Monday, March 26, 2012

American Beauty: Sad Cissy Reborn

This restoration of a 1950s Madame Alexander Cissy doll is just for me and my daughter. I have always wanted a Cissy. My daughter also is saying, "We don't have to sell her do we?" Besides that, I had to do so much to save this doll I don't think I would ever get the money I put in just for materials, much less time! This restoration really challenged me, and it taught me a lot about restoring hard plastic dolls. It was great experience for me, so I am trying not to feel TOO guilty about not selling her right away.

So, a few weeks ago I saw a Cissy doll, needing repair, listed for $99. I thought and thought about it, and it seemed like most Cissys sell for a lot more, even in disrepair, so I placed a bid and won. Well, I later found I almost certainly paid too much. The same week someone listed like 20 Cissy dolls at once for $20 each and a couple sold for less than what I paid even though they were in much better condition. But then again, just a couple days ago someone sold a Cissy who seems to have been lobotomized for about the same price, so maybe I did okay.

Cissy in very poor condition
At any rate, this is "my" Cissy now, and even though I would have preferred to get her for $20 or so, I did enjoy the restoration because I could do whatever I wanted without feeling guilty about not keeping her original. I really like best dolls who need a lot of work. Where is the fun in buying a doll and just flipping it? I do that sometimes because there is a limit to how much I can make and repair for my store. I have three kids, and my youngest is in therapy almost all day twice a week!

I don't enjoy just buying and reselling. I have a friend whose whole eBay store is based on buying clothes on sale and reselling them. I think she does well with it, but how boring! I am in it for the creative challenge, not just to make money. Jerry sarcastically says, "Yeah, who wants to make MONEY?!" Besides that, I am really proud of myself, because I saved a doll who was too messed up for anything but the landfill. This doll wasn't even fit to be sold for parts when I got her, because no part of her was undamaged! On the plus side, that meant I could be creative and repair her without lowering her value, since she was unusable without restoration.

This Cissy came with the usual problems for a 50 year old doll. She had one large split and one small split in her hips. Her wig was missing, and her head loose. These are fairly typical issues for dolls of 50+ years and many collectors prefer those hip splits not even be repaired.

The hips with splits before repair.
This  doll had many more problems, however. At first I thought her face and body paint had been scratched down to the bare plastic. In some cases this was true, but when I gave her a general cleaning I found someone had actually painted her with what looked like metallic paint pens and nail polish!

Cissy doll prior to repainting
You can see in the photo, her mouth is painted over the sculpted lip line. Cissy doll mouths are painted so the color does not go to the edge of the lip sculpt. The paint used turned out to be some type of nail polish. That silver paint on her eyelid looks like paint pen. I am pretty sure these "repairs" were done by someone other than the original owner, since I don't think metallic nail polish was available in the 1950s! The doll also had a chewed thumb and finger and someone had painted her nails with almost black nail polish.

Chewed thumb and non-factory nail paint
Then, to add insult to injury, someone tried to give her hair by, it looks like, putting super glue on her head and rubbing some kind of synthetic fiber on it! Using super glue on doll wigs of this period is a HUGE no-no, and I will explain why. Walker dolls and some other 1950s hard plastic dolls have heads attached with a clip on top. To remove the head and repair the eyes or fix the walker mechanism you have to remove the wig. This is easily done by soaking it with hot water if water-soluble glue is used, but with super glue it's nearly impossible. I had to buy a special bottle of Carol's Miracle Doll Cleaner and use about half of it soaking the head and scraping the glue and hair off with my fingernails. It was tedious and gross! All my usual go-to products, like Mr Clean Eraser and Goof Off didn't do a thing!

The Cissy doll and many other hard plastic dolls like Sweet Sue have a head attached with a metal clip.
I guess if Jerry ever leaves me I'll have to give up doll repair, because he is always fixing problems with the mechanics of the dolls that I am unable to solve. In this case, I found the head to be wobbly. I also think this may have been a walker Cissy, but the walking mechanism isn't working. I took the head off to see what I could do. I didn't see anything wrong with the mechanics, so then I thought maybe I was wrong about the doll being a walker. I read too many doll blogs and they all say you should replace the rubber bands in the dolls with elastic cord, as the bands are prone to rotting. Well, let me tell you, the rubber band in this doll had NO thoughts of rotting! I had to saw through it with my scissors; it was too tough to cut. I finally got it off and put in elastic and then I could NOT get the head back on the clip! I messed with it for hours and then Jerry came home and got it done in about 5 minutes!

