One my absolute favorite activities in the doll hobby is wig making. I feel a good wig can really make or break a doll, and is one of the quickest and easiest ways to completely switch up a character. While I’m certainly no expert at making wigs, it is my most practiced activity within the hobby and I feel like I have enough experience to be somewhat helpful.
I could talk for hours about everything I’ve learned over the past few years, but that’s not why I’m here today. Today, my goal is to show you a few alternative and uncommon fibers that I’ve been using lately to make beautiful doll wigs. This wig below is rose fiber on my Fall In Doll, Rose. (I couldn't resist the opportunity)
Some of the most popular materials for wigs in the doll (BJD, in particular) community are synthetic fiber, mohair, faux fur, and alpaca. All of these fibers have their pros and cons and can result in very different styles. Lately, however, soybean fiber and ramie have been popular among wig artists.
When I first heard about these fibers, I was intrigued and needed to investigate further. A simple Google search eventually led me to this very informative page that explains some of the common types of plant fibers. It turns out these fibers can be made from all different types of plants (totally vegan!) and are typically sold as roving intended for weaving yarn.
I knew I had to give this fiber a try in wig making, if only for the fact that it is incredibly inexpensive compared to most other popular wig fibers. I ordered my fiber from FeltFine, an Australian company. Since the prices are listed in AUD, I actually ended up saving like 35% off the prices shown due to the USD to AUD conversion rate. (Sorry Australia!)
I bought Ramie, Tencel, Ingeo, Rose and Soybean fiber. I decided to do a little comparison for you on the texture, dying ability, and strand length of each of these plant fibers in regards to doll wigs. (Keep in mind, all these results and opinions are completely my own. It could be possible that your experiences turn out differently.) Regardless, hopefully by the end of this you might be inspired to give these plant fibers a try!
The roving comes in a long intestine-like strand. Hold onto the roving about 3-5 inches from the end using one hand, and use your other hand to pull on the end. A tuft of strands should tear away, leaving you with a nice lock of fiber. I used tiny rubber bands to hold the lock together on one edge and trimmed away the excess. Then I marked each with a washi tape flag so I would remember which is which throughout the rest of the comparison process. Ramie, Tencel, Ingeo, Rose, and Soybean were labeled with Red, Orange, Yellow, Green and Blue respectively.
First up, let's talk texture. Let me preface this section by saying that all of these fibers are extremely soft and beautiful and make gorgeous wigs. The differences described below are extremely subtle in reality. So, when I say that ramie fiber is "rough", I don't actually mean that it is rough. It is just ever so slightly more straw-like than the rest, but still extremely soft and beautiful.
- Ramie: The most “rough” and straw-like feeling, but also the least felt-y and fluffy. The most realistic looking looking and feeling to real hair.
- Tencel: The softest of all the fibers I bought, in my opinion. I love touching it!
- Ingeo: Super fluffy and felt-y feeling. I was unsure about it at first due to the felt feeling, but it feels much better and nicer after being made into a weft and combed.
- Rose: Also super fluffy, but without the felt-y feeling.
- Soybean: Soft and nice. All around average in my opinion. However, it does have SUPER fine strands that easily come loose and float around in the air.
Next, I took these locks and put them in a dye bath to see the differences in how they'd each take color. I was intending to create a nice mid-tone brown, but it somehow turned out much, much darker than anticipated. The good news is the color is almost identical among all the different fibers. However, ramie was noticeably a little lighter, and ingeo (corn) was slightly darker.
- Ramie: Noticeably lighter
- Tencel: Average
- Ingeo: Slightly darker
- Rose: Average
- Soybean: Average
Lastly, I wanted to compare strand length. This is the most important factor, as it will determine how long the wigs can be made. Roving is made from a bunch of fibers all aligned in the same direction, overlapping. This is why you can easily pull a tuft away as long as you pinch the roving tube beyond the length of individual strands. (This way, your hands are holding onto all different strands of fiber).
To test the strand length, I made a weft from each type of fiber. After combing out all the loose strands, it is easy to tell which fibers are the longest.
Ramie was the obvious winner, with almost 2 inches more in length than the others. The other four were nearly tied, however Tencel and Soybean were about half an inch longer than Ingeo and Rose.
- Ramie: 5.75 inches
- Tencel: 4 inches
- Ingeo: 3.5 inches
- Rose: 3.5 inches
- Soybean: 4 inches
...and there you have it! I nice little comparison on some uncommon and alternative fibers for making doll wigs. I think these fibers are fun to work with and have great style-ability. The roving is also pretty inexpensive, so why not try something new! If you want any other comparisons between these fibers, leave a comment below!