Friday, March 30, 2012

Waldorf doll hospital

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.


  1. Noooooo! I read this post with wonder and a growing trepidation, and then I got to "to be continued" and my heart fell!! I so much hope you don't take too long in writing up part two!

  2. Noooo! How could you leave us hanging like that?? haha This reads like a true thriller, mama! EEEEK! OMG, it is UNCANNY how much Ella resembles Moonshine. Seriously, spitting image. I can't even believe my eyes. You made that when she was only 2? She looks JUST like her. Whoa. It's official. You're amazing. xo

    1. Cari, it is uncanny! I don't know how that happened, but now I have to make it happen again. See the pressure I'm under?

  3. This is so helpful! We are in the same situation here, but I have three dolls to mend, one is already 20 years old, my very first Waldorf doll I made for myself, and Jonathan's is probably about 11 years old. Ours look equally sad and I wasn't sure where to start. Now you gave me some hope and ideas. Flora also needs her first doll. She will be 4 soon, but I never seem to have time to do these things.

    How long did you soak them? I put mine in the washing machine (I have a wool wash program). That works well and they are not as wet when washing them by hand. I don't let the children watch the washing, though. I do it when they are in bed. Do you reuse the wool after carding it? Also, did you try to buy matching skin tones or did you just order the skin tone they used to have? Ours have darkened also, but I don't even know if I could match their current color to a new skin tone. Will you make new hair also?

    1. I'm glad that you're finding this post helpful! It really is hard to know where to begin.

      I soaked them for about an hour. I also have a wool setting on my machine, but I was afraid. I once ruined a superwash sweater on my wool setting in Switzerland-- and it was superwash!?! So now I only wash by wool by hand. When it came time to roll them in towels and step on them with my feet, I sent the children out of the room.

      All the wool that came out of the dolls was carded and returned to the dolls. So while their outsides may look new, they are still essentially the same inside. That was very important! The new skin is the same tone they had originally. I also ordered new balls of mohair like their original hair.

      I will post again probably on Monday or Tuesday, because I have to be finished by then!

  4. Aaahhh! What a clifff hanger! Anxiously awaiting part 2!!

  5. I'm sorry to leave it on a cliff hanger, ladies, but you see... I'm not yet finished! I will spend my weekend finishing them up, and then I will will post again, I promise!

  6. Thanks so much for the explanations. I guess it depends on the kind of machine you have. I have a Bosch machine, which has a good handwash program, but you never know what you might end up with with some programs like that!

    I really didn't know you could reuse the original stuffing. That's so good to know! Our dolls are actually so torn, that they have lost some of their stuffing. I don't even know where it went :).

    Remaking the hair is the thing I dread most. I'm very slow with the hair and very impatient. But, I'm older and wiser, maybe it will go faster. Good luck with yours.

    1. Yes, the old stuffing only needs to be cleaned and carded, so it is fluffy again. If you don't card it, it will tend make the dolls look lumpy. We also had to add some new stuffing to one of the dolls. I think that's just the way it goes sometimes.

      Thanks for the luck-- I can use it!

  7. Oh, my!! The suspense!! I will be on tenterhooks until the tale is told! I hope all goes well...I know how dearly those special dolls are loved. Good for you for working up the courage to make them new again.

  8. You are a brave and talented mom! Don't tell your kids but those poor dolls look like skin graft victims. Yikes! The only thing that keeps me from biting my nails from the suspense of "to be continued" is that I have complete faith in you that you will do an incredible job of the repairs! xo

    1. Oh, Teresa. I agree with you completely about how awful the dolls looked. Moonshine remarked that she hadn't seen her doll smile in years, so I think the girls would agree with you, too. Thanks for your all your sweet words!


Thank you for taking the time to leave a message. I appreciate your sweet words so much!

Related Posts with Thumbnails
Site Meter