Doll from Lifelong Friend Makes for a Meaningful Repair Job

***UPDATE***            JANUARY 2016:

I’m taking a break right now from repair work. I will let you know when I’m back to work. This site hasn’t been updated because work is steady. I published “Blue Ridge Scenic Railway” (see with Arcadia Press in Spring 2015. Right now, I’m still working on repairs BUT very selective, as I’m trying to catch up on some of my own projects as well. Please check back later. Thank you very much, Melissa

I don’t work on dolls anymore. I don’t have time, given my restoration work on embroidery, crochet, and other hand-sewing needs. And yet, I still manage to give in, on rare occasion, and work on a doll. It’s a nice break, I guess. I’m a softie for doll lovers, because I used to collect them myself. There’s something sweet and whimsical about each doll’s expression, each piece of loved-on clothing. Even seeing the grime on the doll warms my heart, because it means someone played with her a lot.

Sarah S. of Atlanta had such a doll, given to her by her beloved housekeeper when she was a child. I told Sarah it would be a while, because I had a lot of needlework projects, but she had no time limitation.

“Sassy” the doll needed cleaning, to have her clothing repaired and cleaned, and to have her hands replaced. I looked her up on Google, and discovered that she was also missing her hat, so I thought I’d make her one of those, too. Below is a “Before” shot, where you can see one of her hands has exploded its stuffing, her cheeks are dirty, and her outfit is soiled. The cotton pompoms on her nightie are supposed to be white, but have darkened with play. And her hair is dark, when it was originally quite blonde.

Mattel Baby Beans Before

I began by looking her over and deciding if she needed a new outfit, or if I could salvage her original pajama body. I like to keep things as original/authentic as possible when I can. The outfit appeared to be fine, and I decided to try cleaning it to see how nicely it would wash up. Careful removal is crucial, and I used my Gingher seam ripper to pick open the seam at her neck.


To wash her pajama body, I used “Restoration,” which is a great product in powder form and somewhat like OxiClean, but I don’t find that it bleaches the way OxiClean does. I won’t use OxiClean for that reason, having once ruined a little estate sale find of mine—a lovely crocheted baby cap—by leaving it in the product overnight. Bleach City!

Anyway, here are photos of the doll’s age-packed stuffing, her bag o’ pellets for weight so the doll sits up (including the neck piece that holds her head on) and her outfit, once removed:



This photo above shows how the head was attached by a string. Often, the bodies are tied around the necks with these nylon braided strings. American Girl dolls have string ties attaching their bodies to their heads. I had to cut the original tie to get the head off. I replaced that tie with a new, sturdy one.

Also, in the above photo of what was inside the doll, you can see that the weight bag has ink on it. There is also ink in the spot on the pjs where some ink bled through to that bag. Most of that pj ink came out with the washing.

I then made a trip to JoAnn Fabrics to find some new pompoms for her front, eyelet lace trim for her cuffs, ribbon ties for her night cap, and matching pink flannel for it. I already had the flesh tone fabric for her hands.

And here is the outfit, once washed:


Now this was set aside, so I could wash Sassy’s head. I do this with shampoo, Q-tips, and sometimes plain old hand lotion. I have Gold Bond. It works just fine, both on me and on dolls. Then, to hold her hair down to dry, and to keep her bangs in place the way they were originally, I simply used masking tape! Works great. Doesn’t she look all scrubbed and clean?

Getting back to the outfit/body, I want to show you the pompoms I found, vs the old ones. I made the decision to just replace rather than try to scrub the old ones, which were pretty dirty. I think they look so nice and white! They’re slightly bigger, but I don’t think that matters.

IMG_0050    IMG_0051

Next step: lace cuffs

Starting to look like a fresh, new doll body:


Alas, the hands, the hands! They were a mess and I needed to sort that out next. So I used what was left of the old ones to fashion new ones. Had to use old ones for a pattern:

All righty, we’re getting close. We have new hands and stuffing. More of the stuffing, and now to attach her head again. Then I made her cap. I looked at her image online so I could do the right type of cap. I don’t have photos of cutting it out, but I just came up with my own pattern.


Old Sassy, New Sassy. What do you think?

Baby Beans before and after


2 thoughts on “Doll from Lifelong Friend Makes for a Meaningful Repair Job

  1. Several crocheted pieces need repair. I have baby afghans I would like made into 1. Quilt repair? I live in Mississippi? Thanks!

  2. Hi, Carla,
    Yes, I can do quilt repair and also the crochet pieces made into one. I would need to see photos. Also, I am way behind on jobs so I can’t tell you how long it would take to get to your items. Sometimes I run as much as a year behind! It’s creative work and I put so much into each repair job that it just takes a while.

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