All of my sculptures, figures and pieces are made from 100% wool, sourced from small U.S. farms. I generally use a variety and mixture of breeds, depending on the project. Doll hair is often Teeswater, Wensleydale, Masham, or Mohair, but the colored batts (batting) I use for sculpting are a mixture of various breeds, including a carded blend of softer and coarser fleece from Icelandic and Merino breeds, and others. There are rare exceptions, for various techniques or finishes, such as using Alpaca, Mohair (goat), Angora (rabbit), even dog, but always natural fibers from animals that are loved and lovingly cared for.
For some special purposes, I might include wire armature, usually stainless steel, if a piece is made to be posed (such as for photo props or stop-motion photography), but I always make special note of it, if made that way. But my normal line is 100% wool, no armatures.
Great question! It's extremely important to me, being an animal lover, that I only use wool that is humanely and compassionately harvested, where the sheep (and any other animals) are treated wonderfully (even spoiled!). Therefore, I source my fiber from small or family business vendors that either grew their own sheep, or clean and sell wool from small U.S. family farms. This is very, very important to me. I won't use commercial wool industry products that treat animals like commodity products. I won't support mulesing or any abusive or callously thoughtless techniques that make any animal's life miserable or uncomfortable.
I love to support small, humane, compassionate, sustainable, and wholesome family businesses and farms, where the sheep and animals have names and are as special as the children and families that live there!
Specifically, I use natural wool batt (batting) made of mixed breeds as my core wool. For curly locks, I purchase raw fleece, such as Lincoln, Wendsleydale cross, Mohair, Teeswater cross, and others, and clean it myself. A friend dyes them for me when needed.
I also have a few online resources where I can get specific fibers that are ready to use. One of my favorite for specialty doll hair long locks is OOODolls (on Etsy). She hand processes and hand paints the curls, and I use her Wendesleydale and Teeswater locks on my premium dolls.
I love the products from Living Felt in Austin, Texas, and their MC-1 line of batts are my favorite "go-to" sculpting wools. They have policies and principles that align with mine, and their products and customer service are outstanding.
I also supplement my "palette" of fibers with local fibers, such as alpaca and pygora. I love to shop locally when possible, and my "go-to" local hangout is Ewe and I in Chehalis, WA. (I have enjoyed teaching classes there! Love that store.) Washington state and the Pacific NW have some marvelous farms, and the fiber is gorgeous!
Nope, nope, nope! As a cancer survivor (I prefer thriver), I am acutely aware of environmental and commercial toxins, and how they affect the endocrine and other hormonal systems, and because of that knowledge, I am adamant about not using any of the toxins, preservatives or cleansers that can be detrimental to human and animal health, and environmental health.
With that being said, I live as clean as possible, and that extends to my entire life, even my needle felting supplies. My sources are very good about this same principle. Cleaning agents and dyes are gentle, non-toxic and as natural as they can be. No chlorine, no artificial, preservative, or petroleum chemicals. I only want clean, healthy wool from clean, healthy, content animals, which makes the end product all the better for it!
Given the nature of natural fibers from animals that are allowed to be happy, there will be vegetable matter, such as hay, plant matter, grass, etc. So I source from places that are very good about skirting (cleaning the "icky stuff" from the raw fleeces before selling it), and then picking out most of the vegetable matter ("vm"), which are the plants, twigs and things found on farms. Then, before, and as, I create and sculpt, I keep tweezers handy, and fastidiously hand pluck out whatever got through the dyeing process. Because I won't use carbonized wool, a process where chemicals and/or extreme heat burns out the vm, which destroys the integrity and "life" of the fiber, I use my tweezers a lot sometimes. But it's definitely a labor of love! The result is natural, clean, and beautiful wool for wonderful art dolls and figures that are something I'm very proud to share!