Playing with Dolls, or the Reign of Queen Anne


My mother always told me I had “a bad case of The Wants” whenever I found something that I just had to have – something usually beyond my means. Well, I’ve been grown up (sort of) for a long time now, but I can still get a bad case of The Wants. There are a few cures.

1. Get the means (mildly difficult to sometimes impossible)

2. Wait it out (The Wants are often fickle and fade away)

3. Make it myself (may provide many hours of hilarity at my own expense)

This time, my want was a Queen Anne wooden doll, and I decided on option #3. I researched dolls in books and on the internet. I saved pictures, read descriptions, watched YouTube videos, ILL’ed references. I didn’t want a cloth, clay, or resin version, I wanted real wood.

Want would’ve been my master, if it weren’t for my father. His hobby is woodcarving. He’s been retired for many years and mostly carves birds and decoys. But he was willing to try this for me. Hooray!

I revere authenticity in historical crafts, but for this doll I had my own vision, not to mention my own skill limitations. Therefore she would be more like what I wanted in a toy than a replica of an antique. And besides, when you award yourself a disclaimer like that, you’re free to mess with chronology, styles, materials, and measuring up to the experts! No guilt! Yay!

I was very excited when he finished, and ready to start my share of sanding, painting, and assembling. It’s taken a lot of time and trial and error.  That’s where the hilarity has come in.  Funny how the ends of paper clips make a perfect pattern for eyebrows.  And if you dot the eyebrows really fast without thinking, they’re much more even.  But … what to do about hair?

Pharaby attired in “Paper or plastic?”

Did you know there isn’t much (free) information available on how to make wigs for wooden dolls? No? Well, there isn’t. So I painted her hair, figured I’d hide it with a cap anyway. Unfortunately, that left her looking like she was recovering from a virulent fever.

A wig would have to be attempted, using the little info I could gather and my own ingenuity. I decided to make it removable in case it was a total disaster, so that meant a wig cap. I found a scrap of antique linen dress lining to use, but I could have saved the scrap, since after the cap was finished you couldn’t tell it was anything special. Oh, well. You can see, left, how I protected her paint job.

The linen would have to be slathered with glue, so more protection was in order. Keep in mind I was making this up as I went along. I still didn’t know how I’d make goat fur look like people hair, especially dressed for the 18th century.

Pharaby kidnapped and held for ransom? Hardly.


YouTube to the rescue! There are some generous dollmakers out there who are also very tech savvy. I found one who showed how to glue the little locks and then attach them.

So I ordered the wool. It came in a lovely loooong skein, woohoo! Plenty here to allow for mistakes! That set the stage for the first one, because I cut into the skein, a good 6 inches or so, and began to separate it into little clusters. Duh!

What was I thinking? Goats grow hair three feet long? Yeah, right. You see them tripping all over the pasture, tossing their heads like little Rapunzels as they graze.

Perhaps you can imagine my dismay as I combed the first tiny strands and watched over half the wool pull away. I realized then that 1) I’d better not donate my brain to science,  and 2) I’d need every inch of that mohair.

Reminds me of Ben Franklin.
Clothespins: the other duct tape.

After two days of playing Psyche gathering wool and peeling hairy glue off my fingers, face, and furniture, I never wanted to see a goat again. But the fun really started when I got to the top of the wig cap and couldn’t decide how to style it. When I was a girl my dolls had awesome wardrobes, but their hair was pathetic. I relied heavily on rubberbands.

In the end, I decided to leave some long in back, and poof the rest up on top of her head. (What that will mean when I come to making a cap is yet to be seen.)

So. I got the wig finished and styled. A nice braid hanging down in the back and the crown piled high, with a few strands hanging loose – just to make sure she had that modern Hollywood version of an 18th century hairstyle. But I wasn’t completely satisfied. The strands were all straight and wispy, no curl. I’ve got curly hair myself that I’m always trying to straighten, but I love curls on everyone else. So how to curl wool in tiny ringlets?

Why, you make your own curling iron, of course. Take an ice pick, clamp it in your flat iron for a minute, then veeeery carefully wrap a wisp around it. Hold it till you think you smell something burning, and voilà! You’re done!





Next we move on to the wardrobe…