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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.

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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.

local craftspeople doing what they do best

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 – Viola

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Viola Davis, the first black actor to have won an Academy Award, an Emmy Award, and a Tony Award in acting, named the Triple Crown of Acting…

…but more importantly, the name of our 7th and final yarn tone!

Born into poverty, with an activist mother in the civil rights movement, Viola knew the struggle of class, wealth and race. Much of her arts training came from state funded programmes.

But despite her poor upbringing, she managed to reach her dream and is now an actress and producer of some amazing films that tell of histories otherwise unknown.

‘Dream Big and Dream Fierce.’

Viola Davis – Actress and Producer

Her knowledge of growing up in poverty and learning through government funded schemes led her to be an activist against childhood hunger and free healthcare.

It seems shocking in both the US and the UK, where so many have so much, where we have laws preventing cruelty to animals and where activists will break the law to stop mistreatment of animals that we have so many children going hungry and yet I’ve still to see an activist breaking the law to feed a child.

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Inspirational Yarn – Mae

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Mae, tone number 6, is named after the first black woman to travel in space, Mae Jemison.

She was interesting in science as a young child but not encouraged by her teachers who suggested she didn’t want to be a scientist but rather a nurse. She says ‘the best way to make dreams come true is to wake up!’ Take your dreams as a challenge and a call to action.

‘It’s your place in the world; It’s your life. Go on and do all you can with it and make it the life you want to live.’

Mae Jemison – Engineer, Physician and Astronaut

Mae also wanted to be a dancer and aimed for both a career as a doctor and as a dancer. I love the attitude of her mother who said, ‘You can always dance if you’re a doctor, but you can’t doctor if you’re a dancer.’

When Mae saw Sally Ride become a female astronaut she realised doors were opening and still with her original dream of becoming an astronaut, she reapplied to NASA and went into space in 1992.

She says her parents were the best scientists because they were always asking questions.

And she even got to appear in an episode of Star Trek (of which I am very excited about!).

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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 Yarn – Malala

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Our fourth Yarn tone is named Malala after Malala Yousafzai.

Malala is known to most people as the fifteen year old Pakistani schoolgirl who was shot in the face for wanting an education. Surviving being shot in the face didn’t deter Malala from speaking out for girls education which just shows the determination of Malala and her family.

Perhaps not so well known is that Malala’s activism for girls education didn’t start on that bus ride home at 15, but started much earlier as an anonymous 11 year old blogger for the BBC Urdu website.

Her father was an educator and encouraged Malala to get her education because he remembered growing up in a world where his sisters unable to be educated. He wanted more for his daughter and put her name forward to write the anonymous blog which would describe life under Taliban rule.

Malala wrote anonymously until the end it seemed freedom had come and girls were allowed to attend school again.

After the Taliban returned her family were split up and Malala ended up living with relatives, then the New York Times made a documentary about Malala and as she became more known her anonymity began to end.

With the news that again the Taliban had been forced out of their home the family returned, but now the death threats arrived. Both Malala and her father received death threats for their support of women’s education.

The eventual shooting happened as Malala travelled home from taking an exam. A gunman got on the bus and asked Malala to identify herself otherwise all the girls would be shot. She was then identified and shot in the face.

‘I want every girl to know that her voice can change the world’

Malala Yousafzai – Activist

I don’t think there is need to say more about why Malala is an inspiration, although there is a lot more that can be said. To be as young as eleven and knowingly put your life on the line to make the world better for yourself and others is courage beyond measure.

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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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Inspirational Yarn – Emma

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Our second Tone colour is named Emma after Emma Watson.

Most recognisable as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter films who had the brains, skills and looks to be the best at what she put her mind (and spells) to.

Emma Watson is in many ways the girl who has everything, the looks, the talent and the brains. Attending prestigious private schools, Landing her first professional acting role as Hermione, getting a professional career and attending universities in both the US and UK, then gaining a successful modeling career with campaigns for companies like Burberry and Lancôme.

I think, when most people think about inspirational women we don’t often think of people like Emma. We imagine people who have overcome hardship, who’ve had to fight for their dreams, who didn’t have it all.

‘You have to go out there and make your own mistakes in order to learn.’

Emma Watson – Actress & Activist

Here’s why I chose Emma as one of the seven inspirational women.

Emma could have taken the privilege of her life and bought herself a nice mansion, done her films and modeling and said thank you very much and no one would have complained. Many celebrities do just that and we celebrate them and award them for it.

Emma though has spent much of her time speaking out for women and girls who were not as privileged. She is an active goodwill ambassador and a speaker for gender rights. She speaks on feminism not as a women’s movement, but as a fight for equality that affects men as much as it affects women. Her determination to raise awareness on equality for everyone os why she is an inspiration and named after one of our skin tones.

Being an inspiration isn’t reserved for the overcomers, it’s important to recognise that everyone has the ability to reach out to others.

