Sunday, 27 May 2018

One Little, Two Little .... Four little Indians!

A lovely dolly friend of mine asked me if I would 'restore' her two childhood dolls, so I thought I would record the process that I went through to bring the dolls back to 'life' again.  They both needed restringing, one girl came here in bits and the other was really only held together by her clothing!  The dolls have great sentimental value to my friend so I wanted to do the best I could with them for her.  She had said that if necessary I could cut the clothing off but I wanted to save as much of their original outfits as I possibly could and only replace if it was completely necessary.

Both dolls are made of hard hollow plastic; the first doll has joints at her neck and shoulders but her legs are molded to her body and therefore don't move.  The second doll has a bigger head and is jointed at her neck, shoulders and hips.   Both dolls are wigged with what I believe is artificial mohair wigs styled into two plaits.   Both dolls have 'sleep eyes' meaning their eyes will shut when the dolls are tilted backwards, although the mechanism on both dolls was a little 'sticky' but both still worked.  And finally, both dolls had the cutest little funny faced babies in their papooses on their backs!

I decided to start on the doll with the molded legs first.   The elastic in her head and arms had completely disintegrated so I wanted to deal with that first before working on her outfit. Obviously to get to her joints I had to remove her outfit, which sadly was stapled into her body with metal staples which had gone rusty.  Pulling these out did leave a lot of small holes and pieces of metal still stuck in her torso, but I guess the outfits weren't really meant to be removed!!  

Back view of the poor headless girl, showing her papoose and her leather top and skirt, plus little leather moccasins:

Below you can see a close up of the papoose and the metal staples keeping it attached to the doll.  The baby sits inside this and his head and arms prevent him from falling through.  Unfortunately you can see that the metal has rusted onto the leather of the outfit:

Here you can see the dolls head and her little baby.

The baby is hard hollow plastic and has molded hair.  He is naked and doesn't have any joints....this little one doesn't even have any painted on features, poor little fellow!

The back of the skirt.  The belt was stapled at the back and glued around the skirt.

Here you can see the front of the skirt, which has a leather 'sash' decorated with sewn on seed beads.  The skirt itself had two square beads stuck to it but these were discoloured and damaged so I removed them.

Below, the back of the skirt with the belt removed:

Below is the dolls body once her clothes were carefully removed.  Her arms were only held on by her top and fell off immediately when she was free of her restraining leather top! 

I didn't remove the shoes as they were glued in place, so I started by cleaning them using a gentle leather cleaner.  Below you can see that I've started cleaning the white moccasin, with the left one still to do!

The soles of the shoes, the one on the right has been cleaned with leather cleaner:

Once the moccasins were clean, I restrung the arms using thin BJD elastic:

I removed her wig so that I could straighten the plaits and retie them with new pieces of leather:

She has a pretty little face even without her wig.  I carefully cleaned her inset eyes using a cotton bud and warm water:

Using the leather cleaner, I carefully cleaned her skirt.  Here you can see the difference between the clean and uncleaned leather!  The top part below is still to be cleaned in this photo!  I found it really satisfying to remove all the years of what my friend told me was actually nicotine!  (The dolls had been displayed by a relative who was a heavy smoker before my friend got them back again!)

Here you can see the back of the skirt after cleaning.  It's not perfect and I couldn't get the rust spots off, but I was pretty pleased with how clean it came up!

I did the same with the top but sadly as the dirt came off, so did the surface of the leather.  It seems it was really only the staining that was keeping it together, that and being actually on the doll....

And sadly,  it literally started disintegrating before my eyes :(

So I used the original top to draw up a pattern and then made her a new top using soft cream leather.  As you can see, it's not an exact match colour-wise but it's as near as I could get it.  I replaced the discoloured beads on the main part of the skirt, with some small oval shaped wooden beads.  These covered the marks left by the old beads which had been glued on.

My friend asked if I would make little 'nappies' for the babies....well I made a little leather 'nappy' with a fringe!!  I think he likes it!!!

I decorated the papoose with a tied leather strip and then attached it to the back of her top with a few stitches:

Using a bit of soapy water, I cleaned up her bead necklace which had got a little dull over the years.  Then she was all ready to face her audience:

Next came the little girl with the bigger head.  She arrived with her arms still attached and the elastic band that held them on was actually in quite good condition bearing in mind it's age but I decided to replace it with new elastic anyway:

Her outfit is really cute but it was stained, but as it was suede I didn't want to chance cleaning it up too much with the leather cleaner, I just gave it a light clean over to get rid of some of the surface nicotine:

The same applied to her moccasins, which were glued to her feet.  I gave them a very light wipe over so as not to damage them:

I cleaned her face and eyes with warm soapy water to remove as much dirt as I could:

As you can see below, she also has a little naked baby.  This one has black dots for eyes but they were completely in the wrong place!

This girls outfit was also stapled to her body with metal staples but fortunately they hadn't rusted as much as the other girl's had....

I had to remove all the staples and then the outfit came off.  Parts of it were glued together but the glue wasn't holding too well so they came apart easily:

Firstly I restrung her arms, again using BJD elastic:

I thought you might like to see the Magic Eraser that I used on the doll!  I managed to use up nearly one whole Eraser cleaning the two of them up!!  Thank goodness my friend was able to rescue the girls from her relative!!

