Wednesday, October 7, 2015

How to Fix Stained and Yellowed Vinyl Dolls

A doll with lipstick stains

Recently I was thrilled to purchase a Betsy McCall jointed doll by Uneeda. This is a really rare doll. It was made in several sizes from 1959 to 1962 only. The doll has multi-jointed construction similar to Uneeda's famous Dollikin so it can pose very realistically. In fact, if you look up Betsy McCall paper dolls from 1962 you will see the 29 inch version of this doll was photographed in various real world environments to illustrate each page. She plays the piano, visits Santa, walks in the woods, attends ballet class. These dolls were before my time but if I'd seen them I would sure have been begging for one! The doll you see here is the 22 inch size, which is even more rare than the 29 inch. Robert Tonner re-released the 29 inch doll, so you can at least get clothes for that size vintage doll if yours is missing its original outfit.

Photos from my doll books showing variations of this doll

As you can see from the photos above, this doll had a couple variations of hair style and size. She came wearing a ballet costume and a plaid school dress, among other things. The book lists her as having "ash blond" and "blond" hair, but that is either an error or the author, Patricia Smith, doesn't call the same color as I do "blond." I've never seen this doll with hair in any color but the reddish brown called "Tosca" so prevalent in the 1950s and 60s. If there are vintage dolls with various colored hair then they are extremely unusual. The new Tonner dolls do come with different hair colors. The pricing shown with the photos is out of date; the books I have are from the 1970s. Nowadays these dolls in good shape with original clothing command around $350 each! My doll had various problems which put her within the price range of possibility for me, and luckily I know how to fix her issues.

Jointed waist dolls need a knot in the waist.
The Betsy doll shown here has most of her original ballet outfit. She was affordable for me because her stringing was loose and her vinyl was yellowed and stained by lipstick or ink someone applied and left long ago. Stringing the doll was the same as my tutorial on smaller dolls with two exceptions: the legs on this doll are disk jointed rather than strung and since the doll has a jointed waist she needed a knot in her waist to keep her head from falling back. Any jointed waist doll, like Dollikin, Marybel, or the modern Cissy needs a knot or hook in the waist joint to provide the proper tension to the stringing cord.

A baking soda scrub.
To remove the color bleeding around the lips I first applied several coats of Removezit by Twin Pines and left the doll sitting in the window for a couple weeks, re-applying the solution every few days. You could also use 10% benzoyl peroxide acne cream for this. We hardly had any sun to speak of during this time, so it took a while, but eventually the color faded. If the vinyl weren't yellowed I would have kept this process up until the pink was entirely gone, but I wanted to stain the yellowed vinyl to get it pink again. I want it to match the hard plastic body, which hasn't yellowed. Therefore, I left a little pink around the mouth. The vinyl was sticky where the lipstick bled, so I next cleaned it with a baking soda bath. This bath is abrasive, so use care around the paint. To do this, mix baking soda and water into a paste like toothpaste, rub it on the vinyl, scrub it in with a paper towel, rinse and repeat as necessary.

Rub on the stain over a small area.

Rub it in with tissues, repeating until no more will absorb.

Now to stain the yellowed vinyl... For this doll it's a case of "the hair of the dog that bit you." Pick out a permanent lipstick (not lip gloss) color close to the color you want for your skin. If your lipstick is bright mix it with some petroleum jelly. Test it out on a hidden area of the skin and see if it's the color you want. If your lipstick isn't too dark you might be able to apply straight lipstick. Dab your lipstick on the doll, working in a small area at a time. Rub the stain into the vinyl using a tissue. Keep adding layers of stain until the vinyl is the color you want or no more color will absorb. Avoid areas you plan to paint after staining. Keep the process up until you have covered the entire doll and gotten her to the pigment you desire. The nice thing about this stain is that is is removable for a time. After a while, as you saw in the first photo, it will bleed into the skin and become almost permanent, but you have some time to change your mind if you wish.

The stained and painted face

Once you've finished staining the skin you can re-paint areas that need it, such as the mouth on this doll. I use water soluble oil paint. Before you paint go over the areas you plan to paint again just to make sure you've removed any lipstick and petroleum jelly that might cause the paint to flake off later. You can use doll cleaner for that or alcohol.

As you can see, this doll still has quite a bit of darkening to her arms. I am trying to decide if staining them will help. They are so dark I don't know if the pink will show up. In any case, her original leotard has long sleeves, so the arms won't show much. Sweet Betsy will be for sale soon in my Atelier Mandaline Etsy or eBay stores, along with many other dolls, so please check.

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