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Inspirational Yarn – Sue

Dr Sue Black is best known as a computer scientist, a University lecturer and researcher. The leading force behind the renovation of Bletchley Park, the World War II centre for decrypting enemy messages and the woman behind #techmums, teaching women computer skills in the belief that teaching mothers computer skills in turn teaches their children and eventually teaches the community.

That alone is a reason to name a yarn shade after Sue, but there’s so much more to her that I think has seen her being awarded an OBE and many awards for computer science.

Her passion for empowering women to understand technology and social media, especially in some of the more deprived parts of the country also helps encourage women who perhaps will find self confidence in learning skills they might have felt surpassed them.

 

‘Get out there and do the things you want to do.

You’ve only got one life so

Go for it!’

– Dr Sue Black OBE, FBCS, FRSA

 

But for me, what really inspires me is that Sue comes from humble beginnings.

Sue left school at 16, got married at 20 and by age 23 had three children.

By the age of 25 she was a single mother of three children living in a women’s refuge in Brixton.

She enrolled in night school and then university, eventually becoming a university lecturer. Education was her transport for getting the career she wanted and the ability to change her life for the better.

For myself, as someone who came late to appreciating education, I found university often very difficult, but to do a day at university while caring for three children is just an example of the strength Sue must have had. She overcame difficult challenges and proved that just because a person doesn’t succeed in high school, doesn’t mean education has closed its door.

Sue inspires those of us who have felt ‘less than’ because we didn’t have the right start. Her determination to get an education and then to work so hard to make sure that she passes on her education to others is what makes her an inspiration.

Click here to hear Sue Black Speaking at the Inspirefest conference.

In a similar way, dolls can be used to inspire children through play and can transcend all restraints of society. No one ever tells a doll she can’t be a scientist because she didn’t get the right qualification, a doll simply becomes a scientist. Through the dolls limitless career choices a child can dream dreams beyond the realms of her community or family status.

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Wool vs Acrylic

For years I’ve been making dolls out of Acrylic yarn and I’m sure many of us have. Doll and toy making was traditionally done using the scraps and left over yarns we had left over from our precious makes.

It made sense to use cheap yarn for a doll.

Last year I began experimenting with wool for doll making, then with my final uni project I decided to make these dolls using only natural materials. There was one test I wanted to do to compare Acrylic to Wool, but it meant making and destroying two dolls, plus although in theory I knew what they said about the results I wasn’t sure. Today I did the test… I’m shocked!

Anyway before that test, here are some reasons to use wool in doll making over acrylic…

  1. Natural. Wool is completely natural, sheep eats grass – sheep grows wool – sheep is warm in winter – we cut wool – sheep feels cool in Summer – we use wool – sheep eats grass – and so on and so on. No chemists or scientists involved.
  2. Biodegradable. Prince Charles did a similar experiment to mine, but he also tested how quickly wool would disappear back into the earth. He buried two jumpers, one wool, one synthetic. Six months later he dug them up. The synthetic jumper was intact, but the wool jumper had disappeared. In this plastic heavy world, this should be reason enough.
  3. Renewable. Like being a natural source, wool is also renewable. The sheep doesn’t just have one coat, but a continuously growing fleece.
  4. Breathable. Wool wicks moisture away from the skin making your body less clammy. Ok, so it might not make that much difference to doll making, unless you’re a little kid who takes the doll to bed with them. Nothing worse than waking up with sweat sticking a doll to your face.
  5.  Keeps you warm… or cool. Wool keeps you warm when you’re cold and cools you when you’re too hot. Again, a nicer toy to hug at night than a plastic doll.
  6. Machine Washable. Yep, the yarn I use in my dolls is treated to be machine washable.
  7. Stain resistant. It has an outer layer that prevents stains from being absorbed and it’s anti-static properties mean a lot of dust and dirt simply don’t stick to it.
  8. Odour resistant. When it wicks away sweat, it also absorbs the molecules of odour.
  9. Better sleep. New research has shown sleeping with wool bedding or nightwear leads to a better nights sleep. Another reason to take the doll to bed with you.
  10. Healthy skin. Again, research is coming out that shows the benefits of softer wools on skin.

Finally, wool is flame resistant. What does that mean?

Watch this video…

www.youtube.com/watch?v=hrWRpTA54_4

Shocked?

One important message to come from my final project is the importance of making dolls and toys out of wool, but as I researched a wool to use I found little on offer. Ok, you can buy browns and pinks and mustards, but skin tones are not really covered by wool suppliers.

That’s one thing I’ve been looking at with my dolls and what to do after university, perhaps I could produce 100% British wool in skin tones for doll making, the video has shocked me enough to realise it’s got to be done.

See also:

 Woolmark – benefits of wool

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/09/02/how-prince-charles-set-fire-to-a-pile-of-jumpers-and-buried-othe/

Benefits of sleeping with wool

Benefits of wool on skin