Here is the sweet little girl with her new stringing: (I think she looks happier now that she's all back together again!!)

She also got new hair ties.  I would have liked to replait the hair but was afraid that it would fall out as it was shedding a bit:

I replaced the fringes on the front of the skirt as they were really shabby and stained and then reattached the beaded 'sash':

I cleaned up her beaded necklace and the redressed her:

I then gave her baby a little fringed nappy too.  I also gave both babies eyes in the correct position and repainted their Mohican hairstyles.  Notice that one baby has a suede 'nappy' and the other has leather....this is so that they can be placed with the correct mother!!  Although I'm sure their mothers can tell who's is who's!!! 

"Mine is longer than yours!"

Now that the girls are ready, their babies tied safely in their papooses, they can head on home across the prairies with their trusty pony!!!

I hope you've enjoyed seeing my 'restoration' project as much as I enjoyed doing it.  Thanks so much for visiting.

I hope you all have a great week ahead....I'm off to Barcelona on Friday so hope to have lots of photos to share next week :)

Big hugs Sharon xx


  1. What a great job you did on those dolls! The colour of the leather after you cleaned it was amazing, your skill at repairing and remaking these dolls and there clothes is just wonderful.
    It's so nice that your friend will have her old dolls back in a much nicer condition than before.

    Have a lovely time in Barcelona , I'll look forward ro seeing the photos xxx

    1. Thank you so much Dee, I really did enjoy doing it! My friend is very happy with the end results, she said she cried with happiness as they mean so much to her and she wasn't able to do much with them as they were before.
      Thanks on Barcelona, I hope to take lots of photos and I'm taking a doll with me, so hopefully I will have the courage to include her in some of the touristy type photos too :)

  2. You did a wonderful job restoring these dolls! They look so pristine now. I grew up in Minnesota USA, and dolls like these were an extremely popular item in gift shops in the 1970s. I had a little baby just like that. He originally came glued inside a little buckskin tepee, and had a fringed nappy exactly like the one you made!

    1. Thank you very much!! I'm glad you enjoyed it! I will have to ask my friend if she knows exactly where her father got them from, as I believe he got them whilst on business trips....maybe it was to the US!!
      That's funny too that the baby you had also wore a similar fringed nappy! I didn't look up anything online, I just thought to myself "what will work for these babies!" How spooky is that!!

  3. They came out great, and they look so much happier now! I find it hard to understand why people smoke inside buildings, as it's so difficult to get rid of the smell.
    Love the photos of the two crossing the prairies!

    1. Thank you so much Ursula, I'm glad you think so.
      I suppose a lot of people just don't give it much thought when they are smoking inside their own homes, but it just goes to show the damage that can be done....and to imagine their lungs!

  4. Sharon, what a great job! As Gregor above noted, the dolls look like them came originally from the United States. They all look happier after their "spa" makeover and I am sure your friend is delighted.
    I look forward to seeing your photos from Barcelona.

    1. Thanks very much Dorothy! Unfortunately the dolls didn't have any makers marks on them, so I'm assuming they were ones bought from maybe a tourist type souvenir shop or similar? I am glad you like how they've turned out.
      I will be sure to share any Barcelona photos :)

  5. Well done Sharon! I bet your friend is very pleased with the results of your efforts. The dolls certainly look pleased with what you've done for them. :)

    Have a wonderful trip, see you when you get back.

    1. Thank you very much Sandy, they arrived home a couple of days ago and my friend is really happy with them, which is lovely for me!
      I had a great trip and hope you'll have a look at the blog post of photos :)

  6. Hello Sharon!
    What a great job you've made of these little ladies. This size of doll is never easy to work on but you made them look almost new.
    I had the same mother doll as the first one, bought for me in 1962 by an aunt but mine had two little babies on her back which had vaguely marked out arms down by their sides and, to my 7 year old horror, no legs when I removed them from their cradle board carrier. The costume was exactly the same. I wonder where she went.

    What a great idea to use a Magic Eraser on the leather. So glad their owner can have them back in such great condition.

    1. Thanks very much Jen, I'm glad you think so.
      I can only imagine the shock you got when the babies had no legs!
      Yes the Magic Eraser was amazing, a great help as they were quite stained unfortunately.

  7. I love this post Sharon! I knew from the start that these precious dolls would be beautifully restored by your very talented hands and boy was I correct! They look so nice now with their proper cleanings, stringings, rebraidings, and outfit renewings. The babies are so precious and I love their nappies. Plus they can now see! Well done! 😊 xxx

    1. Thanks very much Ginger, I'm glad you enjoyed seeing the dolls, you have great faith in me!!!

  8. This was a great post, enjoyed it a lot! Those little ladies got a proper clean up and are ready to take over the world, with the babies hanging around! Well done!

    1. Thanks very much Niina, I'm glad you enjoyed it!

  9. Dear Sharon, it's already tomorrow where you are so HAPPY WORLD DOLL DAY!

    1. Thank you very much Dorothy, I actually didn't realise what day it was until afterwards DOH!!
      I hope you enjoyed World Doll Day though :)


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