How are dolls made?

How are dolls made?

We see dollies everywhere and they’ve been around for literally thousands of years. Not only are they popular toys for children many are also collector's items for adults. And millions of dolls are made around the world each year.

Early dolls would have been made from materials such as cloth, clay, wood and leather. Dolls made of corn husks were used in harvest celebrations and dolls were also used in fertility rites and to teach children traditions.

Nowadays most homes with children will have dolls in some form, whether they are soft cuddly rag dolls, realistic baby dolls, fashion dolls or super hero’s. So how are all these dolls made.

Plastic Dolls

Vinyl plastic dolls are a relatively recent invention in the history of dolls and didn’t start being produced until after world war 2. Most plastic dolls are made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC)

The plastic is heated and moulds are used to create the shape of the dolls, usually either rotational moulding for seamless products or blow moulding for cheaper dolls. Rubberised plastic is squirted into the moulds which are then heated and rotated so the plastic coats the whole inside of the mould. Creating the head, arms or legs.

Even plastic dolls are generally assembled by hand with hair being sewn on using a special hand-operated sewing machine and facial features being applied in many stages.

Soft dolls

Soft dolls like the gorgeous collection by Rubens Barn are hand made by skilled seamstresses. Although there are still plenty of mothers and grandmothers making dolls for their children and grandchildren.

Rubens Barn dolls have to go through over 100 steps before they are ready to leave the factory, each one lovingly completed by hand. From sewing in the stuffing to embroidering the eyes and applying the blush to those soft characterful faces.

Being made by hand gives the dolls additional character as each one will be slightly different even if those differences are tiny, but it still gives the dolls a unique character that you don’t find in plastic dolls. Many of the seamstresses have been with the company since they started working with the factory 16 years ago, so they are highly skilled and experienced.

Wooden Dolls

Wooden dolls might have been amongst the first dolls ever made but you don’t see all that many today. Or not wooden baby dolls anyway. One style of wooden doll, the Russian dolls or matryoshka, however, are still popular toys today.

Again Matryoshka are generally still handcrafted by highly skilled woodcarvers and painted by hand. With workers carefully selecting the perfect pieces of wood to make each doll.

It’s incredible to think really that even in an age where so many processes have been automated and handed over to machines. Some of our most beloved toys, those invented 1000’s of years ago, are still primarily made by hand.

The high level of human input required though means that most toy manufacture has moved to areas where labour is a cheap commodity, making it even more important to ensure you buy ethically made toys where people are paid fairly for their work.

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