Vintage TLC: Suburban Shopper

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8d857822cbed851a0f1189ae12cc5911One of the more popular and sought after vintage Barbie Fashions is Suburban Shopper (#969, 1959-1964). The dress alone in good condition can run about $25 and up. Add in the accessories (phone, hat, shopping basket, necklace and shoes) and the price jumps to $50 or even $100. For a budget conscious collector such as myself, these prices are far beyond what I will spend!

So off I went in search of a TLC Suburban Shopper. It was clear from the start, that I’d have to let go of the accessories – they are hard to find and often expensive.

Instead, I focused on finding a TLC dress. Seeing as this is a popular fashion that was in production for five years, finding it isn’t too difficult. However, it can be pricey because there is a strong demand for this particular fashion. I ended up finding one in pretty rough shape for the bargain price of $5. Let the TLC games, begin!

The front of the dress was covered in brown age stains and a couple of unidentified dark spots on the white stripes (of course!).

Suburban Shopper Front_Before

To make matters worse, the stitches of a bad previous repair job can be seen along the bodice dart seams and the skirt/bodice seam.

Suburban Shopper Bodice_Before

The back of the dress is just as bad as the front. Dark stains (likely rust) hover around the zipper.

Suburban Shopper Back_Before

It only gets worse on the inside of the dress. One of the straps has fallen victim to a bad repair job. A wad of stitches going every which way actually shortens the strap to an ill-fitting length.

Suburban Shopper Strap_Before

The bodice/skirt seam was also “repaired” with another wad of stitching. The stitching is so bulky, the waist doesn’t fit on the doll – one side shifts up at an angle.

Suburban Shopper Skirt Seam_Before

It’s as bad as it looks! However, some needle and thread, along with a good washing turned this disaster of a dress into something really special.

The Brown Age Stains

Luckily, the brown stains covering most of the dress came out with just a basic treatment. I soaked it in a mixture of water, baking soda, and peroxide for two hours. Then, I laid it out to dry in direct sunlight. I repeated this process three times and the stains completely disappeared. All that was left behind were the darker spots.

The Dark Spots

It’s usually not recommend to use bleach on vintage fabrics, but the dark spots were pretty stubborn. Seeing as they were on the white stripes, (and I’d only be out $5 if this didn’t work!), I decided to chance a bleach treatment. I dabbed each spot with a Q-tip lightly loaded with diluted bleach.

I repeated the process until the spots started to lighten, all the while careful not to bleed the bleach onto the blue stripes. After the last dabbing, I gave it a good rinse and dried the dress in direct sunlight.  By some miracle, the spots were completely gone!

Bodice Dart “Repair”

To fix the previous poor repair, I carefully removed the stitches with a seam ripper. I found a small hole in the bodice dart and also realized one bodice dart was shorter than the other. Both problems were solved with a simple straight stitch along the dart seam, plus a few extra stitches to even out the length difference.

Strap “Repair”

Ripping out the previous repair stitches was quite the chore. Removing a “pile” of stitches poses the risk of accidentally tearing the fabric – especially on more fragile vintage fabric. I took my time and removed one layer of stitches at a time.

Once the stitches were gone, I could actually see the original sew line of factory stitches! That made my job a lot easier. I simply lined up the the sew line to the bodice seam allowance and stitched the strap back into place.

There were some strange stitches running down the zipper flap, but I decided to leave them in as they aren’t effecting the look of the dress or the fit. They’ll just be part of this dress’s story!

Bodice/Skirt Seam “Repair”

Oh, this was a mess. The wad of stitching took more than an hour to pick out. I had to be even more careful about not tearing the fabric because of the added bonus of gathers. Gathered fabric often has a separate line of stitches aside from the seam. If this was the case, I wanted to be sure to preserve as much of the original stitches as possible.

Underneath the wad, I found a mostly intact original seam. There was just a small hole that required only a few stitches to fix. I am baffled as to why it was previously repaired with a mountain of thread!

The end result was far more than I expected for my $5 purchase. It’s amazing what a few basic sewing skills and good washing can do!

