Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Tutorial: How to Replace American Girl Doll Eyes

First untie the drawstring.
I finally got around to ordering a broken American Girl doll so I can make some tutorials on how to restore them. I thought it wasn't worthwhile to learn this doll because, after all, you can send your doll to American Girl's own hospitals and you can order customized dolls. However, the number of inquiries I am getting tells me there's a lot of interest so I decided to learn. Today I replaced an American Girl doll's eyes.

American Girl dolls are like Chatty Cathy and some other dolls whose eyes are specially made just for them. The Margon and other sleep eye brands can be used but they aren't a perfect fit. They are more round than the original oval-shaped eyes. If possible you will want to find original American Girl eyes. These are quite expensive, however, so many people like to order replacements. In the eyes I carry, the Margon brand, the 13mm size fits the 18 inch American Girl. When you measure the eye it looks like it takes a 14 or 15mm eye but the case on those sizes is too large and round to fit. You can buy Margon 13mm eyes from the eBay link on my website and you can custom-order them painted as you want from the Etsy link.

Once you have your replacement eyes go ahead and start by removing the head. To do this you untie the drawstring at the neck, loosen the neck opening, and remove the head. You will remove the eyes by popping them out of the socket and to do so you need to get the vinyl soft. You can heat the head with a blow dryer but it is faster to boil the head. If you need to remove the doll's wig boiling the head will help with that as well. It's important to note that boiling can remove the doll's original hairstyle and can possibly damage the face paint or bring out old stains in the vinyl. Therefore, you will want to consider whether you want to risk damage to a doll by boiling it just to change the eyes. If nothing else is wrong with your doll you will want to consider the hair dryer rather than boiling to heat the vinyl.

Boil the head until the vinyl is soft.

It only takes a few minutes to soften the vinyl. You don't want to melt the doll, so check it after 3-5 minutes to see if it is soft. If not boil it a few minutes more and check again. When the vinyl is easily pliable when you squeeze the face it is ready. Don't get burned! Use a heat resistant glove or pot holder until the vinyl cools enough to touch. Squeeze the face around the eye until the eye pops out of the head.

Squeeze the face and pull on the eye.

The eye will pop out.
Dry your doll's eye sockets with a towel. When the sockets are dry but the face is still warm and pliable insert the new eyes. To insert the eyes you first squeeze the face around the eye socket as you did to remove the eyes. Squeeze the socket open wide and press the new eyes into place. It takes strong hands and patience, but the eyes will pop back into the socket. Try to press most on the frame around the eye rather than the iris or the eyelid to make sure the eyes will still function once you get them in.

Squeeze the eye socket open.

Press the eye in place.

The eye will probably be a little wonky when it goes in, so straighten it out by pressing gently against the frame with a bamboo skewer or similar tool.

Straighten out the eye with a skewer.
When the eyes are straight and you confirm they are opening and closing properly you can replace the head on the body. You just insert the head back into the neck hole and re-tie the drawstring. Sometimes the metal frame around the eye is still slightly visible when you insert the eyes. You can paint the silver frame to match the skin either before or after insertion with artist's oil or acrylic paints. It's probably most durable to paint the frames after insertion. The particular doll needs wig replacement, re-painting, re-stringing: the whole nine yards, so I will make tutorials all along the way. Check back for those. When the doll is finished she will be for sale, so make sure to check my stores for her.

The finished eyes

Monday, October 9, 2017

Flash Sale!

Through tomorrow (10/10) only, head to eBay and Etsy to save during the Atelier Mandaline Flash Sale. I refuse to call this a "Columbus Day" sale, since it's now clear Columbus didn't even come to America first and wasn't the sort of person we ought to celebrate anyway. Whatever you call it, the sale has been popular and things are flying out of the shops. If you have a specific item in mind you should jump on it before someone else! Most of my items are unique, vintage or handmade, or both, so I typically one have one of each.  Speaking of one of each, I have only two LulaRoe pieces left! These are a Nicole dress and a pair of leggings in the Tall & Curvy size. Each one of these is new with tags and I have only one of each. Make an offer on Poshmark or place a bid on eBay for those (there's only one of each piece; I just sometimes run items in more than one channel at a time to maximize views. I remove it from the duplicate channel if it gets a bid or offer). You can link to all my shops from the home page of my website. But hurry; since I started writing this post three more things have sold!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

An Unusual Eye Repair

Amy, Before and After
Yesterday I got a big box of dolls to repair. These came from a grandmother who hired me to restore her daughter's old dolls so she can give them to her granddaughters. I am honored to be chosen for such a task! I love the idea of passing down a doll collection. Over the years they become heirlooms!

The entire collection
Most of the dolls in this lot just needed restringing and minor cleaning up and hair styling. Amy, from the the Little Women series, had a bad eye, however. Her eye was all milky from soap scum. Evidently in the past someone gave her a bath and got soap in her eyes. Amy is a vinyl doll with pocket eyes, so there is usually no way to clean the eyes out. The moving eye is encased in a metal closed case and that is contained inside a vinyl pocket. I thought I would have to remove the eyes and replace them.

