Saturday, October 23, 2010

Craigslist Christmas Barbie Project Part 1


As promised, I'm doing a post about my annual Craigslist Barbie project.  My first experiment was about 3 years ago, when my interest in fixing up doll hair began.  I started with Barbies because they're a lot cheaper than 18" dolls (you can get nice ones at the thrift store for around $3, which isn't much to lose if you completely mess up!).  I also enjoyed Barbies a lot as a girl...okay, I still enjoy them now, I'll admit it.  I actually have a Barbie collection made up of dolls with unique hair and eye color combinations or unusual face molds.  Being a brunette myself, I always preferred Barbies with brown hair or other colors to the typical blonde ones.  But enough on that.

One of the other things that interested me in this project is that I love the idea of taking something dirty and unwanted and making it beautiful again.  To me, it's a good reminder of what Christ does with us when we believe in Him and let Him into our lives.  I love starting with a messy, bedraggled doll that seems to have seen her last playdate and finishing with a princess ready to grace a gift box under the Christmas tree.

So,do you have well-loved Barbies laying around the house?  The type with tangled, messy hair that seem a hopeless cause?  Have you ever wished they could be as good as new again?  If so, then this is the post for you.  I'll give you some ideas on how to give your Barbie a new lease on life. :)  You can even take it a step further and fix them up to sell, like I do.  When I started this a few years ago, I did a lot of online research, did some trial and error, and have now come up with the method I'm going to share with you today. 

Before we start, I'd like to forewarn you that this post will have lots of naked Barbie pics.  If this is offensive to you, you might want to skip it.  It's just impossible to keep them clothed while doing all this.  If you're a mom, you're most likely used to having tons of naked Barbie dolls laying around, so you shouldn't have a problem. :) 

The other thing I wanted to mention is that I realized as I got ready to do this post that I didn't take any before pics of the current dolls I'm working on.  As a result, there will be a few pics from past Barbie projects mixed in here and there to give you a better idea of how I do things.   


You will need: 
     - a well-loved Barbie
     - fabric softener, unscented or with a mild scent
     - a plastic Barbie brush
     - several dish towels
     - white tissue paper cut into small rectangles (about 4-5 inches long and at least 2 inches wide)
     - scissors
     - small drinking straws, cut into about 4 pieces each
     - lots of standard sized bobby pins
     - 2 medium sized mixing bowls
     - ice
     -water (boiling and cold)
     - LOTS of patience! :)

Start by selecting the Barbie you want to renovate.  If you don't have one laying around, I would recommend checking a thrift store like Goodwill or Salvation Army.  If you're thinking of selling the Barbie, I would suggest making sure you find one that has no cigarette odor or other unpleasant odors.  This is an important issue to most Barbie doll collectors or buyers.  The ideal doll for this project should have mostly straight or wavy hair.  Barbie hair with too many curls can be hard to de-tangle, and Barbie hair that's stick-straight and has blunt ends can be very difficult to curl.  Here are some examples of the type of hair to look for:

As you're looking for a doll, try to look for a doll that stands out.  Does she have a unique hair color or length?  Are her eyes an unusual shade?  Does she have freckles, or attached jewelry, or a face mold you've never seen before?  Any of these factors will make her more desirable to a potential buyer (or a fun treasure for yourself).

If you purchase your doll from a thrift store, it's always a good idea to give it a good cleaning (you never know how many grubby little hands have touched it before you).  I typically use Clorox or Lysol wipes (gently), just to make sure all the vinyl is clean.  I don't know if this is recommended or not, but so far it hasn't given me any problems.  You can also use a Magic Eraser on the face, arms or torso if there are marks you need to get rid of.  I don't normally use a Magic Eraser on Barbie legs.  It doesn't seem to help much, and the eraser ends up tearing because the leg vinyl is so much stickier.

Once you've cleaned your doll, the next step is the Downy (or off-brand) Dunk.  I've found that tall Tupperware type containers filled around half-way full work the best.  Then I can turn the doll upside down, bend her legs behind her, and balance her over the edge. 

The dolls in front had longer hair, so I used a long, narrow container for them instead.

 Every other time I've done this, I've used full fabric softener with no water.  I've always used the Wal-mart or Winco brand in a nice mild scent.  This time around, I couldn't find my normal brand, so I used Ultra Gain fabric softener in the Spring Lavender scent.  It had a nice smell, but it was so overpowering that I ended up adding water to it.  I didn't want my customers gagging when they smelled their Barbie's hair.  Sorry, for those of you who want exact measurements, I just added a little water.  I didn't measure how much. :}

I usually let the Barbies soak for at least 3 or 4 hours.  If you have a Barbie with extremely tangled hair, you may even want to let them soak overnight.  When they've thoroughly soaked, it's time for the next step.

