Friday, April 17, 2015

Chatty Cathy Doll Restoration

When I was about 6 or 7, I received a  Chatty Cathy doll for Christmas..Unfortunately, she didn't work!  A few days after Christmas, my mom took me, and the doll, to a hardware store in Hillsdale, a larger town where we did most of our shopping.  It was a store that had taken over 3 store fronts, knocked out partial walls so customers could walk from one department to the other, and as you stepped from one store to the other, you often had to take a step down, or a step up..For some reason, I found that fascinating.. lol...

Every Christmas, they turned one of those store fronts into a toyland, filled with all kinds of toys and Christmas decorations.. Santa made a yearly appearance there, too..

By time we arrived with the broken doll, the toyland part of the store was pretty bare without a lot of toys left..Unfortunatly, they didn't have any Chatty Cathy dolls left in stock, but took the doll back and said they would try to get another one in.. 

I remember leaving with my mom and saying to her "why did we take the doll back to a store? Shouldn't we have sent it back to Santa Clause?"... Without hesitation, she told me the hardware store worked for Santa at Christmas time. 

Okay.. that made sense....

I never did get that replacement doll. My mom had also made doll clothes for me to use on the doll. I had three sisters and I'm sure they all had dolls, so I undoubtedly just found another doll to dress in the clothes.. The only outfit I remember clearly is a green corduroy coat and hat... I loved that coat! Those clothes may be why I now love making doll clothes so much myself! 

Not long ago, a customer asked me if my 20" doll clothes would fit a Chatty Cathy doll... I really didn't know for sure.. 

The question reminded me of the ill fated doll and I started looking them up on the internet.. Before long I was watching ebay auctions for them and trying to snag one for myself... 

I think the dark haired Chatty Cathy's are the prettiest and was hoping to get one of those. But I couldn't seem to get a winning bid.. I didn't want to spend a fortune on a doll, I just thought it'd be fun to start making clothes for them. They are so cute with their two front teeth showing and those freckles!

I finally found an auction for a doll that no longer talks, was in pretty rough shape, but looked like she had possibilities.. I bid on her and snagged her for $13.50 plus shipping..

When I received her, she really was looking a little worse for wear.. 

Her face was very pale, her lips were light yellow and her freckles and eyebrows were barely visible..She looked like she'd been having a really bad hair day for the last 45 years or so! She still has her teeth, but there was a lot of dirt caked around them as well as between her fingers and toes... 

I considered trying to save her hair, but it was very dry, brittle and looked like some little beautician in the making had gone to town on it.

I had a dark colored wig I knew would look very cute on her, so I decided to cut her hair off and rewig her.. I really wanted a dark haired doll anyways, so win win!

I make handmade dolls as well customized 18" vinyl dolls for a living, so I have a little bit of knowledge of what to do for her, although I'm not a vintage doll restorer by any means.

First, I cut her hair off, then gave her a nice bath using Twin Pines Formula 9-1-1.. I had purchased it some time ago from Dollspart Supplies... I use it on used vinyl dolls I restore so I knew it'd be a great choice for Miss Chatty Cathy.. It smells really good and cleans the vinyl gently... And just a capful in warm water is enough to clean quite a few dolls at once.. The bottle I have is going to last me a very long time. 

I took an old toothbrush and really scrubbed around her teeth, her nostrils, her ears and between her fingers and toes.. 

Then I rinsed her and dried her off really well with a towel..

It's kind of funny how her body is a different shade than her head, arms and legs, but I noticed most of the dolls listed on ebay look like that.. It must be the kind of vinyl they used in the 60's.. Her feet are actually darker than the rest of her legs, I suspect she wore socks for most of her life, preventing the vinyl for fading. 

She also has a soft vinyl face, which I read somewhere is kind of rare.. I'm not sure if that's true or not?? 

Now that she had a bath, she was ready for a little beauty makeover.. 

 I mixed Americana acrylic paint and a little medium together to make it easy to work with.. I used Melon since it's kind of a pinkish peachy color and I thought it'd give her a nice rosey glow. 

I just used my finger tip to apply some color to her cheeks, then used one of those wedge makeup sponges to blend it in smoothly.. I knew from working with reborn dolls a few years back that the paint would actually soak into the vinyl and become permanent...

 I used a tiny acrylic paint brush to paint her lips, which was a little tricky.. I was very careful applying it because I didn't want to get any paint on her pearly whites... I also did her nails, just for fun...

 I left her to dry for an hour or so, then came back and added a layer of clear nail polish to seal her lip color.. 

I used a regular old Maybelline brown eyebrow pencil to lightly pencil in her eyebrows and bring her freckles back to life.. 

 I applied E6000 clear craft glue all over her head to prepare her head for her new hairdo.....
 I always turn wigs inside out, line up the bang line, then flip the wig right side out while positioning it on the head.. 

I put a knee high stocking on her head to keep her wig nice and tight to her head while the glue dried.. 
Without a lot of work, she's been transformed from a really sad little doll into a cutie pie.... The best part.....I finally got my Chatty Cathy, even if it did take 54 years or so.. lol..

Once I started making clothes for her, I had so much fun, I just kept on going... Her plump little tummy creates the cutest look for outfits... I enjoyed making them so much, I've now added a page for Chatty Cathy doll clothes on my 

Sweet Pea Doll Clothes website...
Jumper and blouse

Rooster Dress and Panties
Ivory and blue gingham dress and panties. 
Yellow Sundress, panties and bonnet.
Blue Waist Dress with Panties and headband
Rose Dress and Ivory Linen Pinafore
Strawberry Sunsuit with bonnet
Purple flannel gingham pj's and sleep bonnet
PollyAnna Dress

Pretty party dress.

Her outfits, shoes and socks can be purchased from 

Before and After Pics


  1. Nice blog and so informative thank you for sharing us.

  2. Hi Karen, love your website and beautiful doll clothes! Is it ok to share the link on FB with family and friends? I have reconnected with high school girlfriends, some of whom still have Chatty Cathy dolls. Thanks & blessings! Tonya

  3. Could you help me find an outlet to purchase a blond wig for my chatty doll? I just can't find any. Thanks for any help.

    1. Antina's Doll Supply, Dollspart, Monique, Prilly Charmin and Ebay are all good sources to find wigs.

  4. Your doll looks really cute!Glad you finally got her after all these years-I had the same thing happen with my Mattel's "Baby come back" doll! I finally got my dolly too ( ;

  5. Your Chatty Cathy is adorable. Your dresses are beautiful as well.