Once the doll's head was secure I removed the nail polish and paint pen using Goof Off. I had to take it down to the bare plastic in some cases. I couldn't remove the blackish nail paint at all, so I decided I would have to just paint over that. Then I repaired the splits in the legs. To repair a split in a hard plastic doll, I use a plastic epoxy called "Kwik Plastik". I found this with the help of Anastasia at Home Depot. I told her I needed basically a wood filler for plastic that could be molded, sanded, drilled, and painted. She brought this product out and I think it's wonderful. You knead it until it turns blue. Then you fill in the crack, or mold a new finger, or whatever.

The split filled in with Kwik Plastik epoxy.

It turns white when dry and then you sand and paint it. I sand using the various nail files that come in acrylic nail kits, going from the roughest to the smoothest. When the repair is as smooth as I can get it I paint it and the repair is nearly invisible! I have heard you can use this to repair composition dolls as well but I haven't tried it. If that works it  would be MUCH easier than the nail acrylic method!

The repaired split after painting is nearly invisible!

To fix the chewed fingers I used my go-to product, flexible acrylic modeling paste. I just filled in the chews, let the paste dry, sanded, and painted it.

The chewed fingers filled in with acrylic modeling paste
Now Cissy was ready for her paint job. Following a wonderful doll blog tip, this one I THINK from This Old Doll, I took Cissy right over to Home Depot and had Anastasia scan her on the paint scanner and mix up her exact flesh tone in semi-gloss oil based paint. I think Anastasia thinks I'm nuts but she's too polite to say so! I used a good clear photo of a mint Cissy face that I printed off the Internet as a guide for how she should look.
Materials for re-painting: oil based paint, brushes, sponges, and photo guide.

I painted her body with the flesh tone and added artist's oil paints for the lips, cheek blush, etc. Because I don't have an air brush I use makeup sponges and many different types of paint brushes to get the effect. Despite a lot of sanding, I couldn't get the paint perfectly smooth due to all the gouges and stuff in the base paint, but I got it pretty close.

Cissy's face after repainting.

I blushed Cissy's knees and feet a bit more than usual because I liked it that way. I also gave her toenail paint, which I don't think she originally had, because my daughter likes painted nail dolls and because she had old nail polish paint I couldn't remove all the way on her toes. I blushed her hands and painted her fingernails with acrylic artist's paints. I did not use oil paint on the arms because the Cissy arms are vinyl. I had to paint her fingernails, though I don't think most Cissys had that, to hide the black nail paint.

All that was left in my restoration was to replace her eyelashes and wig. For the eyes I used commercial vintage eyelashes. These were the "flutter" type, not the brush lashes she originally had. You can replace the brush lashes using cut up camel hair paint brushes and placing the strands individually, but that looked ridiculously hard. I decided to use doll lashes, which is quite easy. First, pull out any old lashes, scrape the groove where the lashes go with a straight pin, and then dip the pin in Aleene's tacky glue and run it along the eyelash groove and the edge of the lashes. Place the lashes in the groove and push into place with a clean straight pin. Trim any excess length and wipe off any extra glue with a wet paper towel. Allow to dry. In this case I trimmed the flutter lashes so they were all the same length, making them look more like the originals. Cissy has one eye that has turned a greener blue than the other, so I could have replaced those as well, but since they are working I left them. They aren't too cloudy like you sometimes see.

I ordered a Toni wig from Dollspart for the wig. These are made of modacrylic fiber similar to the original Saran wigs. They are seamed with a center part and you style them the same way, by rolling on perm rods and endpapers and pouring very hot, almost boiling water, over them. If you are doing a Cissy for re-sale you may want to try to find an old hard plastic doll with a good wig you can use. Cissy wigs sell for $50-$100, but the Sweet Sue, Toni, and other 16-18 inch wigs should fit Cissy and be a proper style. You can order the Toni wig from Dollspart in a long or shorter "flip" style in the 18 inch doll size and it fits well. If you are ordering a different brand wig, you need to order size 8-9 to fit Cissy. This is the same size worn by the vintage Sasha and My Friend dolls.

