Monday, June 1, 2009

Repairing a Ginger doll's broken walking post

A common problem among Cosmopolitan Ginger dolls from the 1950s is that they are found with broken walking posts. The post that connects their head to the walking mechanism in their hips is made of plastic, which makes it susceptible to breaking. If the post breaks, not only does their head not move back and forth when they "walk," but it only wobbles and can spin all the way around.

Several years ago, I bought a nude Ginger doll that arrived with a cracked walking post. The crack, which I could see through the arm holes, went about halfway through the post, so I knew if I wasn't careful it would break off the rest of the way. I decided to try gluing the walking post in the hopes of saving her.

I actually glued her twice. The first time I used super glue, applied painstakingly with the tip of a toothpick. Once I felt I had enough glue in the crack, I positioned her head to close the crack, held her like that for several minutes, and then very carefully laid her on her back to dry.

The super glue actually held for quite a while, but one day when I was dressing her or styling her hair, I wasn't quite careful enough and the glue failed. This time I didn't have any super glue handy, so I decided to try the glue I use for wig replacement and touch-ups. I think I used a little more glue this time, too. Again, I held her head in position for several minutes before laying her down to dry. So far, the Tacky Glue has held, and I haven't had to reglue her walking post again.

I took a couple of photos to show my repair job. In the first photo, you can see the crack at the top of the curve. If you look closely in the second photo, you can see the clear layer of glue over the outside of the walking post.

Repaired walking post on a Cosmopolitan Ginger

Glued walking post on a Cosmopolitan Ginger

A little bit of work, and I was able to save a perfectly good Ginger doll from the trash bin!

Cosmopolitan Ginger wwith a repaired walking post, wearing #112 from 1955

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Friday, May 29, 2009

Vintage doll wig replacement, part 2

More than a month ago, I blogged about replacing the wig on one of my 8-inch Ginger dolls. Here at last is the rest of the story, as well as a few pictures.

As you'll remember, she wasn't the prettiest doll starting out — her crazy wig inspired me to nickname her Medusa. So I took the wig off of another Ginger doll with a walking post that was broken beyond repair.

Once I had the new wig in place (all of this is described in detail in the other post), I tied a ribbon around her head to keep the cheesecloth wig cap flush against her head while the glue dried. (I don't recomend fast-drying glue unless it's something that is reversible — too easy to make mistakes. Better to learn patience!)

After about 24 hours, I took the ribbon off. Although I had rebraided the wig before switching it, I did have do a little restyling after transferring it. Once the braids were how I wanted them, I put an extra spot of glue on each of side above the ear, so that the hair alongside her face stayed down instead of peeling up and making her look funny. That meant putting the ribbon back on again, of course.

When I took the ribbon off for the final time, I was duly impressed with my own work. Because I'd done such a thorough job of removing the evidence of glue and hair from the original wig, it's not immediately obvious that the wig is a replacement.

1950s Ginger doll with a replaced vintage wig

1950s Ginger doll with a replaced vintage wig, taken from another Ginger doll of the same period

I also found her an outfit that I thought appropriate: #666 from the 1955 catalog. I bought the dress separately, so the yellow taffeta fat pants, yellow rayon socks, and white shoes are all appropriate vintage replacements. I'm still missng the hat, which I believe should be a lacy-looking white hat.

Cosmopolitan Ginger with vintage replacement wig wearing #666 from the 1955 catalog, a yellow taffeta and white embroidered organdy dress with yellow bloomers, yellow rayon socks, and white shoes

A lot of doll collectors shy away from dolls with replaced wigs, but I think the key is finding an appropriate vintage replacements. Most modern replacement wigs will be glaringly obvious, but you can easily find an appropriate vintage replacement by buying a parts doll with a good wig.

Of course, replacing the wig does affect the value — my doll might be worth more than she was with a Medusa wig, but not by much, and definitely not as much as if it were her original wig. Therefore, I don't necessarily recommend doing this on a doll you plan to sell; but if it's just a doll you plan to display and enjoy, I think you'll be pleased with the results.

