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The Making of a New String Doll

from draft to doll

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String Dolls appeared in the markets of Thailand in 2004 and it wasn’t long before a whole cottage industry had sprung up around these amazing creations.

Artisan Portrait

One of our skillful and dedicated doll makers working at the "String Doll village" in Thailand.

What’s so amazing about them? Every doll is handmade from one piece of string (accessories are added later) and yet most characters are durable enough to be used as a keychain, bag charm, or however you see fit. There are now over 100 different String Doll Gang® characters ranging from the very cute to the very strange, and sometimes both! Especially important is each doll’s special, good-luck power that is written on a fabric tag, making the dolls a great gift for yourself or just about anybody you know.

Artisan Portrait

Hard working String Doll artisans.

Kamibashi has been designing all of our own String Doll Gang characters since 2006. We maintain Fair Trade practices while working with two groups of string doll artists, each of which is based in rural, farming villages in the North of Thailand. While some of the workers are full-time and make the dolls at the house of the team manager, others are paid per piece and work from their own homes, allowing them the flexibility to work as much or as little as their daily lives will allow.

Artisan Portrait

Raw materials waiting to be crafted into String Dolls.

We are proud to offer the highest quality string dolls in the world and will continue to work with these talented artists to create new characters. We have no doubt that the String Doll Gang will grow and thrive as more and more people are turned onto their special charms. Enjoy!

Artisan Portrait

Piles of Purls that are almost completed.

Artisan Portrait

Carefully untangling the strings.

Artisan Portrait

Precision at work: the die cut for Bridezilla's lips.

Artisan Portrait

Putting on the finishing touches.

The Making of a New String Doll Character

In May 2011 we announced the winner of Kamibashi’s second “Create Your Own String Doll” contest and we’d like to show you the steps that got us from a great idea to a super cute (and sweet) creation!

Jordan: "I was thinking a cupcake type of doll, with a silver dress and pink frosting hair with sprinkles. Her name would be "Sweet Thing", and her doll power would be "Takes care of those sweet moments in life." I also included two sketches that I made of what she could look like."

Step one of any new doll is coming up with an idea. We wanted our contest winner to be something totally unique, and Cupcake fit the bill. The idea was sent in by Kamibashi fan Jordan along with a drawing (right) and her suggestion for the doll's power.

Next we sent Jordan's picture to Thailand along with a drawing of our own rendition of a cupcake string doll and various cupcake pictures we had found online. In addition to sending pictures and sometimes drawings for each new doll, we also send detailed instructions about each of the separate parts of the doll.

Blueprints for a yummy cupcake — made of string! A delicious photo of actual cupcakes and a cartoony illustration to inspire the creativity of the String Doll artists.

The first cupcake looked just like the drawing we had sent the artists, but we didn't like the direction it was headed...

Some new string dolls are fairly straightforward and we receive a picture of the first sample from our wonderful doll makers in Thailand within a week or so. Cupcake proved to be more difficult though, partly because her body, which would need to be clothed in a cupcake wrapper, was not going to be a typical string doll body. It needed to be round and to fill up the wrapper. About 3 weeks later we received the first sample (right), which really does look like the drawing we made!

Back to looking more like Jordan's original vision...

...and a version in red velvet cake!

Despite looking like the picture we had sent, this first sample was a little worrying... not sure if it was the color of string that they chose (sometimes forgotten details in the instructions we send to Thailand can result in what we'll call very interesting things) or if it just looked strange because her body and head were one and the same. Another concern at this stage was the use of the cupcake wrapper... would a paper wrapper be durable, or would it be a total disaster? We loved this cute flowery wrapper, but we had to be practical too.

We knew we needed to try again, pretty much starting from the beginning, and so we asked them to make the doll look more like Jordan's pictures, with the cupcake wrapper acting as a sort of dress. We received the two samples above about a week later.

A bit more filled in, with no mouth, and a cherry on top!

A pink version — all smiles.

These were definitely an improvement but she still needed a lot of work — we didn't think that anyone would be able to tell quite what she was, and so we asked our string doll artists to figure out how to stuff her cupcake wrapper so that she was big and round. We also decided that we didn't really like her in red (too dark), and so we asked them to do the next samples using the pink one with that cute paper wrapper from the very first sample, and a yellow one with a gold foil wrapper.

In addition, we requested some changes to her face. We weren't digging the lips these new samples were wearing and we wanted them to try something else. We also thought that the tip of their frosting made it look a little too much like they were wearing winter hats, and we so we asked them to make us two more samples which you can see to the right, both with eyelashes and a cherry on top and the below specifications:

  1. A yellow doll with a gold foil cup, small beads for eyes, and no smile
  2. A pink doll with the cute paper cup, big beads for eyes, and a sewn red smile

Fresh out of the "Oven" — looks like she was baked by a professional!

Now we were getting somewhere! The cupcake bodies looked so much better this time, and it was easy to choose who had the cuter face of the two. We also liked the extra bit of color that the cherry on top added. The eyelashes were adorable and a must — we wanted our Cupcake to be girly.

It was time to see them both in person so we asked our folks in Thailand to ship the two latest Cupcakes to us along with our monthly String Doll Gang order. When they arrived it was again clear that the pink one was for sure the cutest, but we worried again about the paper cup and its durability. Some string dolls are definitely more fragile than others and can't take the beating of everyday use that other dolls can, and it was clear that Cupcake would be on the fragile side, especially in her paper wrapper.

We asked for one more sample of the yellow Cupcake with the gold foil wrapper and her new face, and what we got back was even better than any of us could have imagined: the string making up the cake was beautifully wrapped as if an expert baker had made it herself. BRAVO — we were finally there, our delicious Cupcake! We only hope they can do it this perfectly every time, but as long as her face is cute and her cup is filled, we will take her any which way.

Almost perfect — did you notice the website typo, too?

And finally, a String Doll Gang character is not complete without the fabric tag that has the doll's name on the front and their special power on the back. We at Kamibashi had met as a group somewhere in the middle of the above process and had decided on the below power, a mix of Jordan's original idea and our brainstorming. Note the typo in our website address, which is why even tags can go through more than one round of sampling!

Welcome to the Gang, Cupcake! We are very excited about your arrival sometime around the middle of July, 2010. And congratulations once more to Jordan and our two contest runners up, Roger and Aleisha, whose string doll ideas, Wally the Weightlifter and Cirene the Butterfly will debut along with Cupcake. We can hardly wait!