Here’s the front of the dress after repairs and a visit with a steam iron. The stains are gone and all seams are fully restored.

Suburban Shopper Front_After

The bodice looks a lot better with properly repaired darts.

Suburban Shopper Bodice_After

The back of the dress also looks pretty good!

Suburban Shopper Back_After

My repair on the strap is hard to see, just as a repair should be! No more wadded stitching and the strap is now at its correct length.

Suburban Shopper Strap_After

My repair on the waist seam blends right into the original seam. Without that wad of stitches, the waist once again fits the doll.

Suburban Shopper Skirt Seam_After

Perhaps one day I’ll piece together the accessories for my Suburban Shopper fashion, but until then I’ll just enjoy how pretty my Bubblecut Barbie looks in her restored dress.

Suburban Shopper Dress

More Vintage TLC projects are in the works. I recently got my hands on an Enchanted Evening gown (#983, 1960-63) and Movie Date (#933, 1962-63). Stay tuned for more vintage fun!

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c.b.w. 2016

Vintage TLC: Cotton Casual Dress

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Collecting vintage Barbie dolls and fashions can get very expensive, but it’s not impossible for collectors on a budget to join in the fun. All it takes is a little patience and willingness to do some restoration work on vintage items that have seen better days.

Over the summer, I picked up a few vintage Barbie dresses that were in pretty bad shape. We’re talking bad stains, tears, holes, and previous repairs that did not go well. In short, they were disasters that desperately needed some TLC. Luckily, I have plenty of TLC to give.

One of the dresses I bought is Cotton Casual #912, (1959-1962).

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This is a fairly common vintage Barbie dress, but it can still go for $25-35 if it’s in mint or near mint condition. That’s a little over my price limit, so I found one in TLC condition for $9.

Cotton Casual Front_Before

The front is in pretty sorry shape. The ribbons are frayed and no longer tied into bows and there’s a massive stain covering most of the skirt.

Then, there’s a hole in the bodice seam.

Cotton Casual Bodice Hole

The back of the dress sees a continuation of the same dark stain that plagues the front.

Cotton Casual Back_Before

On the plus side, the snaps are original and still secure, all hems have original stitching with no fraying, the gathered waist seam is intact, and the original Mattel tag is in place.

I know it looks bad, but a few little repairs transformed this dress from a stained mess to something bright and beautiful.

The Stain

This was the scariest part of the whole restoration process. The stain was dark and bled all the way through the fabric (it even went through the doubled up hem). At minimum the dress is 54 years old, so who knows what that stain is or how it got there.

I decided to try a basic stain removing sequence for vintage fabric. I soaked it in a mixture of water, baking soda, and hydrogen peroxide for two hours. Then, I set it out in direct sunlight until it dried,  (sunlight and hydrogen peroxide are gentle bleaching agents). I repeated this sequence four times and managed to get the stain to lighten several shades. Still, it wasn’t enough.

Finally, I soaked it one more time in Vintage Textile Soak for four hours. Then, I laid it out to dry inside (the package instructions warn not to put items in direct sunlight after using the product). This did the trick! The stain is nearly gone and only visible if you know where to look for it.

The Bodice Seam

The hole in the bodice seam was tricky in that it reached all the way down to the gathered waist seam. Repairing it with a running stitch would mean ripping out all the original stitching along the waist seam. Instead, I decided a simple whip stitch on the bodice seam inside of the dress would fix the hole just as well.

The Ribbons

In it’s original form, the ribbons on the bodice were tied into bows. Unfortunately, the ribbons on my dress have frayed to a length much too short to retie. To fix this, I had two choices: 1. Replace the ribbons with new ones 2. Attempt to sew the ribbons to look like bows.

I ended up going with Option 2, because I believe in keeping as much as the original dress in place as possible. I shaped each ribbon into a bow and sewed the center with a reinforced stitch. It took a few tries, but the result turned out better than expected.

After some patience, creative solutions, and a steam iron, my $9 Cotton Casual looks amazing…

Here’s, the front of the dress with restored bows and a repaired bodice seam. However, the biggest difference is the absence of that bad stain.