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Vintage doll wig replacement, part 1

A couple weekends ago I did my first wig replacement on a vintage doll.

I had two Ginger/clone dolls: one doll with a broken neck but a good wig, and another with a great body, great face paint, but Medusa hair.

Ginger clone doll with a bad wig
Photo by dallcm

Getting the bad wig off of the good doll was pretty easy, because the only thing I had to worry about was holding her head still so that I wouldn't break her walking post. Once the wig was off, I used my favorite doll cleaner to remove all of the glue residue. It took a little elbow grease, but the cleaner removed the glue!

Taking off the other doll's wig was a little trickier, as I had to be careful not to damage it. Luckily it is a genuine Cosmopolitan Ginger wig, with a full fabric cap (as opposed to the clone wigs, which generally just had a strip of fabric under the stitched part). I was therefore able to just focus on working the cheesecloth fabric away from the head. I didn't use water or doll cleaner to loosen it, just carefully worked the tip of a spoon under the fabric and avoided tearing it as much as possible.

Once I got the wig off, I put it on the other doll's now-shiny bald head, and moved it around a bunch to see how it looked in various positions. Once I had decided how I was going to position the wig, I had my husband hold the doll while I did a "practice run" without glue. I wanted to be certain I got it right the first time!

Tacky Glue, a good glue for wig replacement and other doll repairsFinally I was ready to glue the wig on. I applied Tacky Glue directly to the inside of the wig — a circle all around the outer edge, a line of glue down the stitching for the part, and a little squiggle on each side of the part. I wanted to be sure I used plenty of glue, but I also had to be sure I didn't overglue.

When I put the wig on, I positioned it and then held it tight with my fingers for several minutes. When I was confident that it was starting to set, I tied a ribbon around the doll's head to keep the wig in place.

Post wig replacement - letting the glue set

Stay tuned for the unveiling — my next post will address restyling her hair and putting the finishing touches on the replacement wig!

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Thursday, April 2, 2009

Washing vintage doll clothes

Washing vintage doll clothes is a tricky business. Washing a doll's clothes typically detracts from a doll's originality and lowers the doll's value, particularly if you can really tell the clothing has been washed. However, dirty clothing also reduces the value.

Deciding whether to wash a doll's clothes therefore entails weighing the pros and cons — whether the doll's value will be affected more by dirty clothes or washed clothes. It can also be affected heavily by personal preference — i.e., whether you prefer a doll in your collection to be as original as possible, or as clean as possible.

In any case, whether to wash your doll's clothing is a very personal decision, so I won't give you advice on when you should or shouldn't. If you do decide to, however, this is how I prefer to wash my doll's clothing.

You will need:

* Biz laundry soap
* A large bowl or a mixing bowl
* An upside-down bowl, or a clean bottle, on which to dry the dress.

Note: Always remember to use cold water when washing vintage doll clothes. Some of the dyes were not very colorfast, and warm or hot water can cause them to run.

1) Put a small scoop of Biz into the bowl and fill with cold water, stirring to mix the detergent in as well as possible. Put the clothes in, stir again, and allow to soak. Do not scrub spots.

2) Check on the clothes and stir the water periodically. You may want to turn the clothes so all of it gets immersed in the water at some point. Change the water and Biz if the water becomes dirty or clouded.

3) Soak for up to 24 hours, checking the clothes frequently for damage caused by soaking too long, such as bleeding dye or tears in the fabric. Remove the clothes immediately if you see any of this. In my experience, cotton and taffeta hold up over 24 hours pretty well, but the more fragile organdy and satin should be taken out sooner.

4) Remove the clothing from the water and rinse under running cold water. Scuff the fabric lightly with your fingers as you rinse it to make sure none of the detergent is left in the fabric.

5) When the clothes are rinsed, you can press the clothes gently to squeeze out the extra water, but do not wring. This is very important, as wringing causes wrinkles that often do not come out again!