Spread a dish towel out on the counter beside your sink.  Carefully move the fabric softener container (with the Barbie or Barbies still in it) over to the sink as well, preferably not right next to the dish towel.  One at a time, take the Barbies out.  Holding the doll with one hand, gently form a circle with your other hand around her hair just behind her scalp and carefully slide your hand down the length of her hair.  This will get rid of some of the excess fabric softener that is still there.  Gently brush her hair with the plastic Barbie brush BEFORE rinsing the fabric softener out.  I typically use a Barbie brush with more space between the tines, like the one in the pic below (you can see another pic of this in the pic of my workstation below, next to a more typical pink Barbie brush).  This makes brushing the hair easier and can help you not pull out as much hair.

Don't be too worried if there's a big nasty pile of Barbie hair in your sink after this step.  It's normal to lose some of the hair.  Just be careful not to yank too hard or you could create big bald spots on her head.

Once you've brushed her hair out and can easily run the brush through her hair, carefully rinse the remaining fabric softener from her hair.  Be sure not to tangle it up again!  When the fabric softener is rinsed out, lay your Barbie out to dry on the towel, with her hair up above her head.   Use a second dish towel to blot it dry.  If you're doing more than one Barbie, the dish towel on the counter will soak up some of the water from your Barbie's hair while you're busy with the others.

Normally I don't like using curly-haired Barbies, but I loved the face on this one.  Her hair actually turned out great!  I'm going to let it air dry and call it good. :)

When you're done soaking Barbie hair, you can pour the leftover fabric softener from the Tupperware back in its original container, as long as your fabric softener is designated for dolls only and not clothes. :)

As a side note, if you have little girls with tangled Barbie hair, you can use this process to detangle it.  Once the Barbie's hair is no longer dripping, move her to a sitting position and brush her hair down over her shoulders.  Leave her to dry overnight, and you've now got a Barbie with soft, tangle-free hair!

If you want to move on and style her hair, take your detangled Barbie to a table or counter where you have some space to work.  Here's my work area! :) 

Can you see the pink and white brushes at the bottom of the table that I was talking about earlier?  

For this part, you'll need your scissors, tissue paper, straws, and bobby pins.  Start by cutting your tissue paper into rectangular strips, if you haven't done that already.  As I mentioned before, the strips should be about 4-5 inches long and at least 2 inches wide.  You also need to cut your straws into around four sections if you haven't done so before this.  The smaller the straw, the tighter the curl.  The straws don't need to be cut perfectly even, either.  You may want smaller lengths of straw for curling bangs or other smaller sections of hair, and then longer lengths for big curls in the back.  A lot of it is experimentation. ;) 

Now you need to decide how you're going to use your curlers.  There are several ways you can curl your Barbie's hair.  You can give her tight curls up next to her head, or curl just her ends.  If she already has a style, like a ponytail or hair partially pulled back, you can just curl part of her hair.  Be creative! :)

When you've decided how you're going to curl her hair, start with a small section of hair at a time.  I normally start with the front and work my way back.  Take one rectangle of tissue paper and wrap it around the ends of your hair section.  This works like end papers for your Barbie.  Most tissue paper has one side that is waxier feeling; you want the waxier side against the hair.  If you use the side that feels more papery against the hair, the tissue paper will disintegrate before you can finish.  Sometimes, if the hair is still really wet, I'll use two or three rectangles of tissue paper together.

Once you've wrapped your tissue paper around the hair, grab one of your straw pieces and wrap the hair around it.  I usually twist the curl in towards the face.  That seems to work better.  Feel free to try it both ways, though.  You may find a different way suits your needs or styles better.  Also, when I'm just curling the ends, sometimes I roll the curl straight up, like I did in the pics below. 

Depending on the style you're going for, either twist the straw all the way up next to the head, or just twist it a few times for curls on the ends of Barbie's hair.  When your straw curler is where you want it, secure it in place by sticking a bobby pin through the straw and over the curl of hair.  Sometimes, you may need to use two bobby pins to keep it in place.

Repeat this until you've got a curler in each section of hair.  Now it's time to set the curls.

All ready to be dunked!  You can see the different variations on their curlers.

Place 2 medium sized mixing bowls in a convenient work location (I prefer one in my sink and one on the counter right next to it).  Place a dish towel next to the bowls.  You will also want a place to put your Barbie while her hair dries.  Heat some water to boil on the stove.  I fill my tea kettle as high as it will go.  While the water is boiling, fill 1 of the mixing bowls about half-way with ice, then pour cold tap water over it.  When the tea kettle water boils, CAREFULLY pour it into the bowl in the sink (see why I like putting one in the sink?).  As a side note, if there are any kids reading this, make sure you ask your parents before you try this on your own!

Now that both bowls are in place, grab your Barbie and dunk her HAIR ONLY into the boiling water.  I've heard it said that you should keep it in there for as long as 60 seconds, but that makes me nervous.  I'm always worried I'm going to boil her hair off or something. :}  So I usually keep it in for around 20-30 seconds tops.  Once you've done that, immediately dunk her into the ice water for the same amount of time. 