For a resale Cissy I recommend the flip wig. For this doll my daughter requested long black hair just like her own that "you can do stuff with", so I ordered the long side-swept bangs style. If I want to sell the doll later I can cut bangs and trim the back and set it in a Cissy style. I pinned the hair up in a loose style resembling some Cissy dolls, with some curls on top and in back of the head. My daughter will want to brush and restyle it, and that's okay, as I can always set it again later!

The method for gluing a vintage hard plastic doll is a little different than I describe in my other how to re-wig post. These old dolls, like Toni, Sweet Sue, and Cissy, had their hairline marked with glue. Then the wig was pressed into the glue to create the hairline. This Cissy had glue on her ears and no pierced earring posts or holes, so I assume this doll had an over-the-ears hairline. I carefully drew a hairline with Aleene's Tacky Glue (water-soluble so the wig can be easily removed) over the ears and across the forehead, following the original glue-line, which stained the plastic and then filled in the rest of the head, avoiding the clip. Then I placed the wig, tied a ribbon around the wig, and let it dry.

Now Cissy is complete! She still has paint scraping off in her hip sockets and neck socket, despite being sealed after painting. I will have to see if I can wax the joints or oil them or something to get them to stop scraping and repaint. Anyone who has fixed that particular problem please comment and say how you did it! 

Fully-restored Cissy

I dressed Cissy in the clothes she had when she came: a hand-sewn (not machine sewn!) chiffon and net gown and bloomers and factory panties which I think are original to the doll. I have her a new pair of shoes. Now my daughter and I will make her a wonderful wardrobe. My daughter has requested a ballet costume first. That's funny, because I had a friend growing up  whose mom had a bunch of Cissy dolls as a girl. They all sat on a shelf in her parlor (this being the South, where dolls are always displayed in the best room with the Bible!) and I was SO jealous! The one I loved best was a ballerina! I wonder if that lady knows she has like $3000 worth of Cissy dolls in her parlor! So, we are having a lot of fun, and I am really proud of myself for being able to accomplish my most extensive restoration yet!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Tutorial: Rooting doll hair using felting needles

Tonight I am finally getting around to writing the tutorial on rooting doll hair that I promised a couple entries ago! I read about this somewhere on the web, possibly on the Prilly Charmin blog, when I was researching my repair of the Revlon doll recounted in the Fifties Fashionista entry. Above, you can see the doll on the left has choppy hair which has been cut. The doll on the right is a Revlon ponytail with her original haircut.

In the past, I re-rooted doll hair by taking a few strands of hair, knotting them, and pushing them into the doll's head with a mushroom rooting tool. As you can imagine, this was incredibly tedious! With this new method there is no knotting; the felting needles knot the hair inside the head for you. It is much easier and faster. The materials you will need are felting needles, sharp scissors or hair cutting shears, and doll hair or human hair extensions.

Materials: felting needles, hair, scissors

In this case, I could not find any replacement hair that is an exact match. This doll's hair is extremely thick. I had some vintage Saran hair saved from a different doll. The Saran hair was a little lighter, but was a better match as far as texture. I mixed it with human hair extension hair from Sally's. This hair was the right color but a finer texture. To begin rooting, cut a bit of hair off the weft if you are using wefted extensions, or take a good pinch of loose hair. You will have some loss as hair falls away after you root it.

Hold the hair taut over the hole and stab several times with the felting needle.

For a doll with rooting holes already perforated, such as when you are replacing hair like this, hold a good pinch of hair over the holes and pull it taut using your thumb and forefinger. Stab through the hair into the rooting hole using the felting needle. Stab several times until you have the number of strands rooted that you want. Pull the excess hair away, regather it, and place it over the next plug. Tug on the finished plug to make sure it is secure and to help it fall in the right direction. When you are finished, trim the new hair to match the existing hair or cut into the style you wish.

