Restoration and Conservation

A Tale of Two Restorations: Part 1 Lily

This is Lily when she first arrived at my studio. Note the missing paint on her facial features, the poorly made flat replacement arms, the glued on stockinette covering her original shoulders and the sewn on stockings and leather shoes.

Today I thought I’d share with you the story of Lily and Emmaline, and the journey we shared.  Lily and Emmaline are two very wonderful original antique Izannah Walker dolls that came to me for restoration.  The following is the tale of how they returned to their true selves and regained a glimmer of their youth.

Part 1 Lily’s Story

(Move your cursor over the photographs to read the captions.  Click on the photographs you wish to enlarge)

One day, out of the blue, my dear friend Susie called to tell me that she had purchased an antique Izannah Walker doll.  The doll was in such bad shape that no one else at the doll show she attended was interested in buying her, even though some people did realize that she was one of Izannah’s dolls.  Chief among several issues was the very heavy repaint on the doll’s head and shoulders.  Thinking that she certainly couldn’t make the doll look worse than she already did, Susie gathered her courage and began removing layers of paint.  Finally working her way down to the remains of Lily’s original layer of face paint.  What emerged was a charming, classic pre-patent Izannah Walker doll.  In due course Susie and Lily journeyed to Connecticut and it was agreed that Lily would stay to visit my family of Izannahs while I endeavored to bring back some of her former glory.

Where to start???  One of the challenges I faced with Lily was the glued on, painted piece of stockinette that someone had applied over her entire shoulder area. Obviously there was some reason that they felt the need to do that, but why? I decided to see if I could remove the glue saturated fabric.  Starting in an unobtrusive spot under the edge of her second skin I gently began chipping away very small bits of stockinette/glue/paint.  This was an excruciatingly slow process.  The ill considered repair disappeared a fraction of an inch at a time, to reveal Lily’s original shoulders.  There was a small torn area up near her neck, which I repaired with a little piece of antique fabric.

I used some of the same antique quilt block foundation fabric to make Lily a new pair of arms in the proper size, from a pattern drafted from one of my own antique Izannah Walker dolls and re-scaled to fit Lily’s petite size. After making Lily’s new arms I gave them an appropriate amount of wear and multiple coats of paint that I hand mixed to match her remaining original paint.

Next came the thrill of doing a small amount of judicious in-painting on Lily’s face and shoulders.  Brushing on many whisper thin coats of hand mixed color, always making sure not to get any paint down into the cracks in her paint surface.  Susie is very found of Isabeau, one of my antique Izannah Walker dolls, and we found that when we compared Isabeau and Lily that Lily looks like a smaller version of Isabeau.  Both having been made originally from very similar head molds.  Since all of the paint on Lily’s features was long gone, I took Isabeau to the studio, where she sat with me and modeled as I repainted Lily’s eyes and lips.

The next decision that Susie had to make was whether or not to leave the sewn on stockings and shoes from an earlier repair.  I could tell that Lily’s ankles had once again separated along the seam line, and while the socks were keeping her feet from falling off, they were dangling loose under the red stockinette.  After much consideration it was decided that I should remove the red “socks” and little leather shoes.  When I did I was very pleased to find that Lily had painted shoes!  Not painted boots, but low top shoes.!!!  The original paint did not go above the ankle seam.  This is a fairly rare detail and it made my whole day when I uncovered it. 🙂  I was able to repair Lily’s feet with a few stitches to keep her worn “shoes” in place over their horsehair stuffing.  I used small strips of the antique quilt block foundation to make bands to stabilize her ankle seams.

