Hey guys! Madi here with something super fun to share!
This has been the most requested post since part three of For the Love of Molly…
So here is the documentary of how I restored my very first doll! I took photos of the entire process.
Molly and me, July 4, 2012
I got Molly McIntire brand new from American Girl for Christmas in 2011, when I was eight. Needless to say she’s been through a lot.
This is in August 2012 when she is still in nearly perfect condition.
September 2012. Her hair used to be THIS nice!
And this is March 2021. Her is her full-body “before” shot.
Even though I was very careful with my beloved doll whom I did everything with, I once unknowingly used a plastic brush on her hair. It became dry, frizzy, even faded.
Years ago I had done everything I could think of:
I washed and conditioned, even trimmed her hair. I even did a Downy dunk.
While her hair did become softer, it was never restored to its former glory. It was still faded, dry, frizzy, and had split ends.
And since she is nine and a half years old there were a lot of human hand oils and everyday dirt on her vinyl.
Her face paint was almost completely faded. She looked so pale that sometimes I would edit lip and cheek color onto her when editing photos of her.
With washable Crayola markers I would dab a bit of color onto her lips and cheeks for this photoshoot and she looked better but of course it wasn’t permanent and I would always wipe it off.
After nine and a half years her limbs were super loose, too.
It got worse! Years ago when I had my health crisis and had to stop blogging, I didn’t do hardly anything with my dolls.
I left Molly in a black long sleeved shirt for probably a year and a half and when I took it off of her, well…
And somehow her feet got stained by shoes too.
But I still didn’t want to send my dearest Molly to AG’s doll hospital.
I had considered it a lot over the years, but I could never part with her original head. She was too special to me.
Replacing parts of her would be getting an entirely different doll!
Finally I decided…
It was time for a FULL makeover.
That’s right—new wig, new face paint, tightening her limbs, all of it!
I started with a basic surface cleaning of her skin, to remove all the dirt and oils over the years.
American Girl recommends to mix baking soda and water until you have the consistency of toothpaste and to scrub in circular motions over the skin.
I did this over her entire vinyl, including her face.
Afterward, I wiped it off with a wet washcloth.
Her skin still felt grainy from the baking soda so I went over it again and again with wet paper towels. I think I even rinsed it off directly with water until all the baking soda remains were gone.
For an even deeper cleanse, I followed up with a magic eraser, which is a LIFESAVER for surface stains on the vinyl!
I moistened it first with a spritz of water from my mini spray bottle to increase its effectiveness. I rubbed over her entire skin.
The magic eraser was quite dirty by the end! Nine and a half years of dirt and oil, my goodness!
Her skin looked REALLY good by the end. I was very impressed.
The deep fabric stains were still there (I use something else for those), but her skin looked a little lighter now that the layer of dirt was off, and was mostly matte instead of shiny with oils!
For the deep black fabric stains, I hit up my favorite doll stain remover, Clean & Clear Persa-Gel 10.
It is made of benzoyl peroxide and is actually an acne treatment, and it too is a LIFESAVER.
It removes deep fabric stains flawlessly. I used it on Chloe first and then K.C. when restoring her.
I spread a generous amount of the persa-gel all over the front of her arms where the stains were.
They were everywhere on her arms but I had to start with the front because…
It needs heat to work and I could only heat one side at a time! I placed her in my super sunny window.
I covered her face with a paper towel for protection, I suppose, in case I would use her awful wig for some reason in the future and didn’t want it to fade more.
It takes weeks of being in the sunny window for the persa-gel to work its magic. It really needs heat.
(But please don’t use things like warming lamps because one girl literally melted her doll with that heat!)
A few weeks later, the stains were already fading!
Every few weeks I would wash the dried persa-gel off, check the stains, re-apply, and put her back in the window for another couple weeks.
Eventually the front of her arms looked good enough to me and I flipped her over to work on the stains on the other side of her arms.
Obviously this takes forever and I got impatient. I MISSED MY DOLL.
I was dying to just paint her face and rewig her already.
To speed the process up, after washing the dried persa-gel off and reapplying it, I wrapped it all in plastic wrap.