If you are rooting a doll with no rooting holes, first warm the doll's head over a light bulb or with a hair dryer. Do NOT use this method on celluloid dolls, as heat can cause the celluloid to explode. Then poke holes in the warm head using an old broken felting needle or a mushroom rooting tool. Then root the hair as in the other method.

Here is the doll with much better hair! I have read that you can also use this method on cloth dolls, which opens up a whole world of possibilities for my felt dolls! One of the things that has frustrated me the most is the limited range of possibilities for styling the wigged dolls' hair. As a girl, I always wanted to style my dolls' hair over and over! I have two felt heads ready to paint, so maybe I will try rooting their hair this time instead of wigging them! Enjoy re-rooting your doll's hair!

Seasons of Life

Although I haven't posted any new projects this week, I have been hard at work! I have three dolls nearly ready to list and all the photos taken for the rooting tutorial I promised, but we had a request from someone to see the house so I had to pack everything up and put it all away. Oh, how I miss the office I once had, where I could just shut the door on the mess!

I should get all my dolls out and continue working on them, but I am suffering from a bit of spring fever today. Our neighborhood streets are lined with flowering pear and cherry trees and right now the cherries are peaking. It looks like glorious pink clouds are floating over the roads, and the sidewalks are carpeted with blossoms like a princess wedding. The air is full of suspended flowers like pink confetti. It's hard to concentrate on working when all I want to do is walk around feeling like I'm in fairy land. If we ever do sell this house I will really miss these trees. I wait all year for this one week!

Of course, I had to get out my phone and break out the Instagram and Photoshop aps! It's been so long since I've had a computer with Photoshop, I almost forgot how much I enjoy playing around with it. A big goal for my eBay store is to someday make enough for a new Mac with Photoshop!

This early spring, with its flamboyant flowers and changeable weather, brings the passing of seasons to mind, both in nature and in life. As I write, a band of black clouds are pushing across the sky toward us, so that in the loft where I am sitting I have one window dark with shadow on my right and one window bright with sunshine and cherry blossoms on my left. Life seems to move like that sometimes.

A storm of cherry blossoms and rain drops.

Last night I picked up my youngest nephew from his blanket and realized it was my own oldest son's blanket. In the blink of an eye, my son has become a teenager! Here he is, highly Photoshopped, looking just like my own father, who died in 1977.

My memories of my father are almost all of him either scuba diving or playing his guitar. We had music playing always, a constant soundtrack to our lives. In a week from now you won't even be able to tell the cherries were ever blooming. It will feel like high summer and we will wait for the next big show, our climbing roses, and then on and on as the years pass. Who knows where we'll be next year when the cherries bloom. Life has no guarantees, so we have to enjoy each moment as much as we can in its time.

I promise to get on the rooting tutorial; I have a lot of requests for that, and I have discovered a much easier way to do it. I'll stop my Spring dreaming and buckle down, but first I have to sweep up the cherry blossoms tracked all through the house...for every pleasure has its price!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Fifties Fashionista Frenzy: a fashion doll makeover

Those of you who follow my blog may notice that I have been working like a dog recently (not that my own dogs ever do any work!). A couple weeks ago I had really sold through most of my inventory. Then eBay called to tell me I am on track to become a Top Seller in June. When I become a Top Seller my listings will get more notice because they will appear closer to the top of search results. I also started a Pinterest page and got some followers. So, I decided I'd better increase my buying and really make sure I have a full store. I borrowed about $200 from our joint household account and bought several dolls and materials to restore them. Well, wouldn't you know, as soon as I did that my sales have dropped off a cliff! I've made about $10 toward paying our joint account back! I am really working hard and late trying to fill my store and increase sales.

So anyway, here is the completed restoration of a Revlon or Revlon-type fashion doll that I've had in the works for a few months now. This doll came in one of the first lots of Fifties fashion dolls I won on Super Bowl Sunday when I was apparently the only person bidding on eBay.