6) Arrange the clothing how you want it to dry. For instance, if the skirt is full and you want it to stand out a bit on the doll, arrange it flat, in a circle, with the bodice of the dress standing up. If you don't want it to stand out as much, arrange the dress over a bowl, so that the skirt hangs down around it. Be sure to puff out sleeves, etc., so that they don't dry flat or creased.

7) Allow the clothes to dry overnight. Do not use heat to dry them faster.

In my experience, this method of washing will not remove the sizing (the factory stiffness in the fabric, desireable in mint or near-mint dolls). Sometimes I've even found that vintage doll clothing that has been machine washed or ironed (which makes them limp) regains some of that desireable stiffness with this method.

Good luck!

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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Cleaning vintage doll shoes

Sunday and Monday were doll project days at my house. I have a whole list of things that I fixed and that I will blog about in the coming days, so be sure to check back!

One of the things I did yesterday was to clean a pair of vintage doll shoes, the vinyl or plastic Mary Jane types that fit Ginny-sized dolls. They were seriously the filthiest pair of doll shoes I have ever seen, but they were one of my Ginger doll's originals, so I wanted to try to salvage them.

They had a lot of play soil on them, as well as some kind of glue or varnish that had made shiny discolored spots:

A pair of white vinyl Mary Janes before I cleaned them

I started out using a little of my favorite doll cleaner, but even that stuff — as good as it is — wouldn't cut through the glue or varnish that was on the shoes.

I happened to be soaking some doll clothes at the time, so I decided "Why not?" and threw the doll shoes in with a dress. They soaked overnight in Biz (I'll blog about my clothes washing method another time). When I rinsed them off the next day, I scratched the spots a little with a fingernail and found that I was to peel up the varnish or glue.

The shoes were still a little discolored, especially under where the varnish had been, so I used the doll cleaner on them again. I was surprised and delighted at how white they turned out!

A pair of white vinyl Mary Janes after I cleaned them

It's definitely worth a little time and effort to clean vintage doll shoes!

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Restoring stiff oilcloth doll shoes

I took a couple of days' break in order to work on a couple of Madame Alexander project dolls: restringing an Elise's head and legs (a skinny-hip Elise), restringing a Cissette doll's head, and getting a pair of stiff oilcloth roller skates on my Kathy's feet. In the coming week or so I will post on Cissette and Kathy (Elise needs an outfit and isn't ready for pictures yet), but tonight I want to post some tips for restoring stiff oilcloth doll shoes.

These skates are not Kathy's originals, but a pair of replacement skates made during the 1950s by another company (like Premier) and sold separately. They had never been out of their box or on a doll, so they had become extremely stiff and shrunken over time. I tried once to put them on my doll's feet, but they were so stiff that I was deathly afraid of damaging them.

To solve this problem, I steamed them to soften the oilcloth without damaging it. When I was done, I was able to get both skates on and tied without splitting or tearing the oilcloth.

Here are the skates, with one of them steamed and on the doll, and the other still stiff and collapsed:

Restoring a stiff oilcloth doll shoe

Since stiff oilcloth shoes are a problem with vintage doll accessories, you might want to try this technique yourself. Here's how:

1) Bring a saucepan of water to a gentle boil and hold each shoe over it until the oilcloth become pliable, checking every 30 to 60 seconds to be sure you don't accidentally get the shoe too wet. I held the skate 8 or 10 inches above the water. In general, if the shoe is in danger of getting splashed or the heat is too much for your hand, you are holding it too close.

Steaming a stiff oilcloth doll shoe

2) Let the shoe sit for several minutes to allow the steam and/or excess water to evaporate. If you've been careful not to let it get too wet, this shouldn't take more than a few minutes.

3) Either put the shoe on your doll's foot (over a sock, of course!), or stuff it with cotton or tissue to preserve the shape. Doll shoes shrink and get stiff when they are stored off a doll for long periods of time. If you are not putting them right on a doll, stuffing them will prevent the same thing from happening again.

