Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Waldorf Doll Hospital - part 2

This is part two of a story in which I tell how I sucked in my breath, gathered my courage, and tried to fix my children's well-loved, yet horribly damaged Waldorf dolls, Ella and Rosey.  If you missed part one of this story, you can find it here.

WARNING: The below post contains potentially frightening images.  If you're my daughter Sunburst, turn back now.  DO NOT read this post or casually glance down the page unless you want to see exactly what I did to fix your doll... and I assure you, you don't!

*     *     *     *     *

I'm so sorry to have left you all on a cliff hanger, dear friends.  I wish I could have finished the story right away and let you know that everything turned out all right in the end... but I wasn't at the end yet.  I was still sewing and fixing and praying right along with you.

So where was I?  Oh yes, Rosey.  Dear, sweet, bedraggled Rosey... I had no idea how I was going to fix her terribly worn head, just that I had to do something.  It really was a complete leap of faith.

I set her down and picked out the stitches that held on the remnants of her hair, and then gave her one long, last look. Sunburst had implored me that I leave her head as intact and unchanged as possible, and yet, she wanted the neck strengthened at the same time.  Keep the head shape, fix the neck.  Talk about impossible!

The sturdiness of a Waldorf doll's neck depends solely upon the structure of her head.  When I created Rosey, I didn't really understand what I was doing.  I hadn't even seen a Waldorf doll outside of a catalog.  I only had a pattern, a bag of wool, and some fabric to go on, and so I ended up not making the head very firmly, and after a fair bit of play, things got a little wonky.  Her chin line and neck line ended up in two different locations. She was still loveable and sweet, but not the most well-crafted doll ever.

To give Rosey the firm neck she deserves, I had to take drastic measures.  In order to do what Sunburst wanted me to do most of all, I had to do exactly what she didn't want me to do.  I had to rebuild Rosey's head.  There was really nothing else I could do. 

I cringed as I carefully cut off the torn and loose fabric of her face.  I cut around her eyes and mouth, leaving just a little bit of skin there, as well as the stitching in the back where the embroidery thread had gone through.  Her features were as preserved as I could keep them.

I cut the line at her neck, and then cut her eyeline and chin line.  All that shaping was gone in an instant.  I was so scared that I was causing irreversible damage at this point that I don't even think I was breathing.  I peeled back the stockinette that encapsulated her head like fascia, and then I held her head together with one hand as I used my other hand to carefully wrap large strips of new wool batting around her.  By then her head looked enormous, and I had to call Einstein to come and help tug her original stockinette back over her head while I held everything in place.  I pulled a new tube of stockinette over the old tube, just to keep everything nice and tidy.

I tied Rosey's neckline, and it was definitely more firm, but now what?  Rosey's head looked like a giant blob!

I assured myself that I was doing the right thing, and after all, it wasn't as if I had recarded her head.  I had only added more wool to it.  Now, all I had to do was re-tie her shaping lines, starting with her eyeline.  I gratefully used her old eyes as a guide, and tightly tied on a new line, forcing the blob of wool to take shape.  Then I quickly tied the chin line and stitched it to the eyeline.

Now poor Rosey looked like a hot cross bun!

Her eyeline kept slipping down below her old eyes, so I ended up taking a few small stitches to hold it in place.  What else could I do?  I just had to hope that she looked somewhat the same.  And if she didn't, I hoped it wouldn't be the end of the world.  I hoped Sunburst would forgive me.  She's old enough to know that sometimes things don't always work out the way you hope they will.

I measured and sewed a new skin casing for Rosey's head and slipped it on.  There was really no way to gauge how she looked at this point?  Was she still Rosey?  I could feel her old eyes and mouth below the skin with my fingertips, so I pulled out some colored pins and stuck them in.

And then I let out my breath.  She kind of still looked like Rosey.

I needed a second opinion, so I showed her to Ella.  Ella agreed.  There was a hint of Rosey still in there.

I decided to put Rosey aside for Sunburst's approval in the morning, and then I had a look at Ella.  She was definitely not as damaged as Rosey, and so I had been harboring a secret hope that fixing her would be easier.  Simple, even.  Maybe I could just use the advice from my doll book and just lay some new fabric over her old face?