This keeps the persa-gel from drying out so it works even better. I covered the rest of her with towels, then placed her outside in the direct sun!
I was told this would speed up the process immensely!
I left her out (bringing her inside at nights) for two days. When I washed the persa-gel off my heart sank.
Everywhere the persa-gel had been, her skin had lightened. A lot.
I freaked out about this on my @delightfulworldofdolls Instagram stories.
Big oops, you guys.
This had never happened to me when I left my dolls in the window instead of outdoors! It had to have been the direct sunlight and leaving her outside.
It’s hard to tell in the photo above but it was pretty obvious in real life. It looked like vitiligo, which I was advised to diagnose her with if I couldn’t find a way to fix it.
I’m just going to have to deal with this, I thought. If I send her to the doll hospital there’s no way the skin tone of her new limbs would match the skin tone of her head since she is almost ten years old, and I’m NOT replacing her head. Hello, long sleeves.
LUCKILY I was told that it would fade over the next 24 hours and go back to completely normal—this was just the persa-gel leaving the vinyl!
They were right!
Within 24 hours the lightened pigment had completely gone back to normal and I continued with the stain treatment.
Every day or two of leaving her in the sun wrapped in plastic, I would wash the persa-gel off, check, wait a day or two for any pigmentation to return to normal, then re-apply the persa-gel, rewrap, and leave her out again.
Eventually I was satisfied. It wasn’t totally perfect but it had been two and a half months since starting her stain treatment (please do the sun thing, weeks in the window ain’t fun XD) and it looked great to me!
Next came REPAINTING HER FACE, BOIS AND GORLS.
I would have been quite nervous if I hadn’t already practiced on Josefina first. Her face paint was also faded so I used watercolor pencils + water to give her some more.
I do not recommend this method. The watercolors were awful and I ended up completely starting over twice.
I used mod podge as sealant on Josefina and it was absolutely atrocious. I wiped it all off after starting over twice and left it unsealed, which means it could be removed easily.
For Molly, I needed a different method for sure!
Enter pastels! I was advised to use soft pastels but all I had were these and they worked just fine.
I rubbed colors that I wanted onto a folded piece of paper, then mixed them all together with a small, flat paintbrush.
I kept adding more pigment until I got a color I liked. For Molly, I used lots of brown, a bit of red, and sometimes a teeny bit of pink.
I moistened the paintbrush just a bit by dipping it into a single drop of water and/or just dabbing it onto a wet paper towel.
Then I dipped it into the mixed pigment a few times and painted Molly’s face!
I did multiple layers on her lips.
For her cheeks I painted it on a tad, then used a moist paper towel to rub it in naturally. It takes a bit of trying and layering to get the look you want, so be patient and keep experimenting!
If you make a mistake, quickly wipe it off with a wet paper towel.
I was not able to remove her cheek paint, however, since I really rubbed that in as opposed to simply applying straight paint onto her libs.
The pastels will stain vinyl (which is exactly what we want with painting) if you don’t wipe it off quickly, and will still stain even if you manage to wipe a surface layer off after it’s dried, so wipe off any mistakes fast! Have the wet paper towel handy!
Before and after! After this shot, I went over with a few more layers of a pinker pigment but it looks so much better.
I didn’t seal it this time, but it’s not coming off, so… ?
When it dried, sometimes the pastels would leave a residue that wasn’t rubbed in all the way, like dried powder.
I waited for the pastels to dry completely, then very gently rubbed the dried power-looking remains off with a paper towel. The paint of the pigment still stained her lips perfectly.
She looked AMAZING. I didn’t do a perfect job but I was pretty satisfied.
NOW IT WAS TIME FOR THE REALLY FREAKY PART.
TIGHTENING HER LIMBS.
I used a very simple tutorial, totally unprofessional. You just need four hair bands and a spoon.
*CREEPY DOLL PICTURE AHEAD*
I had to remove all the stuffing from her body. You will be AMAZED the massive amount of stuffing that is packed into a doll’s little body!!
Then for each limb I pulled the elastic as tight as I could and held the distance by tying a thick hairband around it as many times as I could.
I did this for all four limbs!