This doll (center) and the very similar doll on her right were described identically by different sellers  as "Unmarked Doll Blond Ponytail Revlon Clone". This doll is actually the nicest of the three shown. All three dolls were very grimy and stained. When I cleaned them I discovered every collector's dream: one of the ponytail dolls has a faint marking that was obscured by dirt. It reads "I deal VT-18" and her thigh is also marked "18", so she is a Revlon doll by Ideal, albeit one of the cheaper versions made in the late 50s and 60s when Ideal was trying to cut costs. She has her original outfit too!

The doll I show here, though unmarked, comes out on top in comparison to the marked Revlon doll. She has a much nicer body, made of sturdy, heavy plastic that is almost like fiberglass. She has lovely working sleep eyes, thick, long hair, and immaculate face and nail paint. A possible flaw I saw was that her hair had been what I think of as "cut into style" or "rooted into style". This just means that since the doll was supposed to have hair in a ponytail or updo, the manufacturer cut the hair in the center to thin it out and in this case actually didn't root a couple rows. This doll's hair may have also been cut a little more by her owner. It seemed choppier that the Revlon hair cut in the same style:

The Revlon doll's hair (on right) has longer layers.
I started making a wig for the doll, but I thought of a little girl who might want to play with the doll and would want to be able to brush her hair and style it. My own daughter, who took the marked Revlon doll, has been enjoying styling her hair! So I gave her a little reroot using a blend of human hair and vintage Saran hair. It matches pretty well, and now her hair is a lot less thin in back.

The doll after her reroot
Another flaw is that the doll was originally wearing a red dress that left marks on her arms. BOTH the ponytail dolls have the same red marks in the same place on their arms, so take from that what you will. It looks to me like they wore the same dress! To bleach out the stains on her arms I put 10% benzoyl peroxide on the spots and placed the doll in a sunny windowsill. I added a little more peroxide each day. This did fade the marks significantly but I was unable to completely remove them. Now that we have our house on the market again it is really inconvenient to have a bunch of dolls sitting around on all the windowsills! You could probably bleach the marks away totally if you kept the treatment up. I decided the marks were too faint to make much difference. They don't show much at all anymore. I went ahead and dressed the doll in a fabulous wardrobe.

One of the things I really enjoy about these fashion dolls is exactly what they were made for:dressing them! I love to think of a little girl, imagining her future as a cherished wife and daughter with all the fabulous and mysterious accessories she will need in her glamorous grown up life! We still do this, I guess. I remember my mom and I went shopping and bought several lovely outfits and nightgowns for me to wear on my honeymoon. They also helped me transition into my post-college career, since I had some nice outfits for work. I enjoyed my beautiful trousseau for about 2 years until pregnancy took away the tiny waist that was the defining feature of my hourglass figure. I still have all those clothes in the hopes that I will fit into them again someday! I tried to make this doll a complete trousseau as well.

I am really proud of the silk dress I made from an old scarf. I thought this was so was a scarf advertising Arthur Murray dance studios and it is printed with his famous footprints and arrows dance instructions and dancing couples. I adapted a vintage pattern so I could use the existing handkerchief hem. I used the extra scraps to make lovely silk flowers and had beaded them along the waist. I put in an attached net crinoline to the skirt really stands out. It's a lovely gown! The kicky hem is perfect for dancing!

Next I made a stole from vintage faux fur and gave it a vintage rhinestone accent. I also made a hair pin with the rhinestones to dress up her 'do.

I bought a wool skirt from a thrift store for 75 cents and used it to make the coat, hat and boots for the doll. It was a 6 petite, and I could barely get one doll outfit from it (and to think I once wore a 4, but never petite!). The boots turned out weird. I made the bases with polymer clay and cured them and then followed an American Girl pattern to make the boots. But the boot is too straight to stay on Miss Thang's curvy  calves, so I had to add a loop of elastic to the inside. To put the boots on you have to first put the foot through the loop and them pull the boot up over it. They don't work well with the hose.

I made a winter day dress with a suede cloth scrap from one of my scrap tubs, and also made vintage-style pansies adorned with tiny pearl beads to adorn the dress and hat. This has very nice details, like a bodice facing made with custom matching bias tape.