No.  It was immediately obvious that it wasn't going to work.  All the holes in her old skin showed right through that new fabric.  So I thought maybe I could just cover up those holes with some new fabric, and then it would work.  Nope.  That looked even worse.  The contrast between her old skin and the new skin showed completely through the new skin.  I would have to do something else... but what?  I didn't yet know.

First thing was first.  Her holes needed to be mended, especially the one at her nose.  When I made Ella, I gave her a nose.  The directions in my book said that to keep the shape of the nose, you should add a little glue to it.  She looked awfully cute at first, but not even a year had passed before her nose wore right through the fabric.  There was no way I was going to remake her nose so it could tear through her face again, and I had already told Moonshine as much.  She only frowned for a minute, but then readily agreed.  Ella 2.0 was going to be nose-free and hole-free.

So I wasn't giving Ella a new nose, but I still had to fix the damage that her old nose had created.  Rather than stitch the two holes in her face, I decided to just to worry about making them less two-tone.  New fabric wasn't going to do it, so I decided to graft some skin from her old body.  I cut pieces of her old arm fabric and placed them so that the edges of her old face skin overlapped them.  Tone-wise, it was much better match!

Now I just wanted to create a smoothness to her face that would hold the old skin in place, so I carefully pulled another stockinette over her head, leaving everything just the way it was.  Now Ella looked a little like she was ready to rob a bank.  I decided to give her another eyeline, just over this last layer.  I tied it on and stitched it down so it wouldn't slip below her eyes, and then sewed up another skin for her.

 The next time the girls saw their dolls, they looked something like this:

I wasn't so sure about Rosey.  Her head still has a bit of creasing I'm unhappy with at the chin and neck, but then again, so did the original Rosey.  Otherwise, did she look enough the same?  Sunburst thought it was good enough, and so I sewed their arms and heads onto their bodies, stab-stitched the lines at their thighs and feet, and moved on to the embroidery phase.

I decided to tackle Ella first, because honestly, she seemed easier.  Moonshine picked among the thread colors I had and found what she thought was most similar to the original.  Then she sat and watched every single stitch.  It was nerve-wracking for me, but I imagine I would have wanted to be present if my child was getting a new face, too.

I could feel her old stitches underneath, so it wasn't as hard as it could have been.  I made sure to keep her eyes a little bit too far apart, as I had originally.  Moonshine reminded me that they weren't supposed to match-- one was more almond-shaped and one was more round.  By no means was I to fix them-- she wanted them exactly as they were!

As soon as I had a face on Ella, Moonshine couldn't wait to see what she looked like with hair.  And with the hair on her head, she looked... well... more than just a little like Ella.  She looked almost exactly like Ella!

Moonshine was overjoyed!  She couldn't stop staring at her and smiling!

Next I moved on to Rosey and repeated the process with Sunburst, who also painstakingly selected the embroidery colors and watched every stitch.  I wasn't completely happy with the results, but Sunburst was.  She begged me to stop exactly where I was at that moment and not make one more stitch.

But was it Rosey?  I had been so used to seeing her worn face that honestly, it was hard for me to tell.  I pinned just a bit of new hair onto her head to check?  And still, I wasn't sure.  So then I pinned on the remnants of her old hair just to make sure.


It's Rosey!  98 percent, Sunburst tells me.

And that is as far as we've gotten.  I spent the rest of the weekend sewing doll clothes as a present for Moonshine's birthday yesterday, which turned out to be a smashing success!

For more on that, and to see Rosey's final outcome, you'll have to tune in next time.  Unfortunately, I have a bit more work to do before any of us can know how it all turns out in the end.

To be continued...

For the continuation of this story, please see Part 3.


  1. I knew it: you're a miracle worker!! And you wrote a huge long blog post about it too...I'm super impressed. :) So glad Rosie is 98%! xo

  2. This has been so fascinating and I practically held my breath while reading it through. I am so impressed with your skill and courage.

  3. Thanks for the sweet words, Sarah.


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

Related Posts with Thumbnails
Site Meter