Cotton Casual Front After

The back of the dress looks just as good. The stain is mostly gone!

Cotton Casual Back After

Who knew a little TLC could go so far … My Bubblecut Barbie is looking pretty good in her Cotton Casual dress.

Cotton Casual Doll After

This is just the beginning! The restoration process is ongoing with several other TLC vintage fashions. Stay tuned!

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c.b.w. 2016

Adding To The Vintage Crew

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I started the summer with two vintage Barbie dolls in my collection. After going on vacation, I came home with a third, thrilled to finally give my pair of dolls a new friend.

Barbie Pic 1

Twist and Turn (’66-’67), Blond Bubblecut (’64-’67), Brunette Midge (’64-’67)

Little did I know that her arrival would trigger a vintage windfall. A simple visit to eBay (to help me identify the new girl and assess her condition) lead to a little browsing of other vintage Barbies and fashion.

Most vintage listings are way beyond what I can afford, but hidden in between the rare and pricey dolls are those that have seen better days. Those are the dolls I started looking at and I ended up finding a beautiful doll for only $19.

Brunette Bubble Cut in Blue

Brunette Bubblecut (’64-’67)

She’s a Brunette Bubblecut Barbie (1964-67). While I already have a blonde Bubblecut, something about this doll really appealed to me. She has a different look and is in better condition for the most part.

On the pro side her face paint is nearly perfect, fingernail paint is only a little faded, no cracks or splits on her body or limbs, no green ear, and perfect hair.

On the con side, she has two head splits. One is at the base of the head on the left side. Luckily, it can’t be seen from the front! This should be a relatively easy repair with a little plastic bonding glue.

Brunette Bubblecut Nect Split

The dreaded head split!

The other split is on top of her head. I’ve decided to leave it be as I don’t want to risk getting glue in her hair. A little creative combing of her hair should hide the split!

Brunette Bubblecut Head Split

A comb over should solve this problem!

Just as I was putting the finishing touches on Little Miss Bubblecut’s new blue dress, (the one she’s wearing in the pics!), another vintage doll fell into my lap. This time around, my sister was shopping at a local thrift shop when she spotted a “old looking Barbie.” It was half price day at the store, so she picked it up for only $12.50. When she dropped it off at my house, I almost died. This was a special doll that needed a lot of love.

This “old looking Barbie” is actually a Ponytail #5 Barbie (1961). Her hair has been pinned up into a bun so it’s hard to tell! Ponytail Barbies are a sought after bunch in the vintage world and I can’t believe one just landed on my doorstep.

Ponytail 5 Barbie Head

Hello, Ponytail #5!

All things considered, she’s in decent shape. Her face paint is largely in place (with exception to a few lip paint chips), her fingernail and toenail paint is perfect, and she has no green ear.

However, she also has some serious issues. Her hair is pinned up with straight pins that have rusted. I pulled them out, but one hole has turned green (thankfully, her hair covers it up). I have to clean that entire area to make sure the green stops spreading.

Ponytail 5 Barbie Head Side

The rusted offender is right next to her bangs.

Like many Ponytail #5 dolls, she has a greasy face. This is the result of the type of plastic that Mattel used during production. As it degrades, it releases a sticky film. There’s nothing I can do about it except to keep her face clean with warm soap and water.

The “grease” on her face has also leached into her hair. While, the original styling is still in place, her hair is in dire need of a good washing. Between the rust residue and grease, there is also the problem of the original rubber band disintegrating into the strands of her ponytail. At the moment, I’m researching how to properly clean and restore her hair.

Her legs are another problem. Ponytail #5 dolls are notorious for “splayed legs” and mine is no exception! One of her legs is bent so far out of alignment she can’t stand. Little by little I’m bending the leg back into shape by heating it in the blistering Arizona sun and tying her legs together at decreasing widths with ribbon.

Ponytail 5 Barbie Front

Not a good look!

The same leg is stained with dark marks that start beneath the knee and travel down to her foot. I’m working on bleaching them out with a little acne cream and the sun.

The last issue is an odd one, but I believe it is fixable. Her torso is split at the very bottom across a mold seam between her legs. It’s a clean split and should repair easily with some plastic bonding glue.