The skirt lining had enough material to make a bra and panties. This fabric has some stretch, so it probably is some synthetic that didn't exist when the doll was made. The color and style give the underwear a vintage look, though. I made stocking my usual way, by cutting down a pair of regular modern pantyhose. Since our hose now have a lot more stretch than the old ones I make these too large and then make garters to hold them up. This gives the stockings the correct vintage look. I would use 1950s hose if I could find them, but they just don't last that long! You almost never come across 50 year old hose!

Next, I made a pretty dressing gown, or robe, out of an old sheer curtain. I used a vintage pattern, which results in a very detailed garment. This robe has rolled hems throughout. I can't believe these old patterns advertise that girls can sew the clothes for their doll! I guess girls had much better sewing skills back then! I am very lucky in that we have an enormous cherry tree outside our bedroom window. I have been sitting and sewing with a fabulous view of the tree in full riotous bloom, and I was inspired to embroider the collar with a spray of beaded ribbon cherry blossoms. I am definitely working on my wardrobe when I get these dolls finished! I am so jealous of their clothes!

When the clothes were all done I decided the doll needed some jewelry. I made some faux pearl and silver loop earrings. I've done several pair of these now and pretty much have them down pat. I then tried to create a pearl necklace on a wire, the type that you just pop on and off the doll's neck. Lots of these dolls came with those wire choker type necklaces. However, I made the opening too large and ended up having to create a sort of hook and eye clasp. The clasp is rather crude looking, but it works. Then, I guess this wasn't enough of a challenge for me, so I decided to make a ring out of an old single earring I had. I thought I would just solder a jump ring on and have an adjustable ring. I took metals in college about 20 years ago and this project quickly reminded me why I only took one semester. I forgot how much I hate making jewelry! My oldest son, who has been taking stained glass lessons from his grandfather, and my husband helped me. We finally got the earring soldered on, but we got a lot of solder everywhere. The adjustable space is on the side rather than on the bottom, but it was so hard to do that I didn't want to change it. When the ring is closed it fits her  pinkie finger and you can open and adjust it to fit her ring finger. The earring is real gold, I think, with cubic zirconium, and the ring band is sterling silver. The ring isn't great looking off because of the soldering, but it looks nice on. The doll also has a mirrored jewelry box with satin lining to hold her hairpins or jewelry. The box is made from an old contact lens case.

So, this has been another fun and challenging project. Along the way I learned a much easier technique for rooting hair with felting needles. It's so much faster it's unbelievable! I'll write a new tutorial on that soon!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Tutorial: How to Replace Sleep Eyes in Modern Vinyl Dolls

This week, besides the Jill doll restoration recounted in my last post, I have been working on a box of distressed 50s fashion dolls. Every one of these needed new eyes. Two, a Dollikin and a Marjorie, had been "restored" by someone in the past who oiled their eyes and then stuffed their heads with that old weird commercial stuffing you used to be able to buy. It was made of ground up bits of cloth. Then the dolls were left to become quite dirty. So, the result is that their eyes, clogged with oil and dirt and stuffing, were sticking and some eyes were not repairable. I also got a Madame Alexander Marybel in that box with all sorts of problems. Her stringing had broken and instead of restringing someone (probably some long-ago Daddy) had twisted her leg hooks together inside her body to keep the legs on! One of her eyes was stuck and someone had tried to unstick it by gouging it with a screwdriver or something. The eye was damaged and the eyelashes pulled out.

In the 1950s hard plastic dolls were made with sleep eyes that were glass and were wired together. They had a lead weight inside the head to help them open and close. That's the type of eye you see in Cissy or Sweet Sue dolls. The advent of vinyl dolls also brought a new innovation in sleep eyes, and these are the ones we still use today. These eyes are plastic and individually placed in  eyes sockets in the doll's head. They have an internal weight to help them open and close. If you can find a good match you can replace just the broken eye. I find that usually the old eyes don't match the new ones, though. You can order the new eyes from Dollspart or eBay. You can also harvest them from dolls with working eyes but which are otherwise damaged. I think I got that tip from the Prilly Charmin blog, but I can't remember. I go from blog to blog and then can't remember where I read something! Thanks to whoever it is who wrote that tip!

