Thursday, May 26, 2011

How to re-root a vinyl doll's hair

A My Friend Nicky with missing hair plugs.
A My Friend Nicky with her hair cut.


The same My Friend Nicky after re-rooting.

After re-rooting her hair can be styled different ways.


Today's post was supposed to show the painting of another felt face. However, the face is not cooperating with me. The gesso is seeping through in front, meaning I didn't spray enough water seal inside the face, and the gesso is also refusing to dry in our heat and humidity. So, I'll solve that problem another day and give instructions for another frequent issue in doll restoration.

Shown in the photos is the rarest My Friend doll, Nicky. She originally came in her cheerleader outfit with lovely long curls. Unfortunately, as the curls were structured (woven into ringlets) and rooted in rows, if a child tried to brush the hair it would frizz and often the plugs would pull out. This seems to be the case with this doll. Her hair was probably shorn to remove frizzed out edges and the bald spot most likely came from several plugs being pulled at once, like knitting unraveling.

I made the difficult decision to re-root the hair, rather than use a wig, and to use straight hair. I made these choices in order to make sure a child could still play with the doll and style the hair many different ways. The hair I chose was synthetic braid hair intended for human extensions. It is high quality enough to even be curled with a curling iron!

When I tried to learn to re-root the hair I found a real dearth of information. A lady on YouTube made a video of herself re-rooting using a needle, but she had this like 8 inch needle and I couldn't find one anywhere! Also, the My Friend dolls have a turning mechanism in her neck that prevents rooting in that way (pulling a needle through the neck opening). I found with the My Friend dolls you need to use a mushroom rooting tool (purchase from eBay) or a tiny crochet hook (purchase from sewing or art supply store).

To start, you need to choose the hair you will use. You can buy human or synthetic hair from beauty supply stores or doll hair from eBay or doll parts retailers. I find a lot of braid hair and wigs at thrift stores for pennies! Now remove all the original hair from the doll's head. If the doll has molded hair you will need to sand the ridges off with a Dremel tool. Warm the doll's head under a light bulb or with a hair dryer. IMPORTANT: only warm vinyl doll heads; composition heads can explode when heated. If rooting a doll with molded hair you will need to use a rooting needle and make your own root holes.

If re-rooting a doll that had rooted hair you can use a crochet hook or rooting needle. Look at a doll around the same size as your doll if your doll has no hair left to determine how much hair was originally in each root hole. Take up HALF the amount used in each root hole on the original doll, because with this technique you are doubling the amount of hair rooted in each plug. Tie the hair in a knot in the center of the strand section you picked up. Using your rooting needle or crochet hook, push the knot through the root hole from the outside of the head into the inside of the head. Tug gently on the hair to make sure the knot is secure. If the hair breaks or the knot comes undone, just re-knot it and try again. Continue on until all the holes are filled or the doll has a full head of hair. Cut and style the hair as you wish. That's it! It's tedious, but as you can see from Nicky's "after" photos, it works well and is well worth the effort!

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