It was difficult to get all the stuffing back in—I had to use a spoon to literally mash the stuffing all down inside of her.
It looked pretty intense. XD
Molly didn’t mind! After her surgery she LOVED her tight new limbs!
I was told that this method isn’t permanent and that her limbs will loosen again but I am not about to buy clamps and use pliers to clamp metal spaces on the elastic.
Not when hairbands are easier. If they loosen again, ehhh I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it XD
Did I say tightening her limbs was freaky? Well, now was the REALLY freaky part: rewigging her!
I bought a beautiful Molly replacement wig off of Etsy when it went on sale and used a $25 Etsy gift card I had, so it only ended up costing me like 45 cents!
This is a 35th anniversary edition Molly—SURPRISE! I’ll explain why I got her later—and this is the replacement wig from Etsy compared to her hair.
It looks like a stunning match! It’s a bit too long but I can trim it later if I want.
*CREEPY DOLL PHOTO AHEAD*
Taking her wig off was interesting. I didn’t expect to have too much trouble, seeing as she’s nine and a half years old so her wig glue shouldn’t be amazingly strong, but I still had some trouble especially around the edges.
I used a spoon to help dig under the edges of her wig and pull.
Don’t be afraid to use a lot of strength and to pull HARD. You’ll need it.
This is before I glued the wig down, but I set it on her head just to see what it looked like. Here’s a quick before and after.
To apply the wig, I ordered and used this tacky glue!
You’re supposed to apply the glue on the head first, then pull the wig on, but I was pretty worried about getting glue on the wig.
So I applied glue to the top of her head first, skipping the edges, and applied the wig.
After that dried (24 hours), with a paintbrush I went under the edges all around.
I don’t recommend.
I got glue on her hair this way, lol. So next time I will do it the way that I initially hesitated to. I had to do a ton of adjusting, too, to get the edges to lay right with the glue.
To keep the wig to her head while it dried in some places I put a hairband around her head.
After a few days of fiddling with gluing down edges, HERE SHE IS.
Sadly this wig felt super slimy upon styling and even though the kind owner said there wasn’t supposed to be any product in it, I had to wash her hair.
I got the glue wet and had to re-glue the edges, lolllll, clearly I cannot restore a doll properly.
BUT SHE IS DONE.
HERE SHE IS, IN ALL HER BEFORE AND AFTER GLORY.
I may trim her wig because it looks too long, but I can do that later!
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF MISS MOLLY’S RESTORATION??
I’m so happy with how beautiful she looks! She looks pretty much brand new and I proved to myself I can totally restore a doll!
The only thing I’m missing is learning how to eye swap… *shudders*
Is that a 35th anniversary Samantha I see?
Nothing to see here!
What I used to restore Molly:
- Clean & Clear Persa-Gel 10 to remove deep fabric stains
- Mr. Clean Magic Eraser to remove tough surface stains + layers of dirt and oil that baking soda couldn’t remove
- Mungyo Gallery Semi-Hard Pastels to paint her lips and cheeks
- Aleena Original Tacky Glue to glue her new wig on; most people I talked to used tacky glue. This glue is strong enough to keep it on but not so permanent that I could not remove the wig again in the future if I wanted! If you are wanting a VERY strong option, try E6000 glue.
- Bbeauty Designs Molly Classic Replacement Wig, the best Molly replacement wig I could find!
- Another popular Molly replacement wig option I considered but did not use is this one: Kemper Doll Supplies Plaits Wig. Choose the “light brown” color and the 10-11 size (for 18″ dolls).
- A small spoon helped me mash the huge amount of stuffing back inside of her after tightening her limbs. It also helped me with pulling her wig off—I slipped the edge of the spoon under the edges to help pry it off.
- Four small thick hairbands to tighten her limbs. I pulled her original elastic from her limb caps tight and to keep it taut, filled the space by tying a hairband around it as much as I could.
Overall, this was REALLY fun and I would not hesitate to do it again. I love Molly’s newly restored look and I’m so happy with her!
Special thanks to the followers on the @delightfulworldofdolls Instagram for giving me so much advice on how to restore Molly! You guys make my day!