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Rerooting a Barbie Type Doll

ATTENTION - I take no responsibility for injuries sustained or damage caused to dolls or property by following this tutorial.  This tutorial is meant as an illustration of my process only and if you decide to immitate it then the responsibility for the consequences is entirely your own!

This REALLY shouldn't be carried out by a child without adult supervision, and probably shouldn't be carried out by anyone... EVER! O.o 

STAGE 1 - Select your doll. 

The doll I am rerooting here is a Disney 'Belle' doll made by Mattel, but the same principles apply to Barbie, Sindy and any other doll of any size that has hair rooted in a similar way.  As you can see her hair is very frizzy and her previous owner has given her a disastrous hair do!

 

STAGE 2 - Remove your doll's head.

Many older dolls heads will simply pop off, but, presumably due to toy safety legislation, many more modern dolls are a little more complicated.  Newer dolls have plastic 'arms' attached to the neck knobs to keep the head in place.  These are a bit trickier.  It is often easier to heat the head in very hot water first to make the plastic expand and be a bit more pliable, then to prize the head opening off the hooks by stretching it (I use my tweezers).

 STAGE 3 - Cut your doll's hair as short as possible!

Aesthetics is not an issue here, just hack away (but mind your fingers!).  I find it is useful to preserve one 'plug' of hair  so that I can use it as a reference to see how thick the original plugs were when making new ones.

STAGE 4 - Remove the tufts

Using a long, strong pair of tweezers remove the remaining plugs from the inside of the doll's head. (I bought all my rerooting tools and hair from www.retrodolls.co.uk ).

It helps to loosen things up by scratching around inside the head with your tweezers, a crochet hook or similar to loosen the plugs up.

You should now be left with a completely bald head!  (The doll's head should be bald, not yours!).

STAGE 5 - Preparing the hair

For this project I am using nylon hair in a mixture of two shades 'Chocolate Drop' and 'Proper Copper' to get a nice subtle two-tone effect and give the colour some depth.  (Yep I bought this from Retrodolls.co.uk who I highly reccomend.)  Other hair types include Saran and Mohair and even human hair(!) but we won't go into that right now:)

Examine the plug you saved from your doll's original tresses to give you an idea of the thickness required for each plug, then separate your hank of hair into similarly sized bunches and knot firmly at one end.

You should then be left with lots of little bunches of hair known as 'plugs' like this.

Once you think you have enough (by the way you don't have enough, I can pretty much guarantee that you'll need lots more!) snip the loose ends a little (but not too close to the knot, we don't want it to unravel!

Now, take one plug, I find it useful to moisten the ends of the plug (at the end furthest away from the knot) then snip the ends level.  You can now carefully thread the plug onto a rerooting needle (again, see Retrodolls.co.uk).  Once this is done, place the needle inside the neck-hole and  carefully feel around for the scalp hole you want to fill from inside the head.  This is tricky at first, but it's amazing how quickly you get the hang of it!  Insert the needle into the hole from the inside of the head, and gently pull the hair through.  If the needle gets stuck, I usually place the back end of the needle onto a hard surface, such as the edge of a table, and apply pressure to push it through (saves your fingers!). You will find that once the hair is pulled through the knot you made sits flush against the inside of the scalp holding the plug firmly in place.  Repeat this process ad infinitum until all the plugs are filled (I find a Barbie or Sindy takes probably at least 8 or 9 hours of work).  You can fill the plugs in any order you find best, but I prefer to begin at the back and work my way forwards.

Sometimes you will find the odd strand is missed and sticks out through the neck hole, Just snip these strays off just inside the neck opening and they won't be seen once the head is put back in place :) 

Here is Belle at the end of the process...

You will often find here that the hair is a bit bouffant and 'all over the place'.  To tame it somewhat, it is best to flatten the hair and hold it in place with nylon bands or some such, then carefully pour over boiling water to flatten the hair, quickly followed by very cold water to set it.  Leave it to dry, re-attach her noggin and your girl is beautiful again (if possibly somewhat traumatised).