HELPING & RE-CREATING
 

 

 

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PRESERVING, REPAIRING & RE-CREATING BOUDOIR BED DOLLS

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o you got a fixer - upper!  Helping your boudoir bed dollie look her best or totally re-creating her can be rewarding and lots of fun.... It can also be a total disaster if you don't have a clue. Whether you are simply cleaning, sealing the paint or completely re-creating a basket case dollie, it is important that you always take your time and never try to rush.

he first thing to do is assess the situation. Decide what is to be done with the doll. Have all your supplies and tools handy and always wear safety glasses. When sanding the lead based paint, wear a face mask and even gloves. Take lots of pictures every step of the way!

CLOTHING

nless the clothing is in pretty good shape, remove the clothing by removing the staples or nails. Needle nose pliers do a fine job but be careful not to tear or rip the garment. Also remove any other random staples or nails. Sometimes you will have to break out the old seam ripper. Once again, work very carefully. If there is a crinoline (stiff gauze like petticoat/slip) attached to the dollie, leave it on unless it is really tore up or dirty. If it is attached to the dress, remove it from the dress with mr. seam ripper before gently laundering the dress. The Twin Pines products "PERK!" and "BOOOST!" , Dark Color Safe Woolite or Dreft work best. I use a glass gallon sun tea jar, fill it 2/3 with water and add the appropriate amount of products.  I shake it up some to mix it and then add the garment. Once every so often, I will simply turn the jar some to agitate but not hard. Don't mess with it much ~ just let it soak. If there is a collar and/or a hat, it will also have the stiff gauze backing. The starch will come out but can just spray starched when ironed. This is a vintage dress so stains and small holes will be present. I just leave them as after all and some of the imperfections can be covered with replaced lace or other adornments. Mend and replace whatever is practicable. Depending on the type and color of the fabric, I have been known to take the entire dress apart, wash parts of each color separately, and put it back together. The old cheap satin fabric used at the time doesn't always hold up very well so sometimes it is necessary to make a new bodice with newer fabric of a neutral color. If all else fails, the old dress can be used as a pattern to make a reproduction. I still like to take off the trim, though, and either use it on the reproduction or save it for something else later. Keep the heat of the iron as low as you can get away with and use plenty of spray starch.

THE HEAD

ow that you have her clothes off you can decide what to do with the head. If the hair is in good shape and the composition under it is okay, leave the hair on and leave the head on the body. If there isn't much hair or the composition is damaged, gently remove the hair and set it aside. On cloth dolls, you may find that the hair is pinned on with straight pins in which case it would be easier to take off. In many cases, however, the silk hair is in a rather elaborate hair-do so you want to really consider removal as it is very difficult to put it back on just so.

CLOTH, MASK & SILK OVERLAY FACED HEADS

loth faced dollies are a challenge to clean safely. After years of consulting with other boudoir dollie lovers, we have yet to find a safe method using cleaners. There are a few, gentle tricks that one can try, however, to make a difference. Keep in mind that it is very, very easy to completely ruin a cloth doll so serious consideration is necessary, weather to try or to just leave her alone and love her the way she is.

or cloth molded mask faced dollies (no silk overlay) such as Blossoms, Ettas, Gerlings (Bucilla kit), Kuddles, Chas. Bloom dolls, American Stuffed Novelty (Floozies), Unique Novelty Doll (Eggheads), Gre-Poir, some Gerbs Poupee & Ring Ladies, the first thing to do is seal the lips, nose dots, beauty marks and eyes with acrylic varnish. I use Delta Ceramcoat but you can use any finish you desire (matte, satin, or gloss) this prevents the paint from running and you will notice that it will really brighten the eyes. If there is missing eye or lip paint, you may want to touch it up and then add another coat of the varnish. I usually leave the eyebrows and eyelids alone and just try not to get near them at all.

mooched or dented noses or chins can be pushed out by working a knitting needle through the seam at the back of the head. Use a good size that isn't too sharp at the end. I usually push some fiberfill in with the needle to pad the underside so it stays pushed out.

