I have not written a great deal about my small collection of cloth bodied dolls. Most of them are not old and were acquired from Op Shops, markets or eBay when I was first collecting dolls in the 1990s. The main reasons I bought them were most importantly because each one of the appealed to me in some way and secondly they were cheap. A few of them are modern collectible dolls that have been given to me but today I want to talk about the cheap dolls.
My cloth dolls all have vinyl heads and limbs. Some are marked and some are not. Today I decided that it was time they had some pampering for a change. Before I tell you about that let’s meet some of these rarely photographed girls.
The first ones that really got me started were these three who I call “The Op Shop Girls”. We were still living in South Australia when I bought them at an Op Shop in Brighton, a suburb not far from where we lived. It was a Saturday morning and I had gone out hoping to find dolls. The three of them were together. I paid $A18 for the three of them I think. They did not have clothes and Jacqui, the black-haired one, was a fright with her hair standing everywhere. I took her because she looked sad and I didn’t want to leave her behind and just take the two prettier ones.
After I had tidied them up a bit I spent a weekend making them these outfits and was quite pleased with my handiwork. Jacqui was the biggest challenge as I had to adapt the pattern to fit her. I even made her shoes. If I decide to part with these three they will have to go together. I could not split them up.
Here are two other occupants of the old armchair where the cloth dolls live. The large doll is Elizabeth, the small one is another Jill or Jilly as I call her not to confuse her with brown-eyed Op Shop Jill. Elizabeth was another doll I thought had rather a sad expression. She came to me dressed in too large child’s clothing so I bought her a new outfit and a pair of sneakers which seemed to cheer her up.Spa day began as laundry day. All the girls were stripped down to their cloth bodies and their clothes were washed. They are hanging on the line now as I write this. I decided to start the cleaning process with Jilly as she is the smallest. I wanted to wash all the dolls hair and tidy it up. Jilly doesn’t have much so she was easy. Her body was a bit stained though so I decided to give her a soak in Softly. After she’d been washed and rinsed I sat her on the bench outside to dry. With this type of doll if the body is really dirty or stained the best thing to do is to detach the head and limbs, take the stuffing out and wash the body or if necessary make a new one by tracing the shape of the old body. They are usually made from some kind of strong cloth like calico.
Jilly was soon joined by Jacqui whose long, thin body makes me think that she is an older doll than the others. Her stuffing feels different. I think it is something like kapok or foam rubber rather than the lightweight polyester fill that the others have. Jacqui’s hair is very coarse Saran and had gone frizzy before I bought her. I’d love to have seen her when she was new. If she just had a few frizzy bits I’d risk trimming them but it’s all over and unlike human babies if I cut any off it won’t grow back. I could try a boil perm I suppose. I’ll have to think about that. I don’t want to make her worse.She might just have to live with it I’m afraid.
Next was Lee, I could not find an old picture of Lee though I’m sure I must have one, probably pre-digital. Lee has really long, thick hair. It reminds me a lot of mine when I was a child. It took me ages to comb the tangles out before I washed it and as long again to comb conditioner through it. I can appreciate now how much of a nuisance my hair must have been to my mother, not to mention all that “Ouch” and “You’re hurting me!” that she had to put up with. Very thick hair is great but it is a lot to look after. Unlike me Lee will be keeping hers though. If I had fabric softener on hand I’d probably have used that instead of conditioner but I don’t use it myself so I made do with what I had on hand, baby shampoo and a cheap conditioner does a satisfactory job.
It’s now getting on for five in the afternoon and it will soon be dark. Mid afternoon it started to look like rain so as I had to go to the shops I brought the clothes and the girls inside to finish drying. The girls will spend the evening watching TV in the living room where the heater is. Elizabeth, Valerie and Jill will wait for another day.