The bad eye
Eye removal is always a pain when you have one of the dolls with a wooden or metal neck plate inside the head. These disks, meant to stabilize the neck, are extremely difficult to remove. You have to heat the vinyl, either with a hair dryer or with boiling water, to soften it so you can pull the disk out of the neck. Then you have to heat the head again to re-insert it.

The stabilizer disk

Normally I remove the eyes by opening the eye socket and removing and inserting eyes from the inside of the head. In this case, however, I decided since I had to heat the head already I would use the boil method of eye removal and insertion. The boil method is where you place part or all of the head in boiling water until the vinyl is soft. Then you squeeze the head to pop the eyes out and pop new ones in from the front. I placed just the doll's face in the water because I didn't want to wet the hair. This type of synthetic hair will not be harmed by water but it is set with heat, so the style would come out. Please note, the boiling water can sometimes remove the doll's face paint and ruin the eyes, so only try this if you are already sure you need to replace the eyes and feel like you can repaint the eyelashes and lips and stuff if necessary.

Softening the face using the boil method.

In this case, I was stunned when I pulled the head out of the water to remove the eyes to see that the eye was all clear! Many times putting the eyes in water can make them cloudy, but in the case of soap scum it appears the boiling water scrubs all the soap from the eye! The eyes are still rather "sticky", that is slow to open and close or sticking open or closed. That is a particular issue with this face mold, called the "Nancy Drew" or "Pamela" face. The wide, round eyes, which are so indicative of their 1960s and 1970s origin when the "Big Eyes" paintings and dolls were popular, tend to stick for some reason. Dolls are always worth more when they are entirely original and these are collector dolls, clearly never play dolls, so I decided it is better to leave the original eyes. These are the type of dolls that mostly sit on a shelf, so their eyes are almost always open anyway. And, I can save my client the cost of replacing the eyes with new ones.

So this is a new, super-easy method of repair you can try if you think you are going to have to replace a doll's eyes. You can try this method and possibly save yourself a lot of time and money! I offer doll repairs in my doll hospital and also sell doll repair kits with tutorials to teach you to repair your dolls yourself. You can request a repair estimate or link to my shops to order repair kits and supplies from www.ateliermandaline.com

The repaired eye

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Today's the Day!

As promised, free returns begin today from Atelier Mandaline eBay! When you order from me I will pay for the shipping both ways. Today I also added a new option for exchanges. You may exchange an item for that of your choice, as long as the exchange is the same or lower price. Please review the return rules. Your item will arrive with either a manufacturer's tag or a pink tag attached. The tag must still be attached in order for the a refund to be issued if the item is returned. I hope to see you on eBay!

Friday, September 29, 2017

LulaRoe & Loss

This week has been chaotic as usual. Those of you who are longtime blog readers know I consider my youngest a little prophet. Despite our lack of regular church attendance he often tells me about things Jesus has told him. He can "hear church" in his head, he says. The other morning while getting ready for school he randomly informed me that when we are in Heaven before we are born we get to decide how difficult our lives here on Earth will be. I was like, "Um, can I revise that decision?" Evidently I was an overachiever in Heaven!

Anyway, over the weekend we were visiting our son at college to see how he is doing. If you've been wondering, he's okay. He finally got to see a doctor after nearly a week and got on daytime insulin, so we don't have to worry so much about him having a reaction from very high or low sugar. He also saw an endocrinologist at last and is on a different insulin that seems to be working a little better. We are going to stay home this weekend to give him a little freedom now that he's more stable but last weekend while I was in Asheville I picked up a huge lot of LulaRoe clothes to sell for a consignor who has lost too much weight to wear them anymore. (If only that would happen to me! Maybe it will... you can follow along with my diabetic awareness/weight loss journey on my Instagram or Naturally Amanda Facebook pages.)

I have LulaRoe Perfect Tees, Classic Tees, and Nicole dresses in sizes L-2X in my eBay and Poshmark shops. These are selling extremely fast, so I recommend you head to the shops to bid or buy if you see some you like. I have only one of each in stock, so you will want to hurry to get your favorite.

Once we arrived home we could see it was time to "make a decision", as the vet said a few weeks ago, about our 15 year old Eskimo Spitz, Eli. Around April, Eli started dragging one foot and the vet thought it was a loose kneecap. We got him a very expensive leg brace, which he promptly lost or hid. The paralysis spread to his other leg and then to his back. He was too old for surgery. Up until this week he was still his happy go-lucky self. My husband built him a wheelchair and ramp and he used it some although the ramp scared him. However, the pet sitter said he had a "rough" night while we were away and when we got home we could see he had become completely incontinent. He also seemed to be in pain, groaning when we would carry him in and out. I have been holding on to him selfishly, I realized. We got Eli a few months before my oldest started preschool when I was grieving because we had just been informed we wouldn't be able to have any more biological children. My husband got me a "baby", Eli, to make me feel better. Eli represented a time when we were all young, when my son was still healthy, and I didn't want to let go, but I finally understood I was hurting him keeping him here. I couldn't take him to the vet; my husband had to do it. We said goodbye to Eli on Wednesday. I am devastated but my youngest son informs me Eli is running in Heaven and might have already been reincarnated as a new puppy, so that is a comfort.

