Part Two – Izannah Walker Replica Doll

Now, leave the molds which have had wax in them where they are, and go to the molds that have not yet been touched.

We will now proceed to destroy those molds also!

Spray the insides of each half of the mold with PAM.  Pam, the lowly kitchen spray is the doll maker’s friend.  You want the original formula, not the olive oil.

Use a soft brush, now forever dedicated to Pam, to brush the Pam around in the mold. The dry plaster will absorb the Pam. Spray and spray again.  Do the edges and the interior surface of the mold, but not the outside.

The Pam will keep most substances from sticking to the inside of the mold.

It will not prevent Tightbond Yellow Wood glue from sticking….which is how I destroyed that first mold from the first doll back in 2008.

While you are waiting for the Pam to absorb, mix up a small batch of Helen Pringle’s Messy Mix. I first read about this in the Cloth Doll magazine, and I’ve seen it used more recently.

H.P. Messy Mix is equal parts of Liquitex modeling paste and matte gel. So far, it is the only thing that gets the fabric to adhere to the wax model, which is what happens next.


I am applying this “messy mix” to the wax model itself (the “short half”} because I want to fabric to stick to all of the model. If I apply the “messy mix” to the fabric, I might miss going all the way out to the edges. 

I use 100% cotton tee shirt material. A man’s tee shirt is OK, but the ones put out by Danskin are thinner and stretchier. Silk stockinette gets brittle, later on. 

Once you have gently smoothed the knit onto the wax model, lay it carefully into the Pammed mold. 

The craft stick does not make the wax stronger.
You are now ready for your first pressing.
Looks a bit like Izannah’s, doesn’t it?

You will see that there is a wooden “follower” between the clamp head and the wax. There is a similar piece of wood under the mold half, too.

This helps to distribute the pressure from the clamp. I have broken the wax pieces and I actually broke a plaster mold from too much pressure, before we started using the mold followers.

Incidentally, some one suggested that Izannah’s first molds were not of iron, as is depected in her patent.  Iron would have been costly, although the Walkers and the extended family owned iron foundries. 

It was suggested that the reason there are so many different faces among the early dolls was that the molds were of plaster, and tended to break.

Izannah was using completed doll heads, maybe wax or papier mache, and bald. These were coming into the country from France and mostly Germany, and would have been readily available.  Using ready made doll heads for new dolls was common in those days.  That was just what people did.

But I digress.

So you now have cotton knit adhered to a wax model, back into a duplicate mold, being pressed by a clamp.

You can use the same clamps you used with the wax. I just used these big black ones because they look like the kind Izannah was using.

Leave the whole contraption in a warm place where the “messy mix” can dry. Don’t go too warm, as the wax will melt, and maybe fall on something like a pilot light…which could be disasterous!

So the next day, assume the messy mix has dried. Release the clamps, and lighly pry the model out, with the fabric still attached. Maybe pry from the bottom, if you have to. It should come out very easily.

Any kind of moisture will cause the features to spread and deteriorate. Resist the impulse to put any water soluble material on the face.

Instead, give the face a coating of some clear plastic spray, like one of the Krylon products. It will raise the nap on the knit, but then it lays back down.

Once the piece is dry, from the acrylic spray, you can now gently pry the cloth off the short wax form.

NOW, take the full sized wax half, and put the face mask over it. Carefully.

You are going to trim the corners of the fabric
and sew the mask onto itself, across the back of the half.

You can do this by gathering, and then bringing the needle across to the other side, working back and forth.  Use a big needle, about 4 threads, and the ugliest colors you have on hand.  You will use up a lot of thread.

The objective here is to smooth out any wrinkles that might want to form at the very edge of the piece.

By going back and forth, you will find that you can force the knit to lie flat on the wax model.  I found that clipping at the neck helped, but don’t get too close to the edge of the molded neck.

Got it? Good.

Now….just on that half inch or so that was not involved with the Messy Mix on the short half, dab a little white glue. Leave not even a 1/32th of an inch right at the very edge.