ome light dirt, soiling and/or some water spots can be erased with a "chalk", rubber, or crumbly eraser. Always start out very lightly so you don't damage the cloth fibers. If there is soil or some other substance on the face like glue from the hair, sometimes you can scrap it off with a sanded cuticle orangewood stick (my favorite tool). If you are careful, it can scrap stuff off and there is less of a chance of damaging the fabric than a blade. Vacuuming with a stocking over the end of hose or air in a can (for cleaning computer keyboards) sometimes does wonders. Just be careful you don't get too close with the air in a can.

ther methods using liquid substances include, spray foam Woolite or Resolve cleaner. DO NOT spray right on the doll but apply foam with a damp white cloth, lightly rub it in and blot - don't rub - clean. Dry with a hair dryer immediately. Always work lightly as to not damage the fibers or the shape of the head. Some have found that alcohol or even vodka works rather well. In that case, just use the low or no heat setting on the hair dryer. Keep in mind that if you don't wet the entire face (around the eyebrows and eyelids of course) you may end up with even more water spots and the cheeks can become discolored or blobby. Yet another reason to mess with it or just leave it alone.

f the head is in "basket case" condition and completely filthy, the following method can be attempted. After punching out the dents and sealing the eyes, lips, nose dots & beauty marks, take the head and set it a small bowl so it is face up and not rolling around. Take some oxyclean and dissolve in water. With a soft brush, apply lightly to the entire face but do not get near any painted areas as it will bleed a bit and get really close. Allow to dry. Repeat until most of the stains are either gone or very light. Once you have dried it the last time, you can brush on diluted fabric dye or water colors. Tan liquid dye. You can also airbrush it with diluted acrylic paint but that does seem to take away from the fabric texture.

or silk overlay faces, you will probably have to just leave it alone as anything you do to will probably damage the silk. If the silk is gone in places or pealing off, many will seal the eyes first and then peal the silk off carefully cutting it around the eyes and leaving them original. You can then touch up the eyebrows, lips, beauty marks, and/or nose dots and seal them with the acrylic varnish.

o touch up cloth faces, acrylic paint for the eyes, eyebrows, lips, beauty marks and nose dots work well. Airbrush the eye shadow and cheeks is always good but not necessary. Some have found crushed up pastels, shaved colored pencils or real makeup applied with makeup sponge or brush to work just as well.

COMPOSITION HEAD

irst of all, it is important to know what composition is. Composition is a wood pulp or sawdust that was mixed with a staying agent like starch or sugar water then pressed into a form and allowed to dry. The two halves are then glued together and spackling is applies to the sides of the heads and necks. At this point, some of the manufacturers coated the head with a type of "slip" whereas some simply dipped the head in coat after coat of paint. Over time, the wood contracts and expands with the environments' condition, the paint looses it elasticity becoming hard and brittle. Add that to the fact that the paint just didn't always stick to the spackling very well and you have a real mess.

lean with a good cleaner safe for composition dolls like Mean Green, 409 or Tru-Bleu with a old wash cloth and cotton swabs when needed to see what's under the dirt. Some use alcohol but I never have found it to work well. Be VERY careful and use EXTREME CAUTION around the eyes and eyebrows or you will clean them right off! Check for places where the paint is lifting causing "bubbles" specifically on the inside of the eyes by the bridge of the nose or around the nostrils and corners of the mouth. Is the paint lifting or are there cracks on the sides of the neck. Are there holes in the top of the head. If the head mostly looks good, then I leave the head on the body to do minor repairs or touchups.

will normally just touch up eyes, chins and noses. Less is always better. For eyes or lips that have popped off, I seal what is left with acrylic varnish (click to see below), touch up and then reseal. If the paint is starting to flake off, I seal the entire face/head with 2 - 3 thin coats of varnish to stabilize and then go from there.

f repairs need to be made to the sides or the head or you intend to peal it and repaint, gently remove the head from the body.  You may have to stick your finger up under the breastplate and just peal the body from the breastplate. You can also use a butter knife, popsicle stick or a orangewood cuticle stick, if you are careful.

