It's been a few years since I've written about my first baby doll, the Ideal Baby Dreams Velvet Skin doll from 1975. I was only one year old when I got my doll but I remember her well, now at least. For many years she was lost to my conscious thoughts, but I would have a recurring dream about her. In the dream I would leave my baby, who was always dressed in a little pink bunting gown with a pointed hood, on the floor in front of the door (I know, I wasn't a great mother) and when I went back to get her she was gone. The house in my dream was our house in California. I can barely remember that house when I'm awake but when I had that dream it would materialize, as clear as day. It took me a while to realize the "baby" was a doll, and a real doll at that. I said something about the dream and my mother explained it was a baby doll whose face started peeling off so she threw it away.
This trauma buried itself in my brain I guess, emerging in sleep some thirty years later. I'm not a psychologist, but I realized this dream was about more than just the doll. Shortly after that loss I suffered a much greater loss, my entire world, when my father died and we moved to Ohio to live with my grandparents. By the time I was thirty-six I was dreaming about the doll almost nightly and waking with a terrible sense of grief. I decided to try to find her. The trouble is, my mother didn't remember her name and I could barely even remember what she looked like. I remembered she had a fuzzy face and wore a pink bunting with a pointed hood. In my memory she was a cloth doll, but my mother told me she was plastic with flocked skin. I searched and searched eBay, blogs, doll forums... this was either before Pinterest or before I was aware of Pinterest. Finally one day I struck gold. A wise eBay seller who had the original doll mentioned her flocked skin and pink bunting in the listing title and led me to her: Baby Dreams Velvet Skin by Ideal. Keep that in mind if you sell online, especially vintage stuff: the person seeking your item may not remember anything about the brand or name, but just the physical appearance, so you want it in your title!
As it turns out, most Baby Dreams dolls ended up looking like the one shown here or even worse, and most mothers threw them out, so they are super rare today. The doll I found on eBay cost almost $400 and I couldn't afford her. I saved the search on eBay and one day I was able to find one I could afford for myself. And then I didn't have that dream anymore! I let my daughter get the doll out and hold her occasionally but mostly she just sits upstairs, keeping the dreams at bay. Since then I've found and restored exactly three more Baby Dreams, including this one. They typically sell almost immediately, and in one case before I even got her listed (someone read about the doll on my blog and made an offer on it, including shipping to Australia!), so if this is a doll you're interested in you should watch my shops or message me. In case you have one of these dolls to restore I am going to show you step by step how I did it.
I started the restoration by removing the doll's head by cutting the zip tie in the neck. I removed the stuffing from the body and washed the body repeatedly. Then I sprayed the body with lemon essential oil, hydrogen peroxide, and water and set in in the sun to bleach it for a couple days. The body had some thin spots so I darned them with matching thread. While the body was sunning I brushed the hair out with a wire doll brush. Then I soaked it in hot water mixed with fabric softener and set it in pin curls. After I removed the pins I could see the ends of the hair were still really fried. Someone melted the tips of the synthetic hair fibers with a blow dryer or curling iron. I thought I would end up having to re-wig her, but I decided to try one last thing: my fabric shaver. The fabric shaver worked perfectly! It reminds me of the infomerical product from the 80s or 90s, the Split Ender. I loved that thing! As I shaved the fabric I realized I could solve a problem that stumped me: where to get flocking powder. You can find flocking powder with stamping and scrapbooking supplies but it always seems to come in bright colors, not flesh toned. If you have a Ken with flocked hair that powder is fairly easy to find online, but no one I found makes skin toned powder. This baby has pink-ish blond hair, just the same color as her original flocking, so I kept the shaved bits from the fabric shaver. I didn't have enough so I shaved one of my sweaters that needed to be de-pilled and saved that powder too.
Once you have your flocking powder you need to decide when to apply it. You will need to clean your doll. You can clean her with gentle soap, such as baby shampoo, dish soap, gentle laundry soap, etc, and warm water. Use a soft cloth to avoid removing the original flocking. Most of these dolls need more intense cleaning than that. If your doll has peeling flocking or flocking with brown edges you need to remove as much of that as possible and get the skin underneath clean. You can scrub those areas with a Mr. Clean Eraser or dish scrubber. If you are able to remove all discoloration you can flock the missing areas and move on. If you need to paint the doll you can do that either before or after you paint. As you can see, my flocking powder is larger than the original so I decided to paint after flocking.
Water down some white water-soluble glue and apply it to one small area at a time with a makeup sponge. Sprinkle flocking powder over the glue as if you are applying glitter. Shake off any excess. My sweater flocks stuck together too much to sprinkle them so I dabbed them over the wet glue. Allow the glue to dry before turning over the limbs and flocking the other side.
When you are done flocking the skin you will either be finished with your doll or ready to paint her. I still had painting to do since the forehead and cheeks had brown stains I couldn't remove. I thinned out water soluble oil paint to make a wash and I dabbed it on the skin in small dots, to look like the flocking. This process is called stippling. You can use a stencil brush if you have it but a hard bristle flat brush works fine too. When the first coat was dry I went over the face again with a makeup sponge to dab on the paint wash. Then I repeated this process twice more until I covered the stains and got the paint even.
Once the paint was dry I went ahead and replaced the missing eyelashes. The hair was still not great looking so I wet it and pin-curled into its original 70s bowl cut again. The face still wasn't as even as I wanted so I crushed up some artist's pastels and applied those with a dry stencil brush. I dipped the brush in the powder and stippled it over the face and then smoothed it by moving the brush in a circular pattern over it. Although you can still see a slight difference in texture and color on the cheeks, forehead, and around the nose and lips, it's certainly much better than it was. You have to look pretty close to notice it; for a display the doll looks really good. I want her to be able to withstand gentle play, however, and not just be for looks, so I broke down and ordered a bottle of Mr. Super Clear Flat UV Cut spray varnish. This Japanese varnish is famous in the doll world but really expensive. It was totally worth it, however, as not one bit of pastel or flock is rubbing off after coating the face and limbs.
Next I am going to sew a replica bunting for Baby and then she will be ready to sell. I hope you will look for her in my shops: link from the Home page.
My name is Amanda, but my childhood nickname was "Mandaline". I am a mother of three turning my passion for creating into a full-time business.