Monday, April 15, 2013

The McCall Twins Visit the Hospital

A pair of vintage Betsy McCall dolls after restoration.

Twin Betsy dolls wear hospital gowns and bracelets for their trip home.
As I mentioned in my last post, I have been working recently on restoring two Betsy McCall dolls sent to me for repair by another eBay member. These are my first hospital "patients", so I tried to do them proud. I even made little felt hospital gowns and bracelets for them to wear home!
The dolls before restoration had deteriorating wig caps.

Their facial paint was rubbed.

When I got the dolls they had multiple issues. I started by giving each one a thorough cleaning, using Carol's Miracle Doll Cleaner and Mr Clean Erasers. I washed the hair with fabric softener mixed with water. This treatment will soften the hair as well as clean it.

Both dolls needed re-stringing and one needed her hips repaired.

To restring the dolls I actually remove the neck hook shown in the photos above. The dolls are originally strung with elastic bands, one connecting from the head to the hook and one connecting the arms. I find, however, when you try to restring the dolls using more durable elastic cord it is nearly impossible to get the tension tight enough if you try the original method. The head and arms end up floppy and unable to hold a pose. So, I squeeze the top of the hook together using pliers to make it tight enough to drop down through the neck into the body. Then I catch it using magnetic tipped jewelry pliers and remove it. I string the small doll elastic through the bar in the top of the head (NOT the lower eye bar; be careful about that!) and bring it down through the neck. Then I attach one arm hook and draw it through to the other side to attach the other arm hook. I pull it tight as I can and tie the knot. Then I draw the knot into the middle of the loop so it doesn't interfere with either the head or arm joints.

A new hip button created from epoxy holds the leg on.
Re-attaching the legs is a tricky business. You can see from the photos, one of the legs fell off because the hip button joint broke. I craft a new button the same size and shape as the original from Kwik Plastic epoxy. If the crotch is split, as it usually is, and wide enough you can just slip the buttons back in place as shown above before you repair the crotch split. If the crotch split isn't wide enough, though, you must open the doll along the seams by heating it up with a hair dryer and then inserting a razor blade into the seam. Wiggle the razor blade to get the seam to open. Be very careful, as I have had the plastic torso outside the seam start to split when doing this. If at all possible I try to fix these without opening up the doll.

The crotch seam after repair. Note the new hip button's position.

I have seen hips and crotches repaired by simply gluing the seams shut and clamping the doll until the glue dries, but I find these always open back up when you try to get the doll to sit. Therefore, I always rebuild the crotch seam a bit wider using epoxy. This is a more visible method when the doll is nude, but it is more durable and enables the doll to hold more poses, and most people display their dolls clothed anyway! In the case of these dolls, both needed crotch splits and knee cracks repaired, so I had to repaint almost the entire leg area in some cases. With their leg repairs both dolls can stand alone with balancing, although I certainly recommend a stand for display. They are still quite loose. They are also both able to sit.

With careful balancing, the repaired dolls can stand alone.

After the leg repairs I had to fix shoulder splits on both dolls. Then I repainted their faces. It's funny to me how the dolls sometimes seem to have minds of their own. I used the same paint color and method I always use, but on both dolls the cheeks came out much brighter and rosier than usual. The weird thing about that is I didn't paint their faces at the same time. When I came up to paint the dolls after the epoxy dried I found the doll with the shorter hair had her crotch seam open up again and I had to redo it. So while the second repair dried I painted the first doll's face and didn't do the other doll's until the next day. I guess since these girls are twins they wanted the same rosy cheeks!

After the faces were repainted I used Aleene's Tacky Glue along the hairline to stabilize the rubber wig caps, which were starting to deteriorate. Once that was dry I re-styled the hair. I think both dolls look really good. It's amazing to see how new they can look again with repair!

The dolls are also able to sit.

Besides these little dolls and the Cissy and Revlon I covered in my last post I've been working on the garden this week. I can't believe how out of shape I've gotten despite running and walking every night! Yesterday I planted peas for maybe 40 minutes and then raked pine straw around my strawberry plants, which have finally emerged. Today my thighs are so sore I can hardly go up and down the stairs. Obviously, I need to be doing a lot more squats during my workouts! The garden is doing well, though. The onions, potatoes. garlic, and rhubarb are growing like gangbusters. The strawberries are coming up and the blueberries are already flowering. The tomato and cucumber seeds we planted a few weeks ago didn't come up, so I guess they are just too old. I suppose I'll just order plants now it's getting so late. I might do one crop of plant starts and another of seed so we get a staggered harvest. I'm worrying about all the peas we're going to have at once. I did seven rows of field peas and snow peas! I was so late getting them in, though, I thought I'd better put them all in. It won't be time again until late summer for a fall harvest. I can always freeze any excess.

Yesterday Jerry and our oldest son smoked some trout and salmon for me using applewood. The smell was just divine! I've already eaten almost half of it, I'm afraid. It's a good thing fish isn't too high calorie! Jerry smelled so good, too. I guess I've been doomed from birth, because I just love men who smell like smoke and beer. Jerry drank a beer to produce the proper aroma! With the exception of my paternal grandfather, who spent his recreational hours at the country club playing golf, the men in my life have always smelled like smoke and beer, and it's the smell of stability and safety for me. My paternal grandfather smelled like peppermints and Bay Rum cologne, so I like that male smell as well! They say smell is the strongest link to memory, and I suppose that's true, but for me music is a close second. Certain songs just transport me instantly to another time and place.

But for now I must focus on the present. I have so much to do. I just got a giant box of new needy dolls, and I'm very close to completing a second Cissy with wardrobe, so keep watching!

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