The materials you will need are:
New sleep eyes or old working ones from a broken doll
A tiny crochet hook
An Exacto knife
Acrylic flexible modeling paste
An artist's paint brush
Eye sizing tool (optional)

Materials: new eyes, crochet hook, flexible acrylic modeling paste

You must first determine  what size eyes you will need. The eyes are measured in millimeters. You measure the eye opening from corner to corner and convert the measurement to millimeters to find the size. I learned the hard way to order DOWN in size if you can't get the exact size. I don't know what I was thinking, but I needed 18mm eyes for the Dollikin. They didn't have them so I ordered 20mm. The 20mm eyes are too big and don't fit in the eye sockets. So now I have to return or resell the too-large eyes and wait on the new ones to arrive. You can buy plastic eye-sizing tools that you fit right into the eye or place over the eye to determine the size. I am using that from now on!

Once you have the eyes you want to use you will need to remove the old eyes. Take the head off the doll. You will see two big lumps covered in thin vinyl inside the doll's head. Use you Exacto knife cutting from the INSIDE (so you don't accidentally cut the outside of the doll's face) and cut the vinyl away. Then using your finger or a blunt object like a pen, push the old eye out of the socket. Here is a Dollikin with one eye out:

You can see the edge of the eye socket still intact inside the head. Remove only as much as you need from the original socket. The eye socket may be quite dirty, as it was in this Dollikin. Clean it out with a Q-Tip dipped in soapy water or Windex and dry it before inserting the new eyes. To insert the new eye, just hold the doll's head face down and place the eye on top of the socket. It can be a little tricky, but push hard to get the eye in. When the eye is almost in use the crochet hook to grab the corner of the eye and position it properly. Be careful not to hook the eyelid where the eyelashes are placed or you can pull them out. Once you have the eyes in position and confirm that they work brush the backs of the eyes with the modeling paste to seal them to the eye socket. Place the doll's head face down to dry:

Voila! When the paste has dried you have new sleep eyes inserted just as  the original eyes were done! Now you can replace the doll's head! Here is Marybel with her lovely new eyes:

They are just the right color, a rich root-beer brown! Marybel has the late 50s Elise face, which was used on the 15 inch Alexander Lonely Doll, and some ballerinas. All but Marybel, as far as I know, had blue eyes. So you could use a Marybel head on a Elise doll if you replaced the brown eyes with blue. I decided to leave her as Marybel, as Marybel seems rather more rare than the others, and I like to restore the dolls to their original state as much as possible.

So again, the eyes can be obtained from or from eBay. You can look for large lots of old dolls with sleep eyes and buy a lot of them for parts, but the new eyes are so cheap it hardly seems worth it unless you need lots of doll parts from various dolls. Thrift stores are a good place to find cheap sleep-eyes dolls as well. The other materials can be obtained at Michael's or other art supply stores. The modeling paste will be in the acrylic artist paints section.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Very Vogue Jill: Tips for Dressing Vintage Fashion Dolls

This week I've been working on a Vogue Jill doll I bought recently. The listing on our house expired and we relisted and had new photos done, so everything went on hold for about a week so we could clean and landscape the yard. Jill had to wait for her debut, but finally she's done!

This Jill doll, from 1957, was conceived as a "big sister" doll for the Vogue Ginny dolls. Jill features high-heel feet, earrings, and jointed arms and legs with bending knees. This Jill is also a "walker" doll, meaning her head turns when you moves her legs. The doll arrived in excellent condition. She just needed a bath. A little bit of her wig was coming loose so I re-glued it. Her knees were a little stiff so I sprayed in a little WD-40 and now they are working really smoothly. The main problem Jill had was a wardrobe issue.

Jill arrived wearing a lovely crochet dress. It was sewn on her body and had no closures. She had a hat, purse, and gloves, all pretty much like new. Her necklace, which I think is original, is made of glass beads originally painted to look like pearls. The paint has largely worn away. Jill had the eye posts for her original earrings but the earrings were gone. I made new ones from glass beads that match the color of the necklace beads now pretty closely. She also came wearing her original buckram slip and panties.

One of her shoes was broken, so I repaired it using the same method as the Little Miss Revlon I wrote about earlier: I sewed it in place and brushed flexible acrylic modeling paste over the thread. This is like brushing on new plastic:

The finished repair looks pretty good, but now you have to slip the shoe on rather than fasten it.

