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Neck Supporting Tip By Gail Wilson

OK, giving away one of my best tips yet. This is about stuffing flat dolls well and so that the heads do not "nod" or get the telltale wrinkles. First, you must understand the concept that what is happening is the "sausage" syndrome. Or like when you have a fat tummy and fat thighs and so you get a wrinkle in your pants where they meet. This all comes from the fact that you are stuffing two adjacent areas that can get fatter than the connecting area (the smaller neck). So, first stuff the head to your satisfaction. I recommend SUPER FLUFF or PUTNAM BRAND TAN STUFFING for dolls who want the look of hard-packed cotton of older dolls. Do NOT use the slippery kind - this is good mostly for the squeezable softness of a baby toy or any doll with extensive needle-sculpting. It does not pack. Now, to get a good, non-lumpy stuffing job, push in narrow (neck width) but long as you can fluffs. Pack these by tamping evenly and so there are no hollows. Keep doing this. I have recently become a convert of Barbara Willis' stuffing forks. They will work as no other tool can (hemostats can too do this, but not as expediently - my old favorite tool). The forks allow you to MOVE stuffing around from deep inside to fill any hollows or empty pockets - feel for these on the surface. I love BW's Stuffing Forks so much, I just added them to my line of supplies, and some of my newer kits will ask that you own one for the best results.( I think they are the best thing since sliced bread).

Next tip is to iron the now well-stuffed head flatter with a maximum HOT iron. This further solidifies the stuffing and evens it out. It also means that heads that got too "fat" can now be brought back into more of the well-known "flatter" shape old dolls have getting there from ages of handling and time compacting. This is an important step that I myself didn't come to until a couple of years ago. Simple solution too.

Now the neck. The critical thing is to be able to support the neck. although there are many ways of inserting a stick, a covered stick, even a padded stick, I prefer not to do that. Not because it was not "done" - some dolls used this. I just feel it is a little bit of cheating (no one should take that as a judgment - it is just me and my need to always be consistent within the medium) and one other reason which any of you selling dolls should keep in mind. That is that even though you may think or even declare you are selling to collectors and not children, in a court of law if a child fell on such a stick supported doll and was injured, you would probably lose as a doll is a doll and could be construed as a toy even with proper labeling. Since I am in business, this is a real fear. To continue. If you are skillful, and it is hard even for veteran stuffers, you need to build a core (instead of a stick) of stuffing that begins up in the head and goes beyond and into the shoulder area. This means that the neck is best built out of one continuous snake of fluffy stuffing from BEFORE the neck to AFTER the neck. If there are any breaks in it, they will be the weak place where a wrinkle will begin and there is not much to be done to fix it once it appears. (There is one other trick that can be applied that can help fix neck wrinkles, but I will go into that below.)

So, here it is. The new GEM. Grab your felting needle (of course you all have these by now and if not, I sell them as well as other sources). Make sure to hold the doll with a leather glove or some other hand protection, because you really will inevitably stab yourself. Hold the neck circled by your forefinger and thumb to support it. Now jab, jab, jab, jab to create as hard a core as you want right in the neck - this will use up stuffing by compacting it, so you will need more, but you can felt it into the shape neck you want of whatever depth you want. Amazing no one has glommed onto to this yet. (They are too busy making whole dolls by the felting needle method.) It's very easy - except for the stabbing your hand part.

Now, here is my old trick to remedy creases once they are there (this will work either perfectly or at least be an improvement, depending on your skills). Pinch in the chest area and notice the wrinkles disappear or at least get better. So, the idea is to make a large stitch there to hold in the area permanently. The stitch should just pull in the fatness to the depth of the neck and not make a huge dimple. (Some dimple is unavoidable, so try to stay below any neckline of the dress she will wear). If you are painting the doll, once the paint has dried, you can remove the stitch (es).

Gail Wilson

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