Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Natural Fiberfill Comparisons - Part Two: Ease of Use

Welcome to Part Two of the natural fiberfill comparison results.

If you haven't read part One: Costs & Sources click here.

I made eight simple cloth dolls from calico (US unbleached muslin) and filled them with 7 different stuffing materials (and two different grades of wool). Only those with an appreciable smell gets mention of odor. I began with 100 gm (3.5 oz.) of each fill except bamboo and the wool fleece which I grabbed from my own stock.

NOTE: When I speak of balling, clumping, or bunching while stuffing, I mean that as the fill is pushed into arms, head, or legs, it tends to pull together into a hard clump and as more fill is added, it merely sits behind the ball rather than meld with the fill already in the doll.

The dolls are identical. They are all 10" (25.5cm) tall and the hips are 3 1/4" (9.5cm) wide. The arms are 1 1/4" (3cm) wide mid-arm. All the dolls were stuffed to be about 1 1/2" (4cm) deep at the belly when stuffed. The exceptions are the bamboo because I had a very small amount to play with and the corn PLA which expanded to 2" (5cm).

These are my experiences with each one:

BAMBOO (Rayon)
Texture: soft and delicious
Sound: It squeaks when squished and kneaded.
Fiber length: medium
Ease of use: Easy to stuff with fingers or tool. Has some tendency to ball lightly as it is being pushed in but less than other fills. I was limited to a small amount of this fill and it did not fill the doll completely. The arms and legs and head were firmly filled, but the body is only loosely filled.
Amount of stuffing used: Started with just a good handful so I don't know how much I used. It was not enough to fill the doll.

NOTE: Bamboo habitats serve endangered species of animals. Be sure to question your sources to ensure ethical harvesting.

Texture: Feels most like plastic fiberfill. In fact, it feels more plastic than real plastic. Has an oily texture and leaves a thin oily residue on skin. Fluffy and bouncy. Bounces back when compressed. Feels like tiny balls of fill when pulled apart, similar to wool bolus, but immediately bonds to itself and magically melds together magically without feeling like dozens of tiny bits.
Fiber length: Fibers are somewhat short.
Ease of use: This was the most cumbersome fill to use. Its slippery nature made it frustrating as my fingers and tools would just slide by the stuffing as I was trying to push it into place. It has this magical quality of melding together seamlessly avoiding nearly all clumping or balling, and it expands really well, filling the area well. But I nearly lost the will to live trying to get that little doll stuffed. The neck is a bit unstuffed as it was so difficult to get purchase on the fill to help fill it out and connect it to the body. The stuffed doll feels lovely, however, and if you want a doll that feels like a lightweight but well-stuffed plastic fiber doll, this is the one to use. This stuffing created the most depth to the doll as it expands after filling. If you have the patience, or maybe latex gloves, go for it.
Amount of stuffing used: 55gm (1.94 ounces)

NOTE: Some corn PLA fills are made from genetically modified corn and some is not. Nature-Fil and Mountain Mist use GMO corn. Innergreen uses non-GMO corn.

Texture: Cotton just feels wonderful to me. It's soft but dense unlike plastic or corn fills.
Smell: Very lightly fresh, like old fashioned linens dried in the sunshine.
Fiber length: short to medium
Ease of use: Cotton fills completely and solidly. Fills small bits and tubes well. Able to use tool to catch bits to shove into neck and armpits to create a solid feel and no sagging. Took no time at all to stuff the doll. Doll feels more solid than most other fills.
Amount of stuffing used: 65gm (2.29 ounces)

Texture: Soft as a cloud. You'll want a roomful just to throw yourself into.
Fiber length: Long fibers
Ease of use: Very pleasant to use. Stuffs easily without balling, bunching, or clumping. Fills neck and armpits well and seamlessly. I was hesitant that the long fibers would fold and create hard balls and clumps. It's softer than anything I've ever felt. But it stuffed well and was my personal favorite for ease of use and overall lightweight quality. Very clean product. Lovely to work with.
Amount of stuffing used: 70gm (2.47 ounces)

NOTE: Eucalyptus habitats serve endangered species. Be sure to question your sources to ensure ethical harvesting.

