Felting Needles
How to Root Soft Vinyl
Dolls with Mohair

With special thanks to the ladies
who have contributed to this page!!



PREPARE THE SCALP. Before rooting one of your vinyl dolls, remove the hair paint first. You can use paint stripper to remove the paint. You know, the kind that stings your hands and you must use gloves to work with it. I've tried a couple of different brands, the liquid kind, and they remove the hair paint quickly and easily without any damage to the vinyl at all. However, to be CAUTIOUS you should test a small area of the vinyl first to make sure that the stripper you use will not harm the vinyl.

Some people use nail polish remover to remove the paint, but I've heard frequent complaints that the nail polish remover gums up the paint and doesn't work very well. Stripper is faster, easier and cleans up quickly.

MOLDED SCALP... I've heard that some of the reborn artists also remove the molded hair lines before rooting. I believe this is done with sandpaper. Vinyl can be sanded, but be careful not to sand anything except where the rooted hair will be or you might have problems blushing the doll in spots that have been sanded. Sanding the head is not necessary, that is personal preference.

IF YOU NEED HOLES IN THE HEAD... Originally, the reborn artists drilled small holes in the doll's head, in preparation for rooting the hair - but this method was very quickly abandoned when they began experimenting with Felting Needles. You can poke the felting needles into the doll's head directly. This is the most popular method because it is so natural looking. And, it's not hard to do. The reborners tell me that once they get the hang of it, they don't break the needles very often either. (You will most likely break a lot of felting needles while you are still learning.)

WARM VINYL IS EASIER TO WORK WITH... It helps to WARM the vinyl while you are rooting the head. Some ladies put a beanbag full of dry rice inside the head: you can microwave the rice bag for a few seconds until it's nice and hot and then stick it inside the head. (Just be careful about heating and handling the cloth bag full of dry rice.) Or, some ladies use a low watt lightbulb inside the head. Or, there's always the handy hairdryer to warm it with.

VINTAGE DOLLS! If you are re-rooting an old Vintage doll, they already have holes for hair plugs so that's not a problem: use the holes that are there.




At left is an example of a reborn doll with wispy hair, inserted using felting needles. Reborn Artist Terri did a very lovely job on this doll, using brown mohair with the felting needles. She said it took about six hours to root her first doll, while she was still learning. Now it takes her about two hours to root the hair like this on a doll's head.

Terri pokes the needles directly into the vinyl head, she does not drill holes first. She thinks that the purpose of using the felting needle is to get a natural look - and she says you can't get a natural look even with using the smaller dremel drill bit there is. She tried that. Terri says "Once you get the hang of it, you don't break that many felting needles. However, i'd rather break the needles and get a realistic look, than save the needles and have a drilled head. "

The needle goes through the head easily and the mark it makes can hardly be seen. It would probably work very well for rooting eyebrows but I haven't tried that yet. (You do not want to drill holes for the eyebrows.)


I use felting needles and they work just great without making holes in the vinyl. You will get a more natural look without holes also, and it is so much easier to do without the holes.

Some people have success with short 2 inch pieces of mohair but I like to use mine about 5-6 inches long and then I trim the hair when I'm finished with the head.

Select a one inch wide hunk of your mohair. Plunge the needle in at an upward angle over and over again about 20 times. Push the needle in the direction that the hair will lie on the head. Then peel back the hair. A whole bunch of hair will be rooted into the vinyl scalp. If you get too much in one hole, just pull some of it out. I prefer a wispy look with only a few hairs in each hole.

You will see that your original inch of hair will get smaller, so just keep adding more hair to your hunk that you are using to root. Keep doing that all around the head until you finish. You can put more in where you see you may need it.

Around the crown area the vinyl is thicker, so if you heat it with a hair dryer or embossing tool, you won't break needles in that area. After you get the hang of it, you won't break as many needles. The last head I did, I broke only one needle.

Leave the hair alone for several hours. The vinyl will close itself around the hair and after a few days, its pretty much impossible for the hair to come loose on it's own.


  • SYNTHETIC MOHAIR. Barbie doll collectors might cringe at this, but the cotton soft hair on the heads of Barbie dolls is the same type and quantity as one synthetic mohair weft. I see piles of unwanted Barbie dolls at the thrift stores all the time so perhaps that is a source for synthetic mohair.
  • REAL MOHAIR works well with the felting needles. The felting needles are able to grab hold of the fuzzy fibers easily.
  • VISCOSE... appears to be almost identical to mohair and handles the same way for rooting. It is a synthetic fiber. Viscose has a little bit of shine, whereas mohair usually does not. Some ladies have told me that viscose responds to styling better than mohair does. In fact, mohair is very difficult to curl or style at all and it tends to stand up a bit on the Berenguer heads, so the reborners often use a head band to hold it down. Viscose can be manipulated more easily.
  • SYNTHETIC DOLL HAIR. The inexpensive wispy wigs that I sell in the Shop are a good cheap source for synthetic doll hair. -- Look in the thrift stores for non-collectible dolls with good hair, or for ladies wigs.
  • HUMAN HAIR. Human hair does not work very well with the felting needles, although some ladies tell me they have no problem rooting human hair with the needles. Maybe it depends on how dry the hair is, or how fine it is. Some ladies like to use hair cut clippings from family members (hair from small children is a treasure!)

Copyright (c) 2002, 2012 Cynthia Stevens All Rights Reserved