The white glue can be sewn through, but it is a pain.

Let the glue dry, and you are ready for the next step. You are almost there!

Are we there yet?

 The white glue has dried. You have cut the gathering strings on the back of the wax model, the big half. You will now gently put the whole unit back into the Pammed mold, and secure the edges with either a little masking tape, or a judicious use of spray adhesive. You want the selvage of the piece to lie flat against the mold, so you can access the very edge of the mold, and the fabric that lies there.

 Do not use any glue at this point. Using spray adhesive, fill in the nose, especially, and the lips and chin with tiny bits of batting. I used “warm and natural.” Get the cheap stuff, because it tears better than the more expensive batting.  If you tear rather than cut it, the edges feather in better,  Be especially careful of this in doing the first layer.

Using layers of spray adhesive alternating with layers of batting, completely cover the inside of the mold. Be sure to bring the material all the way up to the edge of the mold, but not over.

 When you have a good two layers of batting covering the inside of the mold, switch to burlap.

 It is beter to work in strips, and make cuts into the burlap, so you can accommodate the curves.

The last layer of burlap is adhered with a layer of yellow glue. White glue is OK, but the yellow is stronger.

The last thing: Remember that plaster you poured inside the clay, in preparation for revising a sculpt? Did you save it? This plaster shape will have the same shape as the head, less the 1/3 of an inch or so that was the clay. I use these to press into the fabric inside the mold. I use the followers, and the big clamps, and I tighten down as hard as I dare. (This is where I broke the mold.)

If you don’t have this shape, and are arriving at this point by some other means, you can stuff the head interior with something hard, like wadded up aluminum foil.  Batting is too soft.  You have to have a surface to press against. 

This shows the cloth mask with its final lining of burlap. You can see the batting in between.  The picture above shows the plaster form fitted into the mask in the mold and getting the second pressing. 

Leave the whole thing to dry. Leave it alone for at least three days.

When you take it out, you will have a pressed cloth head, front and back, that you now get to sew together.

Oh, joy!

As I worked my way through this doll, trying to do everything just as Izannah would have done them, I was struck by how sophisticated this simple little doll really is.

The antique dolls have a “pate” as the UFDC called it, which is really a representation of the hair being gathered up into a bun, which is what would have to happen do achieve that hairstyle, with the little curls and such.

You can see it on the antiques, so I put it on mine.

The antique heads, especially the early ones, had to be sewn onto the body. One of the shoulderplates I saw had a seam going down the back of it.

The ears…and I have not made a complete study of the ears….some of them are in two pieces, sewn together, and then attached to the head. So I did that, too.

The UFDC study disc says that there is only one seam on the arms. I accomplished that by putting the pattern on the bias, and then sewing darts on the opposite side.

 Sew the piece first, then finish cutting it out. 

I think what really blew me out of the water was when I got to the legs, nearing the completion of the body.

Izannah’s doll body is not like anything I have ever seen. The upper legs are actually part of the torso, so the whole thing has to be sewn differently. The seam on the torso and thighs is on the side, but the seam for the lower legs is down the back.

Izannah put the feet on separately, also…I did not!

When I was trying to attach the lower leg to the upper leg, and get both legs to be the same length, I had a real breakthrough.

The lower legs are to be sewn on, and then the leg covering, the second skin, is brought up over the hips and stitched down. You can see that on the antiques.

I finally accomplished the attaching of the legs and having both legs be the same lengh, by marking the thigh, and rolling the extra cloth up, sewing that, and then fitting the cloth from the lower leg over that.

“Just like a sailor putting on a peg leg!”

Izannah grew up in Somerset, MA, across the street from a shipyard. Her uncle, who raised her, was a sea captain. Izannah must have seen many sailors, about town, with peg legs, because that’s all the state of the medical arts at that time.

Putting the legs on….just like a peg leg is attached.

I will leave this for now. I hope those of you that wanted/needed this information are helped. If you have questions, you can e mail me at blufrogg (use the and symbol) at garlic dot com.