’s be honest, I don’t know too many thinner women who can throw a full sized person around like Shelby does which just proves size isn’t everything.

To be a female wrestler is a tough enough sport, but to do it with the courage of Shelby Sinar, to be the powerful woman she chooses to be, is why she is an inspirational woman.

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Buy British – British Wool Marketing Board

I bought the odd fleece or two in the past, but it’s been one fleece at a time, just what a hand spinner can manage.

My best buy is the alpaca fleece I bought from someone who had the idea of buying it to dye and make money, but when it came to it she realised it’s a lot of work. She was happy to see it go for £5 and I was very happy to receive it. Unless I go down the machinery route I’ll never need more than one or two fleeces at a time, besides, I don’t have the room in my little flat. However for those who want to buy in bulk, the British Wool Marketing Board (BWMB) is the place to go.

Bags of fleeces stacked high
Bags of fleeces stacked high

The wool is sent in by farmers across the country, there are drop off points across the country, and they take all fleeces and no minimum. So even if you only have one sheep it’s worth taking the fleece here to get a good price.

A wool grader sorting the fleece
A wool grader sorting the fleece

The fleeces are graded and sorted, then wrapped ready to auction at their fortnightly auction in Bradford.

The huge warehouse
The huge warehouse

Here’s the video.