After getting sweet Miss Lily back to her true self, I turned my attention to her clothing.  She came with a hand sewn red cotton dress trimmed with black velvet ribbon.  The dress is not as old as the doll and while it was made with love, it was not made by an expert seamstress.  The dress also had a great deal of sun fading on the front.  Normally I would not be concerned with the fading, because that is just one of those things that happens to fabric…  However, the dress was quite short and Susie wanted the hem let out if possible.  I tried to find a piece of old black velvet ribbon with similar wear so that I could add it as a second row of trim along the crease of the original hemline (once the hem was let out).  I looked for quite a long time without success.  I wound up letting the hem down, then removing all of the ribbon trim so that I could wash the dress.  Normally I use cold water to wash antique fabrics, but in this instance I used warm, hoping that the red dye would run and even out the  color.  It did run, but the fading was still very evident, as was the fact that I let the hem down.  So I wound up re-dying the dress to it’s original turkey red color.  This evened out the color enough so that it is now acceptable.  Then I sewed the black ribbon back in it’s previous positions, because even after dying the lines where the ribbon was were quite visible.  I also moved the hooks and eyes at the waist to make it smaller.  The dress fits Lily much better now.  since Lily did not come with undergarments, I made her a set from antique fabric and antique waved braid (rick-rack).  As I’ve mentioned Lily’s mom is very fond of my Isabeau, so I recreated Isabeau’s chemise, then made a petticoat and pantalettes to match.

I thoroughly enjoyed having Lily stay here during her transformation.  My doll family is going to be crushed when she leaves, as they have all become fast friends.  I’m sure they will be pen pals for life.

In addition to trusting me with Lily, Susie has been extremely generous.  She told me that she wanted me to make reproductions of Lily and she has allowed me to share this story of Lily’s restoration!  Thank You Susie!!!

And now we come to the end of this chapter in Lily’s continuing story.  Her restoration is finished and she will be going back home.  All of the pieces of her previous repairs will be going with her, as they are mementos of her long, interesting life.


Lily after I finished her restoration. What a beautiful Izannah Walker doll!

Please come back to visit Izannah Walker Journal next week to read Part Two: Emmaline’s Story.

12 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Restorations: Part 1 Lily

  1. I absolutely loved and seeing how you restored that gorgeous doll! What a pleasure to see step by step pictures. Thank you for posting these for all of us. Billie

  2. It’s believable that people did know she was a antique even though they didn’t take her home, but lucky for Susie.
    One of my reproduction Izannah’s has the name Lily. I love it. The red dress
    looks great on her. Red seems to be the popular color for these dolls, antique or reproduced. My Miss Pauline’s original dress is much like this one, it’s made from antique wool challis.
    Susie, congratulation on buying her. She will sweeten your days and evenings. Lily came out so original thanks to Paula. What a wonderful
    Restoration. I’m so happy for you Susie.
    Paula you have to be so grateful to have had the chance to handle all
    of these antique Izannah’s learning from each and every one of them.
    It brings us closer to Izannah Walker herself considering we don’t have that much history of her. I believe Sept.of 2017 will become the 200th birthday
    oh this incredible women. Paula you have restored part of history for so many of these dolls to go on many more years. Paula, know how greatful
    we are of your work, and the fact that you really love doing it.
    Wonderful job Paula, Lily is as perfect as she could be in 2016.
    Fondly, Mary Goddard.

    1. Thank you Mary! Yes, getting to spend my days surrounded by Izannah Walker’s dolls, both mine and those here for a bit of TLC, is one of my joys. ❤ Restoration is always an adventure and there are new things to be learned with every doll. There are little changes and oddities here and there, as there are in the work of all artists and dollmakers who created their pieces over a long span of time.
      Wishing you a glorious summer!

  3. Dear Paula,
    Love seeing the work you did on Lily and how beautiful she turned out to be. I’m amazed a the beautiful work you do. Did you know that the name Susie, Susan & Suzanne mean “Lily”?

    How tall is Lily?
    Takecare, Suzanne

    1. Suzanne,
      Thank you! No I didn’t know that 🙂 I don’t know if Susie does or not, but it makes Lily’s name especially fitting! Lily is just about 17 inches tall. She is right in between my Isabeau and my Izzybelle (both of whom she resembles).

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