After just a little work, she’s already looking better! I made her a pretty little yellow dress to make her feel better and show off the progress on her leg.

Yellow Dress

A little TLC goes a long way!

Some would say these dolls are a mess and not worth the time and energy I’m putting into them. Some might even say they are ugly, but to me they are beautiful. Despite the damage and scars, I look at them and see stunning dolls that have inspired little girls for more than 50 years. How could I not save them?

Now that I have the dolls, I’ve started the process of acquiring vintage clothing that also needs a little TLC. Stay tuned for vintage style on these vintage dolls once I get some of the repair work done!

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c.b.w. 2016

Tsunami Socks

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While in Portland, Oregon last summer I bought some beautiful hand-spun, hand-dyed sock yarn. I spent more than I should have, but when it comes to finding gorgeous sock yarn in a place I love I’ll pay just about anything to take it home!

Two beautiful skeins from The Yarns of Rhichard Devrieze (Peppino in Class Act) sat in my stash (wrapped in tissue paper) waiting for the perfect sock pattern to come along. I found it six months later in a great little book called Knitted Socks East and West by Judy Sumner. This fantastic collection of Japanese inspired stitch patterns included a pair of socks inspired by tsunami waves and islands. The second I saw them I knew my fancy yarn had met its match.

My Tsunami Socks are my new favorite pair! I love the subtle shades of blue and coral – a perfect combination for the idea of “waves” rolling around “islands.”

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Tsunami Socks

Overall, the pattern for these socks was incredibly easy to follow. I’m usually not a fan of chart only patterns, but the charts in this pattern are large enough to read without difficulty and the instructions are very clear. Just be careful reading the instep chart. The red repeat line is hard to see.

I’d recommend this pattern for knitters with a little experience who might  be ready for a challenge. The “wave” in the leg of these socks is completed with a four-stitch cable, which can be daunting for knitters who have never worked with a cable needle. Still, it’s a good first project as the cable only occurs once in 12 rounds. Be brave and give it a whirl!

My current project is a cute easy-knit tank top. Stay tuned!

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c.b.w. 2016

Caretta Caretta Socks

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After a long season of Christmas knitting, it was great to get back into the groove of knitting socks. Even though my sock drawer is already stuffed with 30 pairs of knitted socks (I wish I was exaggerating, but I’m not ), I had double pointed needles in one hand and a two hanks of sock yarn in the other before the Christmas tree came down.

I was looking for a little bit of a challenge this time around, so I selected a pattern from Socktopus by Alice Yu. The patterns in this book are incredibly beautiful, but also on the more difficult side. I wouldn’t recommend it for beginners despite the fact that the patterns are meticulous and clearly written. Some of the stitches and techniques require a little courage and experience!

After looking through all the patterns, I settled on Caretta Caretta Socks. I love knitting lace designs and I liked how this particular lace pattern was a bit thicker than most. The only adjustment I made was eliminating the beadwork. As pretty as the beads are in the pattern, I’m not a fan of beads on socks.

For the yarn, I went with an old favorite: Plymouth Yarn Happy Feet in gorgeous shades of purple, blue, and green with flecks of gold. I love how soft this yarn is, but I have noticed the gauge is a bit larger than stated on the tag (I tend to knit right on gauge and no matter what I do, this yarn always goes bigger!). I scaled my needles down a full size to compensate.

My socks turned out great! The variegated colors worked really well with a thicker lace pattern.

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Caretta Caretta Socks in Plymouth Yarn Happy Feet

One of my favorite features of this pattern is the 3×1 ribbed heel flap. It matches the cuff and integrates fully into the lace pattern as if its an extension. It’s a nice touch that gives these socks and elegant flow.

My Caretta Caretta socks are now sitting at the top of my sock drawer and I love them. Meanwhile, I’m already knitting another pair of socks. This time I’m following a pattern inspired by Japanese knitting techniques and stitches. And the yarn is divine – I bough it in Portland and it’s proving to be phenomenal. Stay tuned!

Happy Knitting!

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c.b.w. 2016