Woodcarver Ezine
Back Issues
Carvers' Companion Gateway

By Jean D. Lotz


Copyright 1998 Jean D. Lotz

The patterns presented here are my original designs (I maintain all copyrights). They are presented for your education and personal use. These plans are not intended for any commercial production.

General notes

(See guidelines for doll making in article #1 published in Volume 2/ Issue 3)
For this article, I have designed some special, original dolls that have historical precedence. I have introduced more doll terminology, and two simple jointing methods: a "floppy joint" and an "elasticized butt joint".
Reminder: A wood doll is one with a wood head irregardless of any other materials used in the rest of the doll. I use the United Federation of Doll Clubs (UFDC) standard for categorizing and grouping dolls by the material from which the doll head is made.
The use of glue is very important in doll making, but you must learn to use it wisely and neatly! Use the best quality, appropriate glue and use the MINIMUM amount in each application. Nothing ruins a doll faster than improperly applied glue. I hate to see blobs of glue, streaks of hot glue, and fabric permanently soiled with glue spoiling potentially good dolls. These all scream "amateur" or worse, "craft mall quality"!
When costuming dolls, you must use the best quality, natural materials in the appropriate scale. Using modern chemical-based materials will degrade the perceived quality of your work, and those dolls dressed in these modern materials are less desirable. Dolls dressed in clothing made from modern, synthetic, or man-made materials are generally avoided by most serious doll collectors. Knowledgeable collectors have a legitimate concern that the chemicals will break down over time and adversely effect other near-by collectibles.
Using an "appropriate scale" is very important in doll design. This term means to use fabric, and accessories that look correct and are in proportion to the size of the doll. Fabric must be light weight and flow softly enough to drape appropriately. Any obvious weave or decorative pattern in the cloth must be small and tight enough to look right. Also the materials used for wig making must be in the correct proportion. For example: human hair is far too coarse for most doll wigs where fine mohair would be a good substitute. Yet fine mohair maybe too coarse for the very smallest dolls, when ultra thin viscose fibers or the finest silk threads should be used.

Simple Dolls - Twig Doll, Frozen Doll, and Frozen Leg Doll

For this issue, I have designed and drafted patterns for several simple frozen dolls. These types of dolls have been made for hundreds of years. A "frozen doll" is a one-piece doll that has detailed, unmoving arms and legs while a "Frozen leg doll" has moving arms and detailed, unmoving legs. A "Twig Doll" is even simpler than a frozen leg doll, since the lower half is one piece and not sculpted at all.
Non-jointed, one-piece dolls may seem strange to us in the west, but many other countries are known for their traditional, one-piece, wooden dolls: Russian slash carved dolls, African figures, Japanese gosho ningyo, and many others. You can see some of these illustrated on the Lotz Doll Pages.
The National Gallery web site has an interesting on-line exhibit featuring illustrations from the museum collection that were published as the book, "The Index Of American Design". These objects detailed in this book included folk art, wood carvings, toys and dolls. The book's illustrations, which have been posted on the Internet, provide a display of some of this museum's collection which are generally not available to public view. The illustrations themselves are well done, and are described in the text as valued works of art in themselves. I found an example of a fine antique wooden one-piece doll while browsing the "Woodcarving from the Index of American Design" web pages, and woodcarvers might be interested in browsing all of the pages of this exhibit. There are also many other more-complex, wooden dolls to be seen within the pages of "Dolls from the Index of American Design". Click on the links below:

A common example of a simple frozen folk doll is a "spoon doll" where the back of a wooden spoon is painted, carved, or wood burned to represent a face, and the very simplest arms and clothes are added. This type of doll was described and highly recommended as a easy craft project in the US Girl Scout manual for many years.(see another article about spoon dolls decorated with pyrography in this issue of the Woodc@arvers Ezine) {LINK NEEDED}


Traditional Twig Doll
with a detailed head and torso
Designed by Jean D. Lotz

"Twig Dolls" are traditional "folk dolls" from many parts of the world, which are whittled from twigs or dowels. A twig doll is also a crude form of a "frozen leg doll". These lady dolls are meant to wear long gowns hiding everything below the waist, so the legs are not detailed at all. The lower half of this type of doll is often left in a rough state, perhaps with just the bark quickly removed.

A round base of wood is provided as a doll stand which can be either permanently attached to the bottom of the doll with screws and glue, or the base can be drilled with a tight-fitting hole to firmly hold the standing, removable doll. The size of the base should be big enough to firmly support the doll yet discrete, so it is NOT VISIBLE when the doll is dressed.

The upper part of the doll is typically very SIMPLY carved and nicely painted. But the head and upper body can be detailed to any degree that you want. I have designed and drafted a twig doll which will allow more torso and head detail. This doll has a detailed, bald head. (I will not go into wig techniques here). You can modify the drawings to allow enough wood for carved hair and small hats if you want.

Note the traditional twig doll arms are simple. I call this type "floppy joints". The arms are loose and uncontrollable. They are made with just a small piece of an appropriate sized rope or cotton rag threaded through a hole which is drilled in the body. A tiny bit of glue firmly holds the rope or rag in place just at the opening of each shoulder hole. The hands can be as simple as a knot tied in the end, a small wood bead glued to the end, or a set of carved hands can be attached.

