I love haunting our local Goodwill. It is only a couple of miles from our house, so I try to stop by at least 2-3 times a week, just to check out the toy aisle. More often than not, I walk away empty handed. But lately, I have found some awesome deals! This is a doll I found on a recent visit, a Karito Kids Lara:
Only, she didn't look like this.
This is the poor, bedraggled orphan I found, carelessly tossed in among a heap of cast-off, plastic toys:
Yes, she had scary hair. It was bad...REALLY bad. Even the cashier commented on it.
My first thought was to leave her there. After all, there was no possible way to salvage that mess of a mane, was there? But then I remembered how I had stumbled across a Karito Kid a couple of years ago at another Goodwill, and didn't purchase her. By the time I had arrived home, I changed my mind and drove back to get her, but she was already gone. I have never found another one since. Until now. So I figured for $3.99, I should take my chances. I bought her.
In case you are not familiar with Karito Kids, these were well made dolls first manufactured in 2007. There were five dolls in the original production run, each representing a girl from a different country. A sixth doll joined them a year or two later. The original Karito Kids stand about 21" tall, with cloth torsos that are jointed like the American Girl dolls. They also have a vinyl breast plate, like the Madame Alexander 18" play dolls. Their eyes are stationary, and they had beautful wigs. They originally retailed for $99 and were sold in higher-end toy shops and online. The neat thing about these dolls was that a certain percent of each purchase went to a worldwide children's charity. By entering a unique code (found on every product) on the company website, one could select the charitable cause to which the donation would be directed.
A few years after the original dolls were introduced, the company created a cheaper version which would be sold at Walmart. Two, new dolls joined the crowd: Leza (a blond), and Lara (brunette). I believe they retailed for around $35. As far as I can tell, the only thing that really changed about them was their hair. The two new dolls came with cheaper, rooted hair, instead of the nicer quality wigs of the original dolls. Since these newer dolls could be sold for about 1/3 of the cost of their more expensive sisters, I guess they had to reduce the quality somewhere. The manufacturer quit making these dolls shortly thereafter, and they are now only found on the secondary market.
Because my doll has brunette, rooted hair, I was quickly able to identify her as "Lara". This is the back side of her head:
Quite the mess, huh? At first, I thought I would simply cut it all off and replace it with a wig. Then I decided to try and restore it. I have successfully repaired other dolls' hair in the past, but none were ever as bad as this one. Still, I figured, what could be the harm? If I couldn't tame it, then I wouldn't feel bad about cutting it all off.
First things first--I gathered my supplies:
1) Bon Ami--a mild, powder abrasive which is great for removing marks from vinyl. Some people also like to use "Mr. Clean Magic Erasers", but Bon Ami has always worked well for me, so that is what I use.
2) Downy liquid fabric softener--this is used to soften the hair. I suppose you could buy an off-brand, but make sure it is unscented, unless you don't mind the heavily perfumed smell of the scented kind.
3) A metal pet comb for detangling the hair. You only want to use metal combs on doll hair because plastic bristles will snag the hair and cause it to frizz. I picked up this comb at the dollar store.
4) A hair straightener. Make sure it can be set to a low-heat setting, and that it has ceramic plates. I bought mine at Goodwill.
First, I washed this doll's hair with some liquid soap, but I have also used shampoo in the past. I don't think it really matters; you are just trying to clean away the grime. Did I mention how bad this doll's hair was? It was basically just one, big, frizzy, matted mess.
After giving it a quick wash, I filled a 2 quart container with the fabric softener (full strength), and submerged Lara's head so that most of her hair was covered:
She stayed like this on my kitchen counter for the next 24 hours.
I don't have pictures of what I did next. After letting her hair soak, I rinsed it out really well with plain water until I felt that all the fabric softener had been rinsed clear. By the way, you can save your fabric softener and reuse it for another doll. Just pour it back into your container when you are through.
At this point, I grabbed the metal comb and a pair of scissors and made myself comfortable in front of the television. 2 1/2 hours later...yes, I said 2 1/2 hours--I had finally combed through all the hair. I had to work with super small sections and cut off quite a bit of the length. Even with the fabric softener, the hair was just too frizzy and matted to save at it's original length.
After the hair was combed out and trimmed, I started using the hair straightener, set on it's lowest setting. Make sure the hair is damp if you attempt to do this. It will seem scary at first, because the wet hair will sizzle, and you will think you are frying your doll's hair! However, the water is protecting the hair, and the heat is actually melting all the stray, little fibers back together. After the first few passes over Lara's hair, I was amazed at how much better it looked. See for yourself:
Can you even believe this is the same doll? Yes, her hair is much shorter than I had originally planned. But I started getting a little scissor happy, and, well, she ended up with a bob. But I love it!
Remember the Bon Ami mentioned above? This is what I used it for:
Her arm is now good as new.
And because she was naked when I found her, I quickly set about making her a new outfit--a pretty sundress with a matching, removable apron:
The dress closes in back with real buttons. I like these so much better than Velcro, which always snags doll hair.
So to recap...we went from this:
I honestly didn't think when I started this project that it would turn out so well! I initially thought that I would simply rewig the doll so I could sell her, but now, I have rather fallen in love with her! So she will be staying in my collection, at least for a little while.
Encouraged by this transformation, I now have another little waif waiting for her turn to become beautiful:
She is currently upside down in a bowl of Downy fabric softener as I type!