Friday, July 5, 2013

Roberta Restored

Roberta Ann, cleaned and re-dressed.
The day before yesterday was quite frustrating for me. I have several dolls in the works and things just weren't working out. First of all, I have been laboring for the past few months, on and off, on the Margot ballerina I told you about in my So Many Dolls and Anatomy of a Walker Doll posts. If you don't remember, this was the Madame Alexander 14-inch Margot bent-knee walker doll I bought for her outfit. She was in such poor condition I had an idea of just parting her out and using her original outfit for another doll. The outfit is in wonderful condition, but the doll's walking mechanism had a stiff spring which had forced the doll's body apart. This was so bad that when Jerry and I tried to look inside the doll to see if we could cut through the spring, the doll's body split entirely in half along the seams!
The Margot doll, repaired and strung with elastic.
I decided to try to string the doll using elastic cord. I have dithered over the past few months about whether or not to replace just the spring with elastic and keep her a walker, but I decided her poor body was too fragile for that. It's a good thing, because I glued her back together along her seams using a super glue similar to Liquid Nails and then filled in remaining gaps in her shoulders with epoxy. The glue shows so much less than the epoxy. All seemed well. I clamped the body and let it dry, then repainted over the seams. When it was dry I got the doll all strung and she looked wonderful. I have her outfit all done, so I thought I could go ahead and list her in my store. I started posing her to take photos and...her body SPLIT again along the seam! So, I had to go back and build up the seam with epoxy and sand it and re-paint it and now she's still drying in my studio. We have had two straight weeks of rain and everything is taking about twice as long as usual to dry. While working on the epoxy I discovered the new tube of epoxy I just bought has disappeared. We just can't find it anywhere. I used up my old epoxy on the doll. The plastic had been under pressure for so long it actually has warped and won't fit together at all anymore, so the seams have to be built up in places with epoxy just to fit back together. At this point Jerry talked me into going  for a walk so I didn't throw the doll out the window!
Cissette, with shoes that don't fit.
While Margot is drying, I decided to work on a Cissette doll I have nearly finished. The doll is all done and the only remaining task was to make a few repairs to her vintage wardrobe and take her photos. I have some doll shoes I bought about a year ago and which were purported to fit Cissette and Little Miss Revlon. I've only just gotten interested in Cissette, so I didn't know anything about her shoes when I bought the lot. I got out the shoes I had chosen for her, put them on... and discovered Little Miss Revlon has WAY larger feet! The shoes were just falling off. I remembered I had some actual Madame Alexander reproduction Cissette shoes in my shoe stash so I went to get those instead. I searched and searched and couldn't find those anywhere. I had to go for another walk!
The Roberta Ann walker, cleaned and with hair styled.
When I got home I remembered another almost-finished doll in my work box. I had a Roberta Ann head-turning walker in nearly perfect condition. I got her in a big box of dolls needing repair, but all she needed was a good cleaning and hair set and some clothes. I set her hair a while back and all that was left for me was to style it. I had a vintage dress that fit her perfectly except for being a bit long for her, so I cut a strip off the dress and used it to make a matching sash. Then I hemmed the dress with my new sewing machine. That was a lot of fun, because it can stitch so much faster than my old machine it's unbelievable! So, thank goodness for Roberta Ann, the only cooperative doll for the past few days!
Roberta Ann was a less-expensive competitor to little girl play dolls like Toni or Madame Alexander's Margot or Maggie. She was probably designed to compete directly with Effanbee's Honey, since she resembles her very closely. You will often see this doll mis-labeled as Honey or as Luann Sims, another doll by the Roberta doll company. In fact, I'm pretty sure my aunt had a Roberta Ann doll, because my mom talks about her "Toni" doll, who was named "Roberta". My grandparents didn't have much money, so I think it's more likely my mom didn't understand her older sister's doll was a knock-off. My mom would have only been four or five at the time. The thing about Roberta dolls now is that since they were not very expensive, girls were allowed to play with them and most of them got played to death. The Roberta company wasn't very large, either, so they couldn't produce as many dolls as the larger companies. Now, Roberta dolls are worth as much or more as many of their "expensive" peers.
My Elise, who needs work.
Another project I have ongoing is my new Madame Alexander Elise ballerina from the 1950s. I've been trying forever to get an Elise and I always get outbid, so I was very happy to find one listed Buy It Now for a reasonable price. I wasn't as happy when she arrived and had obviously been in a smoker's home, a fact not noted in her listing. She has significant yellowing to her body and her outfit stunk. Her hair is perfect and in its original set, though, and her outfit still has some of its floral decorations. Her satin ballet shoes are perfect, too, which is something you rarely see.
Touching up Elise's face paint
Elise's face needed just a bit of touching up, so I went ahead and painted over a couple scratches and refreshed her cheek blush. I had to repair a little split in her knee with the remaining epoxy when I was working on Margot. Now I have to think about how I might address her yellowed body. I could repaint her legs and torso, but them her vinyl arms won't match. There isn't any really good way to paint those so they can be manipulated and not peel. I am thinking of scrubbing them with a Mr. Clean Eraser, but for now I have them coated with acne cream, because they have mildew spots as well. I will let you know how that works.
Elise was not supposed to be a resale doll, because I have long wanted one and I thought my daughter would really enjoy one. I think Elise's smaller body is easier for girls to carry, and I really love her jointed ankles, which allow her to wear flat or heeled shoes. My daughter was lukewarm toward Elise, however, so now I'm thinking of listing her.
Elise with her face paint re-touched.
Today another doll I ordered for my daughter's collection arrived, a rare Sweet Violet or Active Miss by Madame Alexander. This is a hard plastic girl child, not teen or lady, doll made all of hard plastic with jointed wrists, knees, elbows, neck, and hips, kind of like a Dollikin, but a girl. This is another doll in worse shape than noted, with a couple splits that weren't mentioned and needing paint work. My daughter got really excited, though, and has drawn out a big wardrobe plan for her. She wants to help me make a bunch of clothes for her. It's a good thing I'm not selling it, because someone else listed one in much better shape with its original outfit for only $30 more, so I wouldn't have any room left to make any profit if I tried to sell her.
I have no idea how you tell Sweet Violet and Active Miss apart. They seem to have the same Cissy face, same body, and the same pink dress. Someday I hope to see each one in its labeled box so I can see the difference. This doll was valued about four years ago at around $900 mint or $200 in need of repair, a value comparable to Cissy. She was made for only one year. I will post about her as soon as we get her finished.
My store will soon offer the Cissette shown, and Roberta Ann is available now. Elise may be for sale in the near future as well, so be sure to save me as a favorite:

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