Texture: Take hemp string. Cut it into millions of 3-5cm/ 1-2 inch pieces. It feels like a cross between unbleached paper hairs and rope hairs.
Fiber length: short
Ease of use: This is terrible stuff for toys. Sawdusty. Must be stuffed a little bit at a time. Stuffs unevenly and feels like a series of (hair thin) straw clumps. Difficult to get it to fill small areas like the thumb of the hands. Does not bounce back when the doll is squeezed.
Amount of stuffing used: 70gm (2.47 ounces)

Texture: Soft, silky, and delicious to the touch.
Fiber length: medium to long
Ease of use: I was warned that you should wear a mask when filling a toy as the fibers become airborne in a heartbeat and make a mess of the room. I would cut that warning in half and say that grabbing it from the bag and stuffing the doll made some little bit of mess and yes, fibers were seen floating about now and then, and yes, it stuck to my jeans a bit and had to be lint brushed off, but it wasn't at all the exploding nightmare I thought it would be. It's a joy to use, except for the lint brush clean-up. It feels great in the hands, very soft. Stuffs mildly unevenly with a very little bit of balling and clumping next to some more lightly stuffed areas.
Amount of stuffing used: 60gm (2.12 ounces)

Texture: Like dreadlocks. Matted bunches of hair.
Smell: like sheep but only when shoved up to my face
Fiber length: long
Ease of use: Basically, you are stuffing the doll with lumps of matted hair. Must stuff small bits at a time or it lumps and clumps and hardens into small balls terribly. Does not feel like fiberfill; neither silky nor uniform. Hard to pull apart bits. I have no idea what this is used for normally. UPDATE: Melissa of explained this organic wool is mainly used in pet bedding.
Amount of stuffing used: 60gm (2.12 ounces)

Texture: Bouncy and soft, but not silky.
Smell: like sheep but only if shoved up to my face
Fiber length: medium long
Ease of use: I have used this stuffing for many years and I will continue to use it although I am moved to try out the eucalyptus in my next doll. This stuff is easy to pull apart. It shreds beautifully and creates a very soft bunch in the hands to stuff with. Pushes easily with fingers or tool and a tool will grab bits to stuff necks and armpits to create solid and seamless stuffing. The main problem with wool fleece is learning how to not shove more and more in and creating clumps and a hard doll rather than a seamless stuffing in a lightweight doll. It's not difficult, but it is a bit of a learning curve. Luckily, because it has more heft than most stuffings, it will stay in place and you can pull it this way and that, in effect shredding it inside the doll to open the fibers and soften the stuffing. I love the way a wool stuffed doll feels as wool warms in the hands creating a life-like feel between the child and the doll.
Amount of stuffing used: I grabbed a hank from my stash from Morningstar Crafts so I don't know how much I used.

NEXT: Part Three: Washability

You'll be amazed at the results! The results of washing alone surprised me. Add the dryer and....well, you've just gotta come back. Safe to say, the results were NOT what I expected at all.


  1. Great info, really interesting! I'm ready for Part 3! I hope kapok gets great marks from you as I have a big bag of it!

  2. Thanks for sticking with the test results, Jane. I had no idea how soft and lovely kapok was. The third installment will be up soon. Stay tuned!

  3. allison, this is such a valuable post! especially for visual, sense-based learners. thanks for taking the time to go in-depth for each fiber. kapok is a new favorite. i wish this article would come up first on google search, it took a while to find it, and so glad i did!

    1. Thanks, April. And thanks for doing such a thorough job sharing your kapok experience and what kapok actually is here:

      I hope everyone reads it and sees your lovely work.

  4. where do you get eucalyptus stuffing?

    1. The only place I know of is It's a really lovely feel. Very yummy!