Making 'yarn' hair (custom strand shape)

I’m making a doll-like character and want to have ‘yarn’ hair. (like the Willoughbys, or Coraline’s doll - but not stuck to the head)

Particle hair system hasn’t worked out so far (custom object doesn’t act as strand shape; default strands have weird deformation when scaled up in hair shape settings)

My next plan is to use this cloth sim method with hooked curves + yarn object arrayed on curves. However I’m looking for other solutions first - it’ll be tedious to setup and it might not work with so many objects.

Is there a better way to make hair with custom strand shapes?