More Kuspuks, and Doll Hair

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I made this sweet little doll in a kuspuk as a donation to my daughter’s school fund-raiser. I think she came out really well – and my daughter’s teacher was the winning bidder!

Kuspuk Dolly No. 2 and her clothes

With her hood up

Now, I really have to finish up a custom order of dolls. A local lady gives handmade dolls to her 5 nieces every year for Christmas, and this year, I was lucky enough to win her business. The 5 dolls I’ve made are about 18″ tall, with embroidered faces and black velour yarn hair. They will all wear socks or tights, undies, shoes and a kuspuk (a traditional garment worn by some groups of Alaska Natives). I found instructions for human-sized kuspuks, then scaled them down for my dolls’ proportions. All 5 doll bodies are sewn and stuffed, and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel on the kuspuks. The undies and footwear won’t take long, but I’ve been pulling my hair out over the dolls‘ hair! When I was a kid, I always disliked doll hair that was only sewn down along a central part, the way rag doll hair usually is. If I untied the doll’s braids or undid her ponytails, I then had a doll with a long mohawk – the sides of her head would be bald. I preferred rag dolls to baby or fashion dolls, but the plastic dolls had rooted hair that could be brushed and styled. And what little girl doesn’t want to styled their dolls’ hair? So, now that I’m making rag dolls, I’ve been trying to solve this problem, without buying doll wigs. So far, I have one doll with the traditional central part and one with a crocheted cap with strands of yarn knotted all over it. (The doll’s scalp showed through the cap, so I covered her head with some black fabric.) And 3 bald dolls.

1 kuspuk, 3 wigs, 5 undies, 10 socks and 10 shoes to go!

By the way, sorry about the crappy photos – natural light is pretty hard to come by in Fairbanks in November!

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8 responses »

  1. I love your choice for the hair.
    I am with you on the childhood dislike of that mohawk hairdo. My most recent dolls, still being made, happen to be the size to fit a doll wig belonging to a Korean doll who resides in my house. She loaned her wig to the little bald sisters to try on and now they demand realistic hair! These dolls have molded paperclay faces and seem to require different hair than the purely cloth dolls I usually make. But bought wigs are not in the budget so I cut up garage sale wigs, purchased cheap for costuming events that arise.

    I have ordered some Tibetan Lamb for wigs for the next dolls.

    • Thank you, Molly! I have some pictures of my crocheted wigs in progress, but the yarn is so dark (and the mid-winter lighting so bad) that it’s really hard to see what I was doing. I think I’ll do one with contrasting cap and hair yarns, so the method will be more obvious. I’ve made some paperclay heads, but haven’t even gotten around to mounting them on bodies, yet, let alone deciding how to wig them!

  2. Your dolls look great! I love the fabric choice on the two kuspuks in the back of the picture.

    Where did find instructions for human sized kuspuks? I’ve been looking and looking. Seems like somebody must surely have posted clear instructions somewhereon the web by now, but all I’ve found is sketchy hints. I do have moderately good sewing skills, but I’m still a bit daunted at the idea of trying to make an authentic kuspuk with so little information. I’d appreciate any sources you can steer me toward.

    Thank you so much!

    • Thank you very much! I had a lot of fun at the fabric store. šŸ™‚

      This is the website where I found the directions (I meant to link to it in the post but totally forgot to get back to it!) http://with-heart-and-hands.blogspot.com/2008/01/making-kuspuks.html
      It is not very specific, but if you follow the directions in muslin first, you should be ok. There is no pattern – and the sizing is individualized. They’re made of rectangles of fabric, ripped to size. Not sure how “authentic” mine are, but the kids’ kuspuks in the class project at that website definitely are. Good luck!

  3. Okay, thanks. I had found that website and printed off the diagrams but still feel confused about just how it all works. Maybe I just need to study the diagrams more.

    I do plan to make a muslin. If all else fails I can fall back on using more regular shirt or top patterns. I’ve made a couple kuspuks in past years, but always with modern patterns and for other people. I wanted to make myself a more authentic one in time for this years Iditarod as I’ll be in my son’s 3rd grade class room sharing Iditarod with them this year.

    I agree about fun in the fabric store. One reason I’ve put off making my own kuspuk was not finding a fabric that felt right. Last fall I spotted a bolt of fabric that looked like it came straight out of a Barbara Lavalee painting of native women in kuspuks!

    Thanks for the encouragement!

    • Josie – You might be able to contact Teresa John through the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She is the one who did that class, and she might be willing to give you some tips. Since I was making kuspuks with very little fabric (and I have WAY too much in my stash anyway), I did just experiment with those instructions, until I got one that worked ok.

    • Gracelyn – thanks for the compliment! I have a few doll bodies to be completed – when I get to it they WILL be for sale. If you are interested, email me at melissabierer at Hotmail dot com. Thanks!

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