So, Jill had a nice outfit, but she is a fashion doll, and as such, she is supposed to have an enviable wardrobe. I just had to make her some new clothes! Now, you have to be careful when dressing vintage dolls. Some collectors don't want a doll wearing any material that wasn't manufactured when the doll was produced. You also want the clothing to look authentic so it "matches" the doll.

In this case, I had several outfits from the same period which came on other dolls. I often buy lots of old dolls because there are one or two desirable dolls in the lot and then I'm left with "throwaway" dolls. I had a couple tourist costume dolls, some dresser dolls, and a few dime store fashion dolls produced between the 30s and 50s. All these dolls had issues ranging from missing wigs or limbs to serious costume trouble. One doll wore the gold satin skirt shown above. The bodice was rotting, however, and had some kind of weird gray fuzz growing out of it! I cut the skirt off the bodice and made a new bodice from the apron of another costume. The apron strings had rotted off, but the brocade is fine and it's a perfect match! I added a new stole made from vintage faux fur and a vintage rhinestone accent.

This white bridesmaid dress was stapled on its original doll, so I had to take it off and sew the bodice to the skirt and add closures. In fact, since none of the clothing had closures I used all my snaps and hook and eyes and now I'll have to make a trip to the fabric store!

I had another stapled-on dress with this hat and net overskirt. The "bodice" was just ribbon wrapped around the doll, so it wasn't really re-usable. I sewed a closure on the skirt so now it can be used either as an overskirt or a cape.

This European costume had a big chunk torn out of the skirt, so I had to sew in a new seam to take it in. It has a lot of holes and fraying spots, so I used a lot of Fray Check to stop any further fraying. I replaced some of the ribbon. Now it looks really cute. This is a good tip for a fast and inexpensive way to dress your old dolls. The main point is that nothing that is still usable should be thrown away. You can reuse wigs, eyes, clothes, and even arms and legs if they are still working in an otherwise damaged doll. Most often you will find the fabric in these old outfits has a musty odor. All these did, so I washed them by hand in cold water with dish soap and a tiny amount of chlorine bleach. I set them in front of an open window in the sun to dry and bleach away any stubborn spots. This method is gentle but really eliminates odors and stains.

Sometimes you have no choice but to sew a new outfit for your doll. I buy vintage patterns for fashion dolls, usually in a 20 inch size, and then I can copy them down for the smaller dolls. To get an authentic look, I use old fabrics. I get the old fabrics from estates, yard sales, eBay, and most often from my mother's attic. My mom is a chronic fabric-buyer, but doesn't often get around to sewing anything! Another way to get older fabrics is to buy clothing at thrift stores and cut them down for the doll. In this lot, I made two new outfits from older fabrics. I made a leotard with pants and cummerbund, which was an outfit some Jill, Jan, and Little Miss Revlon dolls came wearing. The hat has a fab 50s-looking beatnik button!

I also had a hand-crocheted sunhat and a weird hat or possibly skirt. It was too long to be a hat and too narrow for a skirt! I hemmed the back and put in elastic so Jill can wear it like those Velcro-closure towel cover ups. I made a Marilyn Monroe type swimsuit from an old jersey knit t-shirt. I designed the swimsuit myself and it fits great but is a bit hard to pull over Jill's hips (a common problem for all women, I guess!). I even threw in a working tiny whistle so Jill can be a lifeguard!

I am enjoying dressing the fashion dolls a bit too much, but it's so entertaining to  look around you with new eyes and imagine all the possibilities for tiny random items and broken bits of jewelry! To finish off, I made Jill a pair of stockings with garters to hold them up. I didn't make a bra because I don't have any fabric that matches her original panties, and most of her dresses are too tight to wear a bra under anyway.

My sister-in-law gave my son a gift in a lovely trophy case. It is black cardboard with a blue velvet lining and a magnet closure and it is just the right size for Jill, so I put her and her clothing in it. The velvet matches her sapphire-blue eyes perfectly!

Besides Jill, I have been replacing sleep eyes this week, and I took lots of photos to document the process. Keep watching for a tutorial in my next entry!