Barbie in the boiling water

Barbie in the ice water

When that's finished, carefully blot some of the excess water from her hair with the dish towel and put her in her drying spot.  If you're doing more than one Barbie, you can work up a pretty spiffy assembly line here, and have one Barbie in the boiling water with one hand and another Barbie in the ice water at the same time with your other hand (sorry, I don't have a picture of that...I needed a third hand).  :)

Here are this year's dolls after having their curls set (they're covered up because we've been teaching the girls about modesty and they kind of panic when I have all these naked Barbies sitting there). :}

When her hair is no longer saturated and dripping (which can be anywhere from a few hours to overnight), carefully and slowly start taking out bobby pins and straw curlers.  Getting all of the tissue paper out of the hair can be a bit of a pain.  Sometimes it comes out easily with the curlers, and sometimes you have to pick the remaining pieces out.  The more times you do this, the better you'll get at it.  Try not to pull the hair too much as you take out the straws, or you may lose some of your curls.

Here are my dolls with their curlers taken out.

A closer look...don't worry, the curls will look better than this! :)

Now it's time to let that hair dry.  If you style it while the hair is still wet, you run the risk of mildewy, smelly hair. :)  That's the stage I'm at right now, just waiting for hair to dry so I can move on to the next step.  So part 2 will come either tomorrow or the next day, when I'm able to complete my Barbies. 

Hope you enjoyed the post.  This can be a really fun project (maybe a mommy-daughter thing?), although it can be time consuming and frustrating when you first try it.  Don't give up, though...the results are well-worth the effort!  If you decide to give it a whirl, I'd love to hear how it went.  Just leave your experience in the comments below. 

Click HERE for Part 2. :)      

                                              Some more pics of my past Christmas Barbies


Nutti Netti said...

I was wondering, would this also work for American Girl dolls?

Phoebe said...

Wow, that's amazing! I can't wait for part 2! Now I want to find my Barbies and try it! (Or at least experiment with Barbie hair.) Lol, the white dress in the very last picture I own! Also, Nutti Netti, I have seen videos on the Downy Dunk for Ags.

beast'sbelle said...

Hey girls! :) Nutti Netti, like Phoebe said, you can do a downy dunk on AGs. I don't know how the curling idea would work. You'd probably want to use actual curlers instead of straws. I'd also recommend using an AG brush or a similar brush with wire teeth rather than a plastic brush. You can check stephenswodadancer's youtube channel for videos on a downy dunk. She also has a video where she curls an AG doll's hair using foam curlers. Hope this helps.
Glad you enjoyed the post, Phoebe. :) It's been a lot of fun figuring this out. If you try it on your Barbies, be sure to let me know how it goes. :) I love that white dress...wish I had another one. I sold that group of Barbies last Christmas.
Thanks for the comments!

steve said...

Can you do this on America girl dolls?

beast'sbelle said...

Hi Steve. :) I know you can do Downy Dunks on AG dolls (you can check out my "Past Doll Projects" tab at the top of the blog for pics). I also know you can curl AG doll hair, although you'd probably want to use regular curlers or something rather than straws. Personally, I would hesitate to use boiling water on an American Girl doll. Barbies are a lot less expensive, so if something goes wrong, you're only out $5 or so, rather than $40 to $100 for an American Girl. :}

If you did want to try this, I would suggest finding an old AG at a yard sale or thrift store that you didn't care about before trying it on a special doll.

Also, as another alternative, stephenswodadancer on Youtube has at least one video on curling American Girl doll hair. I think she just spritzed the hair with water, put it in curlers, and let it sit for a day or two. I would advise trying something like this instead, since it's less drastic. Hope this helps! :)

Claire said...

Hi Beasts'Belle :)

I saw the curler method you used, but also noticed you had doll sized curlers too, where could I find those at? Thanks :)

beast'sbelle said...

Hi Claire. :) If I remember correctly, I think I found them at a Ben Franklin's. I would suggest checking a place like Dollar Tree or Walmart. They usually have curlers in lots of different sizes. :) Hope this helps!

Anonymous said...

How much would you sell one for. Does it depend on the style or the dress I really love this idea thank you

beast'sbelle said...

Hi Anonymous. I usually sold them for around $5 each. If the dolls had really fancy dresses that cost me more, I'd sell them for $8-$10 each.

It worked the best when I got outfits at yard sales in a big lot, but even then, it was pretty much a hobby that paid for itself, not a business with a huge profit. I kind of saw it as a ministry, too. I got to learn new skills, keep my house free from Barbie invasion, and at the same time offer a beautiful, affordable gift for parents to give to their kids. :)

J.Summer. Breeze. S Mrs . Shakur said...

������OMG MY CHEEKS HURT FROM SMILING!!! This is so amazing. I just went back in time. Thank you for this!

Hannah Prewett (beastsbelle) said...

You're welcome. :) Glad to make you smile.