Tuesday, September 9, 2014

From Throw-Away to OOAK

Brown Underdress?  Eeeek!
DISCLAIMER:  These are the steps I took to create an OOAK fashion from a highly damaged vintage fashion.  In each step there was a risk that I could ruin the fabric in one way or another.  If you decide to give this process a go, please use extreme caution.  Proceed at your own risk!  You will likely end up with something very fun for your doll to wear.  But there is always the chance that damage could occur.  

A few weeks ago I purchased a lovely #3 Ponytail on eBay.  She happened to arrive in a "Friday Night Date" fashion that was, to put it politely, hammered.  It was crusty, brown, gross, faded, snaps were falling off...  The pictures really don't even do justice to the true "Ewww" of the condition.  Because it was basically only good for either parts or maybe a pattern, I decided it was worth the risk to try my hand at making it in to a OOAK.

Ideas for color options swam in my head.  I'm a die-hard Rit Dye fan, so I checked out their website for the first time.  How did I not know that they had so many color options? This link shows you all the possible color options you could make.  Didn't realize there were that many, did ya!?  You. Are. Welcome!  :D

A friend of mine said that he'd removed the felt pieces on his own OOAK dress by putting the iron on a very low heat and ironing the dress inside-out until the glue releases.   I figured it sounded easy enough, so I gave it a go!

What the dress looked like originally.
And what do you know!  It worked!  I was able to remove nearly all the felt pieces.  The light pink and dark green parts were the most stubborn, as well as the "bird".  In the end, I had to leave a few of them attached or risk destroying them in the removal process.  Two options are in front of you when this happens. You can keep trying to remove them and risk having to cut new pieces from new felt, or you can dye the pieces while on the dress, then use fabric paint, once the dress is re-colored, to restore the color.   (I went with option #2, just so the original felt would stay on the dress.)  I had to be patient and use caution as I removed the pieces. One of them started to tear when I got too eager to pull them off. Yikes!

I never put heat on the front of the dress. Only from inside.
As I pulled them off, I stuck them to a dryer sheet. Once I had them off the dress, I placed them in a plastic baggie.

The felt pieces weren't perfectly clean (no surprise, based on the condition of the jumper and under-dress, but I decided they were decent enough for me to use again.  I didn't clean them in any way since I have no idea how felt would stand up to a washing.  In mind mind, I see disastrous results, not worth the risk!

Once the felt was as off the dress as I figured I could get it (three pink buds and the larger dark green piece wouldn't budge, darn it!), I heated some water and dissolved a small scoop of Oxi Clean in a small bowl.  I honestly didn't measure it out exactly.  I just kind of eye-ball it so that I know there is enough cleaner in there to do the job.  It will vary on the size of the dish you use.

Cute little felt pieces!!
I should mention that some people in the Barbie world feel Oxi could damage your fabric and use other approaches for cleaning.  I, personally, have used it on a number of different dresses (none with fragile fabric, though) and had great results.  Do some research on this if you aren't sure what you want to use.   The big thing is to remove the soil and grime from the dress.

I soaked the jumper and under-dress soak separately so the white dress wouldn't turn bluey-grey.
My preference for cleaning.

Important Tip:  Once the garment is done soaking, lift it out of the water and run it under the tap to rinse.  Do NOT rub/scrub the fabric.  Just let the soap rinse out.  Once it's de-soaped, lay it on a white towel and gently press on the dress to remove excess water. Then let it air dry. Be aware the Oxi WILL lightly bleach the item you are cleaning.  My little felt pieces did change color, but since I was planning to paint them, I didn't mind too much.

After considering a lot of different fun color options, I decided that the doll who was going to wear the dress (if it survived my experiments) would be cutest in a dark turquoise.  I know it wasn't the most dramatic change, at least not in pictures, but in person the color is very vibrant and a fun change from the softer blue of the original.

I ended up ordering one of the two colors I used off of the internet.  Luckily, the core colors are all easy to find in one way or another.  It's the mixing that is tricky, hence the convenience of the link I shared above.  Of course, that only works if you like RIT dye.  By all means, try another brand, but I've known folks who tried something else and then ended up buying RIT afterwards anyway.  Why not skip a step and save some money.   I prefer the liquid variety for mixing colors, just for the record, though RIT does come in a powder version as well. Depending on the type of fabric you are dealing with, there are special steps to take.  Reading the instructions is key.
Stir often!

Bring on that dark turquoise!!
Be sure to mix the dye in a container you won't be ever preparing food in.  I used a bucket I use for mopping.  It cleaned up easily afterwards.  And if there had been any staining to the plastic, it wouldn't matter since it's just a bucket!  You can always pick up a cheap pan at a local discount store or Good Will.

You can test the color mix with a paper towel if you are going for a specific shade, and remember that the less water you add, the brighter the color will be.  Once you are ready to remove the dress, rinse and pat dry using the same approach you did after washing it earlier.  Just don't use a towel you care about getting some dye on.

Let the dress dry and then the fun continues!

Not sure why the camera made the dress look brown.  ??

I painted the little pink felt pieces before any glueing happened so that I could get the color on without worrying about messing up position of everything. I did wait on the green paint since they are larger pieces and were easy to color without any disasters coming along.  As far as the felt bird was concerned, I kind of liked his new color so I left him as is.

When it came to the glue, I bought a product at the craft store that was able to go in the wash and was quick to dry.  Aleene's "Fabric Fusion".  I am sure there are tons of other options out there.  This worked well for me, though.  I used tweezers to carefully set the pieces back on their original glue marks so everything looked like it had never been removed.  It was tricky to verify which side of the felt to put the glue on, at times, but since I took the "before" pictures, I was able to make sure everything went back on the proper places. Very fun.  Waiting for everything to dry before dressing a doll was challenging.

Back on the dress they go!
Almost like new.
The last thing I did was make sure that snaps were all firmly sewn, since the washing and dying is sometimes a bit rough on thread.

And here you have it!  A way to make a dress that could easily have been a throw-away into something that will be enjoyed for a long time to come.

It's now being modeled by an adorable OOAK Fashion Queen doll that was painted for me by the talented Sandra Crowell.
Once again next to the original!

If you have alternative suggestions for cleaning products, dye brands or glue, PLEASE share them in the comments below.  I'd love to learn more about your experiences and ideas when it comes to making a vintage item new again!


  1. Wow absolutely amazing results.

  2. I would never think the dress could have been saved. It would have gone in the trash.