Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Milliner's Doll update

A while back I detailed the little milliner's doll that I purchased by layaway from Oldeclectics on Ruby Lane. And yes, that is a plug.    It's taken a while, but I finally found a moment to sit down and finish her costume. I had a piece of 8 inch wide antique lace that I had kept for something special, and this was it.  The dresses of the 1820 - 1830 period were what is commonly known as 'Empire', with a high waist and simple lines.  This is what I aimed for and I am happy with the outcome.  I think she looks quite elegant.

I'll start with a couple of photos of the doll before her makeover.  Enjoy.


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

13" Greiner Restoration Part One

I decided to start the restoration of the Greiner by cleaning her clothing.  I often do this and I think the reason is that they are so gross!  LOL  Often the clothing on a doll, along with her exposed parts (like the feet on this Greiner) take the brunt of handling, the weather, and where they are stored.  The outer dress on this little one is dusty and in need of support - the silk is shattering in places - as well as in need of some mends, BUT it is not too dirty.  Her indescribables, or undies,are another matter!  Her underclothing, which consists of a slip, a chemise or shift, and pantaloons, were not only filthy but yellowed with age, stained, and marred in places with rust.  The rust was most noticeable on the chemise or shift.

The first task was removing the undies from the doll.  This was a simple task with the exception of the pantaloons.  Apparently when the legs were mended at some point it was with the pantaloons ON the doll.  Her little calves were not so little as they had once been, it seems, because they were a hair larger than the pantaloon legs.  With time, a lot of patience, and the aid of a small tool, I pressed the stuffing and nudged the pantaloons off.

Next it was time for a bath - well, several actually.

I use a really neat product called 'Retro Clean'.  You can find it at  When I first encountered it, it was known as 'Restore'.  To quote the website:

Retro Clean is a gentle soaking agent designed to safely remove yellow age stains (including mildew, wood oil, tea, coffee, blood, water damage, baby formula and perspiration stains) from vintage quilts and all washable fabrics.

What it is, is a miracle!  I have taken the most dirty, yellowed, hideous looking undies and made them old-fashioned bright white again with this product.  It also brightens aged colors.  It's great for 1950s and 60s' doll clothing.  I always test a brightly colored garment by itself before tossing it in with anything else as I have had some reds and blues bleach into the water.  Even so, if I soaked them carefully by themselves, the product still worked well.

Following are photos with a brief description of the standard process I go through to clean antique and collectible doll clothing - the results so you can see for yourself!

The undies as removed from the doll. 

The rust stained shift or chemise.

I use a tsp. to a tbsp. of RetroClean (it's a powder) in 2 - 4 cups of hot water.  I use it sparingly.  A little goes a LONG way.  I always mix it into the hot water in my pan or tray and then, when it is dissolved, add the clothes.  You then place the container with the clothes in direct sunlight, or expose to a natural light light-bulb, and it begins to work.  As you can see it immediately begins to work - look at the yellow in the water and this occurred only a few seconds after placing the items in the solution!  I repeated this process two times with these pieces, dumping the dirty yellow water and then soaking them again in a fresh batch.   

When the clothing came out the second time, I was still not completely pleased with the outcome, so I added a tiny bit of bleach and soaked them a third time.  The Retro Clean had worked, I just wanted them a little whiter. 

Here's the completed project.  The items are not perfectly white, but then they are app. 175 years old!  I could have taken out more of the stains, but opted to leave them 'as is' so they show their age and will reflect the new-old nature of the doll.  I am a firm believer in NOT making old things look brand spankin' new.  I just don't think it works!

And in comparison...

Amazing, eh?

That's it for this time.  It may be the dress next time, or perhaps the doll - whichever fascinated me the most and moves me to work on it.