Moonshine's tenth birthday is fast approaching, and all she wants for her birthday is to have her doll fixed. Not any old doll, but Ella, her Waldorf doll. The one she's been loving on for almost eight years.
We've gone round and round about whether or not we should fix her doll for longer than I can remember. Over the years she's had a few stitches and both partial and full hair replacements, but Moonshine has been unwilling to let me do anything more out of fear that Ella will be changed. Unrecognizably altered. Too different.
I totally understand where she's coming from. It's a daunting task. What if I mess up? It's not just a doll, if you know what I mean. It's Ella. And though she looks a bit worse for wear now, she's part of the family. She's been around longer than Kitty Bill has. She's a part of us.
And then there is Rosey, Sunburst's doll. The first Waldorf doll I ever made.
In eleven years, Rosey has been through her share of adventures. She has required several rounds of stitches and hair replacements. At one point there was an episode of body restuffing. She has been around the block and then some. The poor thing has been absolutely loved to death.
Sunburst has been even more reluctant than Moonshine. Poor Rosey has been losing her stuffing for years now-- wearing socks on her hands and feet to keep her wool from falling out. Her entire body, including her face, looks like it has been mauled by an army of pitbulls. Not once, but twice. At least. She requires total reconstructive surgery.
Every couple of years Sunburst and Moonshine bring up the idea of fixing their dolls, and before we can get to it, they change their minds. But this year they are finally ready. Both of them.
And so last weekend Moonshine and I set up a makeshift Waldorf Doll Hospital. The dolls were brought in and placed gingerly in their bed, treated to cups of water, flowers, and get well soon cards. And then one by one they were carried off on stretchers to the first step in their process. The spa soak.
Here's Rosey waiting her turn.
After soaking in their individually prepared baths with wool wash, they spent several hours in the sauna, or rather, splayed out on the drying rack over a space heater. In the morning they spent some time sunning in the garden. That helped them dry a little more, but it also helped lighten the fabric which has darkened over the years. Frankly, I wasn't quite sure where to start, and I figured it couldn't hurt.
Moonshine thought they looked happier already!
I brought them inside and the girls and I evaluated just which body parts they wanted me to replace. The dolls had another visit to the sauna-- drying tightly compressed wool takes an awfully long time-- and I got busy cutting and sewing new body parts.
For Rosey: one pair of arms, and one entire trunk/legs piece.
For Ella: one pair of arms, and two feet.
Sunburst and Moonshine took this opportunity to sit down at the table with me and sew some felt hearts which will be carefully inserted during surgery. Despite my sewing machine giving me fits, I managed to pull the sewing bit off. Unfortunately, I'm well aware that this part was the easiest, and the painful task of decapitating the dolls was the next step.
After a break that involved a bit of knitting in the sunshine and a quick two overs of cricket in the back garden, I came back inside and prepped the dolls for surgery. Rosey's wool needed re-carding, so I took a deep breath, opened her up, and emptied her insides over a towel to let them finally fully dry themselves.
Before the girls had too much time to gasp, I quickly and carefully picked out Ella's upper seams, then removed and emptied her arms. There were still a few bits of damp wool, so I pulled out a hair dryer and gave their innards a quick blast.
While Sunburst was busy carding Rosey's innards, Moonshine and I tried Ella's new feet to see how they looked.
The poor dear! Moonshine hemmed and hawed over it awhile and finally decided that Ella would be happiest if her feet matched her legs. So we opened her up, gave her bits a final blast, and Moonshine set to carding while I sewed up another body.
Bodies are one thing, but repairing heads are an entirely different matter. My dollmaking book says that if you need to repair a face, you can just cut new skin, stretch it over the old skin, and tack it in place at the hairline. I'm sure it's very good advice if you have minor wear and tear. But what if your doll looks like she has had most of her face chewed off? Then what? The book doesn't say. Which is really what has been holding me back all these years. Is Rosey beyond repair?
Because the next part was a bit scary, Sunburst was adamant that she didn't want to be around to watch. Moonshine agreed. So one night while they slept, I pulled out the scissors and my courage and set to work.
I started on Rosey first, because she needed the most attention. And part of me knew that if I really messed up Rosey, then I could just back away from Ella with my hands up and not completely ruin Moonshine's birthday.
The main problem with Rosey, besides her skin falling off, was that I really didn't know what I was doing when I made her. I was an overzealous Waldorf convert back in the day. Not only did I make a full-size doll for a two-year-old (and then out of fairness had to repeat the process for Moonshine three years later), I didn't make her head firm enough nor her neck strong enough. She was cute, but a bit wobbly from the get-go. And her mouth-- I know you've all been thinking about her mouth embroidery since the beginning of this post. Yes, she has full lips. I recently read somewhere that we unconsciously make our dolls in the mirror image of our children. I don't know what I was thinking at the time, but Sunburst does have full lips like Rosey's... just as Ella's wide smile mirrors Moonshine's.
Sometimes I think these dolls turn out a certain way for a reason. Whatever the reason, Rosey's lips have been kissed a thousand times since she came into being, and so I have had no regrets about embroidering them that way. Until now. Because now I'm expected to remake them just the way they were.
First thing was first, though. Rosey needed a stronger head and more firmness to her neck. There was nothing to do but remove what was left of her hair and face, cut her eye and chin lines, and pray.
To be continued...
For the continuation of this story, please see Part 2 and Part 3.