Friday, October 9, 2015


I gave a presentation at my P.E.O. chapter about my doll collection. Afterwards, a member (Mary) asked if I would like her “Toni” doll. My first thought was to refuse, not because I didn’t want the doll but because I knew I would be off on another tangent. But Mary told me that no one in her family wanted the doll. “You should see her hair,” she said. “I gave her a permanent and ruined it.” Her daughter called the doll “Chucky,” she said. How bad could she be, I wondered. [The photo left is of me and Mary prior to Toni's refurbishment.]

Some of you may remember the era of the home permanent. My mother gave me a permanent every three months from the time I was seven until I was fifteen or so. I hated it. Somehow the permanent Mother gave me didn’t make me look like those lovely models in the ads. But Mother said that without a permanent, my hair was unmanageable. So, a Saturday morning would be devoted to the process, and then my hair would be kinky (and smelly) for a couple of weeks. Everyone knew by smell as well as sight when a person’s permanent was new. Gradually the curl relaxed and grew out and Mother began to talk about permanents again.

Anyway, one brand of home permanent was the highly advertised “Toni.” And the “Toni” doll, manufactured by Ideal, was meant to promote the “Toni Home Permanent.” The doll was available in several sizes, the one in question being a 14-inch “P-90.” She came with a mock permanent kit, the solution being sugar water. Little girls everywhere gave permanents to their Toni dolls, saturating the wig with sugar water, and after that the doll wasn’t the same. (Really – I’m surprised the company got away with that.)

Despite this drawback, Toni was a beloved doll in the ‘50s, and I was totally hooked when I discovered the many patterns designed for her. Of course, all of those are now available as downloads through Etsy sellers.

So, last month my friend brought the doll to my house wrapped in a crocheted shawl. Yes, her hair was a little stiff and tousled and her joints were very loose due to the loss of elasticity in her bands. So, I first researched for instructions on re-stringing, and, gaining confidence, I ordered new bands. The doll pleaded for a new wig, so I ordered one of those, too.

The pictures here illustrate the re-stringing process, which I had never done before. I asked Mike to help me, but he offered the use of his tools and disappeared. I borrowed pliers and tweezers, but I didn’t need them. Instead, I used an open paperclip and a craft stick.

Then I tackled the wig. It was difficult to remove the old one. A little water helped. With great anticipation, I then fitted the new wig to her head. It’s elasticized and fits tightly, so I didn’t glue it down.

Isn’t she pretty? Next up – a new dress. (I already have three patterns.) KW


Mike said...

Wow! I'm impressed.

Chuck said...

I'm impressed, too. Now I know what it looks like when you're not "feeling yourself" or you feel out of sorts. Toni really fell apart under the strain.

Hallie said...

She IS pretty! She has a nice, glowing face. I am so proud of your ingeniuty with the re-stringing. When I conquer things like that, I say to myself, "Who needs a man?!" Yup, that's exactly what I say until there's a tough jar to open. ;P

Kathy said...

I did watch part of a tutorial which suggested the use of the open paperclip with hook on one end. As I pulled on that stiff rubber band, though, I realized I needed to hold it in place at the joints in order to hook her arms and legs. The craft stick was so useful for that. Her left arm is a little strange. I think maybe the band is twisted. I decided not to worry about it.

The rubber band was so wide that I cut it in half. I don't think I would have been able to hook her arms and legs without doing that. More bands came in the kit if she doesn't last.

My "Ginny" dolls need to be re-strung, and I'll do that one day. Their wigs didn't survive my childhood and Mother rewigged them. Originally one had blond hair and the other black pigtails. Thinking about putting them back that way.

Yes, sometimes you need the brawn of a man, but often you can skirt around that with ingenuity -- even with jars.

Chris said...

Well done! And now you can have fun making her new dresses. I'm sure she's happy to have a home!