ext, make any repairs to the composition as needed. Use wood glue or gorilla glue to glue it back together. The gorilla glue will expand and bubble so just wipe it off and try to get it to bubble to the inside of the head. Fill in any small holes with wood putty, I use DAP (can be purchased at most hardware stores but I know that ACE Hardware usually has it for sure). It comes in different colors but more importantly, it contracts and expands with the composition. For fingers, noses, and other repairs needed, I use Milliput. It is a two part resin clay but it is really useful and worth the money and/or the wait.

f you decide to peal the head to start over, be sure you sand her down nice and smooth using putty or spackle where needed after you have mended and repaired her. You may have to spackle her entire face/head to get a smooth finish. Every little dent, scratch or inconsistency will show with the paint.

ow you are ready to paint. Always apply a few coats of primer first. I use Killz oil base. Spray or brush light coats and be sure to let it dry completely between coats. Sand it smooth between coats. You don't have to go overboard though. Acrylic paint works the best and a close match is usually available. Now, an airbrush is always preferred but not mandatory. I sometimes use a very, very soft brush. You will get lines from the brush hair but it usually settles in to a smooth finish. If it doesn't, sand it down, thin out the paint and try again. Let it dry between coats. Paint sometimes takes a really long time to dry. Sometimes it takes a week. Patience. I seal it with Indoor/Outdoor Non-yellowing Acrylic Varnish in either a Matte or Satin finish. You can use the Krylon spray or Delta Ceramcoat and a very soft brush. Apply the cheeks and the eye shadow. Once again, the airbrush is preferred but you can also try a sponge or very soft brush. Some use watercolors, some water down the acrylic paint. Seal again with varnish. Apply details ~ lips, eyes, eyebrows, beauty mark... You guessed it... Seal again with varnish.

rms and feet are the same but you don't really have to apply as many coat although I do seal with varnish.

EYELASHES

yelashes are really not that difficult to replace. Commercial doll eyelashes can be purchased online through most doll parts sites or at craft stores such as Michael's. Cheap camel hair paint brushes with the aluminum handles can also be used. Human or synthetic "fake" eyelashes can be purchased at any big box (Walmart, Target, K-Mart) or drug store (Walgreens, CVS) in the cosmetic section. They come in all kinds of styles and colors. Thick eyelashes can be purchased on sale at Halloween time. Try to match what the dollie had originally but longer then you need or thicker is better for boudoir dollies.

irst, cut the eyelashes the width of the eye, apply tacky white glue to eyelash and eyelash slit and apply with tweezers. If using the camel hair from the paint brush, apply glue to eyelash slit and to the ends of the eyelashes while holding them with the tweezers. Keep applying until they are the desired thickness. Don't worry too much about the evenness of the length. Once dried completely, the eyelashes can be trimmed to the desired length.

CLOTH BODY

ostly the same idea, assess what needs to be done, mend, reattach compo parts, replace parts from similar fabrics. If the body is really dirty, you can take it apart, take out the stuffing, wash the body parts, sew it back together and then use the same stuffing to re-stuff it. I usually sew up the top of the body so the head will sit better when you glue it back on. If the cloth body is really bad, you can remake it and stuff with the original stuffing or in the case of the excelsior or straw, you may just want to use cotton batting. You can also cover over the original body with similar fabric. DO NOT LAUNDER AN ENTIRE CLOTH BODY IN THE WASHER UNLESS YOU ARE READY TO CLEAN UP A NICE MESS!

WIG

he mohair or human hair can be washed with shampoo and conditioner. On mohair, I do try to maintain the original curl. Usually, there is no wig cap. The part is stitched down with twill tape and simply glued right on the head. If there isn't much hair or you prefer to replace it so you can cover the entire head, wavy mohair works best. I use Tacky Glue to glue the hair on. PLEASE! NEVER USE HOT GLUE!!!

FINISHING TOUCHES

nce the head is done, reattach it to the body using Tacky Glue, if necessary and dress her! She ready to hit the town.....

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