April 2011 – Restoring an Old Doll

April 2011 – When I was at IDEX back in January, I roomed with a couple of ladies who know a lot about Chatty Cathy dolls. When I was about 6 or so I got a Chatty Cathy for my birthday.  Having four younger sisters, she got passed around and I have no idea what ever happened to her. About 10 years ago, I began looking on ebay at some of the old dolls I remembered in my childhood. I found an old Crissy that was a doll one of my sisters had, a Thumbelina, a Shirley Temple replica, etc. I bought these for my sisters and then tried to find me a Chatty Cathy.  To make a long story short, I ended up with four different Chatty Cathys before I stopped.  When I opened the first box, it brought back such happy memories of my childhood and being a little girl. I think that is the magic of dolls……the feelings they give you when you see them and hold them.

The four dolls I got were not in good shape, which is probably why I didn’t have too many people bidding against me. One poor Cathy lost her head! Two of them had very white limbs, compared to the head and torso.  None of them talked anymore but one still had her string.  I pulled the string and heard a bunch of garbled noises.  Julie, my friend from IDEX, gave me the name of Mike Brokaw (m [dot] brokaw [at] comcast [dot] net) who can make your old Chatty Cathy talk again. I shipped all four of them off to Mike for repair.  They are all four talking now and I thought his fee was very reasonable.

Here is a picture of the two with “white limbs”.

The one whose head fell off is the one I decided to fix up first.

After I got my dolls back from Mike, they were all talking and the “headless” one had her head back on. I decided to do something with the hair. My friend Julie told me about a trick she learned from other experts on how to set their hair, called a “boil perm”.  Her instructions were to wash the doll’s hair with Prell and then use a conditioner on it. She said to wrap the hair with the conditioner in and leave it in for several hours or overnight. You must keep her head slanted down so that no liquids will run down the doll. When ready, rinse out the conditioner and roll her hair from top to bottom with perm rods using perm papers.

Boil a teapot full of water, and lay her on her back over the sink and pour the boiling water over the perm rods being sure to saturate each curler and being cautious not to burn yourself.

Then, immediately  flush the curls with cold tap water.

Continue to leave the doll lying flat or slanted to assure no water runs down the doll’s body.  Wrap the head in a towel and let dry for several hours. Since my doll has the short hair, she suggested removing the rods immediately after the cold water or the curls might set too tight.

Here is what she looked like after I removed the curlers.

As you can see, this doll has lots of missing hair plugs so I was hoping the curled hair would make it look fuller and cover up the missing areas of hair.

As you can see, the results were gratifying. She now has a fluffy head of clean hair that I picked out while it was still a little damp.

I styled it to cover up the bare spots and then dressed her in a dress I made for her and put on a matching hair band.  Here are a few shots from several angles.

It is so nice to have “doll friends” who are so knowledgeable about fixing up an old doll.  Thanks to Mike and Julie, I have some great Chatty Cathy dolls.  I still have three heads of hair to go, but after doing the first one and getting such nice results, I can’t wait to get the others’ hair cleaned and curled.  I was very squeamish about pouring boiling hot water over my doll’s head but all turned out well!



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