I also have used this technique to reshape a Cosmopolitan Ginger dress that was very stiff and had been stored flat. In my experience with the dress, it stiffened up again as the steaming wore off, but it isn't now as stiff — and it retained its new shape. So this probably won't completely do away with the stiffness in your oilcloth shoes, but it will get rid of the brittleness and help you to get the shoes on your doll's feet.

Two restored oilcloth doll shoes

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Saturday, November 8, 2008

Another testament to Cathie Lee doll cleaner

A little while back, I blogged about using Cathie Lee doll cleaner to clean mold off of a hard plastic doll. I also took a picture that showed the difference between the dirty leg and the cleaned leg.

Well, here is another example of how good Cathie Lee doll cleaner is. Before the doll show, I used it to clean up one of the project dolls that I actually sold at the doll. She was a played-with 18-inch Binnie walker with vinyl arms, and her arms were filthy everywhere they weren't covered by her dress.

Here's a picture of her upper body (minus her head — we hadn't restrung it yet) with one arm dirty and one arm cleaned:

Cleaning vintage dolls

You can see how ridiculously blackened her dirty arm is. To get the other arm clean, I used Cathie Lee doll cleaner and part of one of those red scrubby pads that are used to clean glass and ceramic cooktops. Probably because they are made to scrub these cooktops without scratching them, they work wonders for cleaning dolls without removing their original paint.

Cleaning your dolls is often one of the easiest things you can do to make them look pretty again. Just make sure you are using a cleaner that is specially formulated for vintage dolls!

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Friday, November 7, 2008

Reader suggestion for cleaning off mold

Recently I blogged about cleaning mold off of the Nancy Ann Style Show doll we had for sale. Shortly afterward, a reader — the same reader who bought her, actually — offered a suggestion for cleaning mold off of hard plastic dolls:

I have had a few dolls with this white mold issue. Have you ever tried just hitting it with a hair dryer??? It will just melt away & you can wipe her clean. It is amazing! No scrubbing or anything. I also use this method on my Nancy Ann storybook dolls with the white mold on their eyes.

And yesterday, one of the Yahoo doll groups I belong to was discussing the same technique for getting the white residue of the old dolls' eyes.

Of course, as a word of caution, you should be very careful any time you are using a hair dryer on a doll. You don't want to damage the doll by blasting her with too much heat!

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Cleaning mold off of a hard plastic strung doll

I recently blogged about a Nancy Ann Style Show doll we are selling. Dash of Spice is made of painted hard plastic, a type of doll that seems to be rather susceptible to mold problems.

Basically, a fine, almost powdery mold grows on the painted surface of the plastic — I'm assuming only on dolls that are stored in humid climates, as Colorado (where we live) is too dry for that type of thing. The mold can be cleaned off but tends to leave pale discolorations where it grew.

My mom bought Dash of Spice fairly early in our years of collecting and acquiring dolls. We're not sure if we just didn't notice then, or if it has gotten worse over the years, but when we were getting ready to take her picture we noticed that she had a powdery-like white residue on her clothes. We stripped her, and found splotches of mold on her arms, chest, back, and legs.

At the same time, I realized that the doll was filthy: She had a thin shadow of dirt over every bit of exposed plastic. I immediately set out to clean her up.

I like to use Cathie Lee doll cleaner, which you can buy on eBay, for cleaning hard plastic dolls. Rather than applying it with a rag, I cut into thirds those red scrubby pads that are made to clean glass cooktop surfaces without scratching, and use that. It's gentle enough not to remove paint from the plastic, but scrubby enough to help remove caked-on dirt — like what was on my mom's Nancy Ann Style Show doll.

Here is a nice before-and-after demonstration: a picture of the dolls legs after only one of them had been cleaned. The focus is a little soft, but you can still tell that the leg on the left (your left) looks a little more grey than the other. That's not a shadow that makes the leg look darker — it's dirt!

Cleaning a hard plastic doll

This ought to demonstrate how much you can improve a hard plastic doll's appearance by cleaning it — if you have a good doll cleaner and are careful not to take off any paint, of course!

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