Because we are insane and this wasn't unexpected I have had my eye on a few litters. I saw a shelter dog I wanted but he was snapped up immediately and all the others I looked at said they couldn't be around kids or cats, so they were a no-go. We are going to view the most promising litter tomorrow and I'm getting a little excited about it. Luna, our 1.5 year old Aussie has been extremely clingy and sad lately and I think she will love a new puppy to play with since Eli has been too feeble recently. My husband asked, "HOW long was it before Luna slept through the night?" So, I may be rather incoherent for the next few months from lack of sleep if all goes well tomorrow! Sometimes I think I should breed dogs and cats. I do enjoy them!

Another exciting event for me is half my orders today came from my website or my Atelier Mandaline Facebook page. I worried my website wouldn't be worth the cost, so if it's going to start paying off for me that's huge. I would so love to have my own freestanding store surpass my shops hosted by other sites! Fingers crossed!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Free Returns Are Coming!

Yesterday eBay released their most recent Seller Report and announced a change I've  suspected was on the way. Sellers who offer free 30 day returns will receive "increased visibility" for their listings. Those of us who have been on eBay for a long time, 16 years in my case, recognize this for what it is: a mandate. When eBay says sellers who do what they want will have increased visibility, what they are really saying is if you don't follow their preferred action they will hide your listings so  no one can see them.  Is this legal, when people are paying already to sell on their site? Apparently so.

The way eBay comes up with their preferred policies is by interviewing potential buyers about what they would like. Inevitably, the consensus is buyers would like all the newest tech, like phones and tablets, for at least 50% off. Oh, and high-end fashion and handbags, they want that too, starting at like $9.99, and they want it to be authenticated. And they want free shipping, and also free returns for at least 30 days.

You know, I would love to get everything for free myself, but it's pretty unrealistic to expect businesses to remain viable if they're giving stuff away all the time. I also wonder how exactly eBay expects sellers to provide these discounts without resorting to outright theft. Sustainable profitability seems to be a completely foreign concept to The Powers That Be at eBay, however. So, I'm trying to be positive about it; what my customers want, they shall get. Starting October 1st return shipping will be free for orders from my Atelier Mandaline eBay store.

"Free" postage has to be paid somehow, though. I run my business all by myself. I don't take any regular salary; I just use any extra money I happen to make to help out with our household expenses and the rest goes right back onto the business for things like seller fees and inventory. In the past month our broken air conditioner and children's surgeries brought us bills of $10,000. We haven't even received the bill for our Type 1 diabetic son's overnight stay in the ICU or any of his diabetic supplies or doctor visits yet. It was already a challenge for me to provide 30 day returns when eBay mandated that last year. It basically means I can't touch my money for 30 days, even though I have to pay my consignors' shares each month. Now I will have to factor in return shipping. Shipping often costs as much or more than the actual item I am selling and eBay taxes shipping, including it in sellers' "income" when they calculate our fees.

​I was able to avoid raising prices last year by tacking on a 10% restocking fee to returns, but eBay also announced they will no longer allow restocking fees in 2018, so I can't use that option anymore. Therefore, my prices on eBay will be going up at least 10% starting October 1st. If that increase isn't cutting it they could possibly rise even higher. Therefore, if you have your eye on something in my eBay store I encourage you to buy it before October 1st.

In other news, there are changes on the dietary front. My husband and I decided to eat the way our diabetic son must eat in order to fully understand his new lifestyle and help him adjust. I am taking it a step further and using diabetic keto test strips and following the original Atkins' protocol, where you start at zero carbs and add until the strips show your blood sugar has risen and you are no longer throwing off ketones. This is not a healthy or safe diet for a Type 1 diabetic, but for me it is a way to understand what my son is going through having to literally measure and test everything he eats. I would also love to lose a significant amount of weight and hope this will help. Today is Day 2 and I feel like total crud. You might remember I was following a 90% vegan diet and the change has torn up my stomach. I've had a constant headache for about two weeks as well, but I think that is more due to stress and insomnia than the diet. I am sharing my journey on Instagram and my Naturally Amanda Facebook page, so if you also follow a ketogenic diet, deal with Type 1 diabetes, or are interested in low-carb dieting for weight loss, please follow me. We can cheer each other on, because y'all, it's HARD. I can't even have wine right now!

Change can be difficult, but here's hoping it will be positive in the long run.

Friday, September 15, 2017

New Poshmark Discount Code

Since I JUST shared my Poshmark discount code yesterday, today they changed it! Now get a $5 Poshmark credit when you sign up with code STUDIOMANDALINE, which just happens to be my user name on Poshmark. If you haven't tried it, prepare to get hooked! Poshmark makes it easy to share, style, and save on fashion. Check out Studio Mandaline for kids' clothes, women's fashions, and Jamberry nail wraps!