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Friday, October 14, 2011

Playing with Barbies - The Boil Perm

Boil perm, side view

JJ loves imaginary pretend play, and has a wide variety of dolls, including some Barbie/Barbie knock-offs. Here are a few of her dolls, waiting patiently for a tea party:

 From left to right:
"Isabel" with her short hair (TWA?); she also owns an afro wig and a spiral curl wig
"Merliah" with her hair down
"Dufferin" with a 'fro and headband
"Ballerina" with a big puffy pony

Now, Dufferin and Ballerina did not arrive at our house with such fabulous big hair. They were transformed, after I was inspired by Kristl from Playing With Barbies and Nikki at Beads, Braids & Beyond. These two trend-setting women put together a great tutorial on how to achieve natural hair for dolls using pipe cleaners.

I've been wanting to give this "boil perm" a try ever since I read the tutorial a couple of  months ago. I chose three dolls, all recent thrift store finds. They were all in excellent condition and all three had long, straight hair:

Things never quite go as planned at my house, and the doll on the right (green dress) ended up not getting a boil perm. As I was detangling her hair to get her ready for her perm,  I realized she might be a decent "demonstration" doll. I've been approached by a number of people asking me to show them how to cornrow, and I know JJ's activity level and temperament (ahem) may not allow for a live model. I gave her some quick cornrows on the side just to see how they'd look:

Not bad - a little too much scalp showing, but her hair did seem like it would work for demo-ing. Done.

The other two dolls got the full pipe cleaner/boil perm treatment. I switched up my methodology a little to see what worked best.

The dolls, chilin' while their pipe cleaners

METHOD ONE: For the doll on the left I twisted small sections of hair and wrapped the sections in a spiral around the pipe cleaners (see more photos, below). I made 21 sections in total.  

METHOD TWO: For the doll on the right I twisted very, very small sections of hair, and zig-zagged them around pipe cleaners that had been folded in half, as illustrated in the How To Play with Barbies Custom Rotini or Halo Hair post. Their were 58 sections in total. This took about 3 times longer than Method One. 

For both dolls I dipped their heads in boiling water for a slow count of ten and then let them sit for a couple of days life got really busy.

I was very excited to see Dufferin's transformation:

Row 1: D's straight hair, pipe cleaners from two angles (note spiral wrap)
Row 2: Pipe cleaners out, curls in the process of getting separated
Row 3: Amount of hair trimmed, final 'fro, and a headband

 And Ballerina's transformation:

Row 1: B's hair straight, and in zig-zagged pipe cleaners
Inset photos: Immediately after taking pipe cleaners out, pipe cleaners from the back
Row 2: Views of the really big 'fro, and pulled back into a large pony puff

Daddy D thinks I spent waaaay too much time on them. I, on the other hand, really enjoyed every minute of my time playing with barbies! And, most importantly, JJ loves her dolls and their new hair!!

While I'm on the topic of playing with barbies, here's a flashback to Merliah's 4-week collage from the last Protective Style Challenge (spring 2011) at Beads, Braids & Beyond's facebook page:

Twists, braids, bantu knots & knot-out!

And a link to one of my favourite posts at Chocolate Hair Vanilla Care, about using dolls to explain the importance of detangling to young children.

Finally, for some ***stunningly gorgeous*** barbies with natural hair, be sure to check out Natural Dolls by Beads, Braids & Beyond on Facebook.

I'd love to hear YOUR thoughts about dolls, hair, dolls' hair, boil perms, and playing with barbies!  Leave me a comment & let me know what you think...!


  1. Good job, I am going to try this this weekend, I'v been putting it off for awhile lol

  2. I love how they came out! Lol at Daddy D thinking you spent too much time on them ... haha awesome job!

  3. Those are great!!! HAHAHAHA!! I LOVE THEM! You did a fantastic job, doll!


  4. You did a great job. Love how they look.

  5. Thanks everyone. I really had a lot of fun doing the "perms", even when Daddy D was rolling his eyes at me. It also kept my hands out of JJ's hair - she had a protective style going on, that didn't need to be undone. I look forward to my hair-styling time on the weekends!

  6. boy-o-BOIL! Love the curly dolls! SupaCUTE!!

  7. They look fabulous!!! Job well done - no matter how long it took! ;-)

  8. I like how both methods came out, can't even choose a favorite! And I remember Merliah from the challengs, she was gettin' it!

  9. Oh, those look awesome! I love the twists on the blonde doll and her bantu-knot-and-twist out is pretty. I think I like Ballerina's transformation the looks like my daughter's hair lol

  10. Thanks everyone!!!!! I don't think I can choose a favorite either. I'm gonna show Daddy how impressed y'all were so he can stop teasing me, lol!