What are Dolly Heads for? Are they like Poupees?

I am often asked what are Dolly Heads for? A dolly head is a wooden version of the stylized canvas-covered papier-mache poupee. Typically you can use a dolly head to create draped forms. This is because it imitates the human head shape. It is a great tool for the milliner. Used in almost every process of hat and headpiece making, it is essential for the positioning of headpiece construction as well as for trimming and fitting veils.

Essentially a milliner designs, drapes and blocks on the dolly head with felt, straw, and foundation materials. Sometimes known as utility blocks they are great for blocking cloches, turbans, fascinator bases in all materials, lacework, supporting a hat or fascinator during trimming, adjusting size, and even for display purposes.

As mentioned a Dolly Head is great for hand draping felt cloche hats and you can see a full tutorial from HATalk on this here.

You can also find a step-by-step HATalk project showing you how to create a retro bridal veil as pictured below:

In our workshop, we make them from lime and balsa wood. Lime will last longer but Balsa is sometimes the preferred alternative because of its self-healing properties. However, heavy use over time will mean its shelf life is shorter than that of its lime version.

Simple Dolly Head

Our simplest Dolly Head is the DH2 this block gives you the basic human head shape and the eyes are marked for placement purposes.

Dolly Head DH2
Dolly Head DH2

Featureless Dolly Head

DH4 (Lime) and DH5 (Balsa) have a featureless face but a sloping forehead and a rounded back and good nape of the neck, great for close-fitting cloche hats.

Dolly Head DH4
Dolly Head DH4 (Lime)
Dolly Head DH5 (Balsa)
Dolly Head DH5 (Balsa)

Fully Featured Dolly Head

The DH3 is a fully-featured version with eyebrows, nose and chin.

DH3 - Dolly Head
Dolly Head DH3


Which size Dolly Head should I buy?

We make Dolly heads to fit specific head sizes. If you’re looking for an average female head size then we would recommend 22.5″ / 57cm. With all the different options available, choose which features are important to you. Then decide which material you would prefer to work with (lime or balsa).

We’ll be answering more of your questions soon, in the meantime if you’re looking for inspiration and millinery projects why not head over to HATalk? With this code GMB20 claim 20% off a new HATalk Subscription.

If you’re hoping to delve deeper and improve your skills then check out Hatcourses.com – which houses a list of millinery and hat-making courses around the world and available teachers.