A thin, firm wire can be threaded through the rope arms to allow the arms to be posed, but care must be taken that no wire can ever be exposed. (Please review the safety guidelines for making toys and dolls for children in article #1 published in Volume 2/ Issue 3).

Of course this doll can have much more sophisticated arms. But I am NOT able to go into a further discussion of "wire-wrapped armature construction" or details of elaborate joints in this article but these subjects may be addressed in the Lotz Doll Making Web Pages in the future.

This simple doll could easily be made into a popular "peddler doll", which is a doll dressed as an old fashioned street peddler carrying a basket. The empty basket is filled by the collector over time with appropriately scaled miniatures. A peddler is a fun type of doll to own since the collector can continue to personalize their doll with each new accessory.

These fashion dolls would be especially desirable if they were made to be a 5-1/2 inch "doll house doll" which is the perfect height to represent a 5'-6" lady for a "standard scale" doll house. The standard scale uses a 1/12 reduction ratio where 1" = 12" (1" = 1'). More about doll house dolls and what the word "scale" really means is planned to be explained further in the Lotz Doll Making Web Pages.

"Fashion dolls" are those that are intended to showcase clothing. It might seem strange to see a fashion doll without legs like this twig doll, but a great many fabulous, early, fashion dolls were made without legs. If the doll's purpose is to display a long robe or a long formal gown then there really isn't a visual need for legs. One could achieve the effect of a grand lady standing in her long gown by mounting the upper torso onto the top of a "cage". Early "Leg-less Fashion Dolls and Religious Figures" were mounted on top of wooden cages, but later the easier to make, wire cages became more popular. A cage not only provides a firm stand, but it also encourages the correct drape of the costume that the doll was sculpted to display. Leg-less dolls mounted in this manner are called "cage dolls". I would love to show you some photos of some very early, stunningly beautiful cage dolls, but sorry - I don't have permission to post any photos of this type of antique wood dolls yet! A modern example of a cage doll would be a Christmas tree-top angel mounted on a cone.


Frozen Doll and Frozen Leg Doll with jointed arms and alternate heads
Designed by Jean D. Lotz

When speaking of a "frozen doll", most people would think of a little, antique, china doll that is commonly referred to as "Frozen Charlotte" (female) or "Frozen Charlie" (male). Antique frozen dolls were made out of a variety of materials: rubber, porcelain, china, wood, etc. One-piece, non-moveable dolls are still made today. The arms and legs are either sculpted with no space between the body, or they can be sculpted so the arms and/or legs extend away from the body.
Frozen dolls with non-extended arms and legs do not require any sewing. This type of doll is either sculpted as a nude to be wrapped in a small blanket. Clothing can be sculpted, painted, or wrapped with cloth glued in place (like a Japanese Kamo ningyo). If the non-jointed arms and/or legs are extended from the body, then the doll can be costumed.


For this issue, I have also designed and drafted a frozen leg doll with independently moving arms. This doll construction uses a simple "elasticized butt joint". The parts butt together and they are held in place by a piece of elastic that is threaded through the body and knotted on the outside of each arm. The elastic is just pulled tight enough to hold the arms up, but not so tight as to stress the elastic. Each knot is locked by lightly gluing it and pulling it tight. Trim the excess elastic away only after the glue has had time to dry thoroughly. This external knot looks a bit better if you countersink the outer arm hole so as to hide some of the knot's bulk in the cup-shaped depression that is formed.
The elastic that I use is a special, round, doll elastic sold by many doll supply stores. It is stronger and stays in good shape longer than the elastic that is available in sewing stores. I use the Seeley brand of doll elastic. I buy mine from WESTBANK DOLL SUPPLY in Louisiana (1-800-374-3655). If you can't find the doll elastic locally, then call them since they can ship all over the world. Just tell them the size of the doll that you are making and they will make their best, educated guess at the size elastic that you will need. There might be a minimum yardage requirement. Perhaps you will be required to buy at least 5 yards of elastic, but this can provide inspiration to carve more dolls with this type of joint.


A "Story Book Doll" and "Fairy Tale Doll" is any doll that is designed or dressed to represent a character in a written story. Written fairy tales and favorite children's books offer a wealth of popular subject matter.
The Lotz Of Wooden Head Doll Designs for this article can be dressed as many different story book characters. The young girl doll can be dressed as "Mary Had A Little Lamb", "Little Red Riding Hood", or as other child characters. You could also make a set of boy and girl dolls and dress them as Hansel and Gretel.
The lady twig doll can be dressed to represent any character, male or female, that traditionally wears long robes or dresses. For example it can be costumed as "Victorian Christmas Carolers", "Little Women", "Snow White", "Cinderella" or "Rapunzel.".
A large part of the charm of dressed dolls comes from the care and creativity of the costume maker. Do NOT let a lack of sewing or wig making skills deter you from carving a doll. Many doll collectors would gladly have a well carved doll to dress themselves.
Important: Please sign and date your dolls. Write your full name and the date the doll was made with indelible ink or with a wood burning tool on the back.
Now it's time to use your imagination and start carving simple, wooden dolls!

Jean D. Lotz, sculptor/designer/woodcarver/doll artist
LOTZ STUDIO (lotz@communique.net)
P.O. Box 1308, Lacombe, LA 70445-1308, USA
LOTZ DOLL PAGES (wood dolls: antique, contemporary, HITTY, etc)