Saturday, August 22, 2009

The art of rehairing dolls

Awhile back someone mentioned it would be cool to see a blog about the rehairing process. So that is what I am going to talk about today. The process is not particularly hard, it just takes time. And of coarse learning to do it quickly and neatly takes more time. Still, no matter how much you do it it will never be a super fast process. But let me explain the process, with lots of pictures!
First you take the head off the doll. People think a lot of strange things about me because of the horrible things I do to dolls. But a lot of people think I am strange because I make dolls at all. I can't win so I don't try. It may be possible to rehair a doll without taking the head off but I have never tried it that way and I imagine it would take longer. So we'll just talk about my way. After you get the head off next you have to cut all the original hair off very close to the head. The closer the better because you want as much of it gone before you get to the next step.
Because the next step is to pull the tiny leftover tufts of hair out of the doll head. This is by far the most annoying and tedious part of rehairing. And part of the problem I had with this one was not having the proper tweezers. You'd think a good pair of tweezers would be just the thing, but they were horrible and more trouble than not. I usually work from the inside of the head...

...but the awful tweezers made me have to do things the hard way. So I had to pull out the tiny tufts of hair from the outside, one at a time. This took a very long time, much longer than it should have and resulted in sore fingers. I'll survive though. It did prompt me to go out and buy the proper tweezers. I wish I knew what happened to the old ones. And for anyone curious the right tweezers for the job are the scissor style with the flat angled tips.

Once the hair is gone you have a tiny bald doll head to work with. Now time for new hair!
The best hair I have found is viscose hair. Mohair is OK but you will never get super smooth, super shiny hairstyles with mohair. The viscose hair can be bought on many dollhouse and doll making websites as well as eBay. You can get an ounce, a pound or small sample sizes. I usually get a ounce because that is still a LOT of doll hair and then I split the shanks with my doll buddy, Joan Yount. And she does the same so it all works out nicely. I wonder if she has any platinum blond....

...The other thing you need to rehair the dolls is a hairing tool or a rooting tool. I got mine from a woman who sells them on eBay for the reborn dolls. Joan found this amazing tool and it has really helped bring added realism to the dolls. The rooting tool comes in several sizes but the perfect size for 1:9 scale dolls is the micro tool. It is normally used for rooting eye lashes on larger dolls. The tricky part of rerooting hair is making sure it stays in. You already have preexisting holes so you need to make sure they have the same amount of hair in them so the hair doesn't fall right out. Not always an easy task.

This next photo is of the hair on the tool ready for rooting. It is not easy to see. You need to separate a tiny amount of the viscose hair, smooth it out and slide it into the center of the twin needles on the rooting tool.

Then you stick the hair on the tool into the holes in the doll head. You have to make sure both of the needles go into the hole or you are likely to break the needle. Keep going until you have the hair all over the head.
I don't hair the entire head because the more hair you have, the more out of scale it will get. You don't want your newly haired doll to look like an out-of-the box factory doll do you? I usually hair from the side of the forehead all the way around the head (lowering the hairline in back) and then I hair a strip across the back of the head. After that I take a small doll brush (I think the one I use came from a My Little Pony) and I brush the hair out. This removes any loose bits of hair as well as making it neater. After that the hair can be styled any way you want. For this doll I just twisted it into a bun. I could have made a smaller bun but I liked the look of this one. I trimmed the tip of the hair and glued the end down on top of the head. I have also done braids, braided buns and other styles as well.
The last step is to glue the hat on and (in this case) add a hatband. Things are a little more involved when putting on a helmet for an English doll because you need to make the safety harness as well. But I didn't have one of those to do today.The process of rehairing is not complex and you don't need expensive tools (my rooting tool was $10, replacement needles are $1 each and my tweezers were $4) and the results can be very nice. It also opens up the option of changing the look of a doll. It's amazing how different a doll can look just by having a different hair color and a new hairstyle. That can be a very big thing when most of the dolls in the show rings come from the same basic doll bodies.

I also had a request for a blog about the fitted boots. Western boots are not as interesting as English boots so I will have to wait for a day when I have English boots I need to make and time to take the pictures. But the boot blog is coming. If there are topics you would like discussed please let me know. I love letting people into my strange and occasionally twisted world of doll making.


Unknown said...

Could you do a tutorial for helmets? Thanks!

Field of Dolls Studio said...

Do you mean putting on the helmet over the haired head or making a helmet?

Unknown said...

Making the helmet please! I'm making my own custom doll! Im redoing her limbs right now and I can't have her ride without a helmet! Your tutorials are amazing! Thanks!

Field of Dolls Studio said...

sorry Katie, I don't make the helmets most of the time. I use the helmets that came with the old (small head) Breyer dolls. I have sculpted some helmets but I have never liked how they have come out.

Unknown said...

That's a great idea! That actually helped me a lot!!!!! Cause I was like "what how does she shape them?!??" Thanks!!

Unknown said...

I'm looking to repair a doll passed down from my mom, through me, now to my son. It's about a 12 inch baby doll. Any idea how much hair would be recommended for that? Thanks in advance!