Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Evening Star

Evening Star Margaret

Have you been following the news about the "comet of the century" set to arrive on Thanksgiving day? ISON, containing debris leftover from the formation of the solar system, hasn't been back here since, for 4.5 billion years. I wish we had room to cart the telescope back home with us for Thanksgiving, because it would be cool to see it before it passes through the sun's atmosphere. It may or may not burn up at that time. If it doesn't, astronomers believe it may be visible throughout December. It's nice to think of stars today, with all the rain we're having. It started sleeting during my walk last night and we've been having precipitation ever since. Someone put signs advertising their "Black Friday Yard Sale" all over town and I noticed the ink has completely washed off all of them today!

Anyway, in light of this story, I felt my newest creation was appropriate: "Evening Star" Margaret by Madame Alexander. I may have been just a bit inspired by the celestial happenings!

Margaret before repair

I acquired Margaret, a head-turning walker doll from the 1940s or 50s, a couple months ago in a distressed dolls lot. She was filthy and had blue ink transferred to her arm and leg. Her wig cap was in bad shape and the top layer of her hair had frizzing, breakage, and hair loss.

Her wig had hair loss and breakage and needed re-gluing.
Once I got her all cleaned up, though, I could see there isn't really much wrong with her. Her bands are tight and her walker works well. The lower layers of her hair retained the original set and even the metal barrettes, which I've never even seen before on a Margaret. I didn't even have to set her hair; I just washed it with fabric softener and styled it back into its original set, arranging the hair to cover the thin spots as best I could. I sewed the hair into place with thread, the way Madame did originally, and pinned the curls into place with doll bobby pins. I glued the wig cap back down around the edges with water-soluble glue to stabilize it.

Margaret had ink transfer marks on her body.

Her face was dirty but the paint was fine.

I painted over the blue spots and any other flaws on the doll's body with oil-based paint . Her face looked great and didn't need any paint work. Margaret's lashes are nice and full. I love her unusual golden hazel eyes. The tawny color really shines in contrast with her dark brunette hair. Her hair color is unusual as well: very dark brown with golden-brown highlights. I haven't seen this wig on a Madame before.

Margaret's hip had a tiny split, which I repaired.

Margaret's body retains some vintage "charm", such as discoloration inside the hip and arm sockets and faint marks here and there. These are not serious, so I didn't bother repairing them. I always just want to fix only the necessary flaws and leave the doll as original as possible. When I had the legs extended for painting I saw a tiny split starting inside one hip socket so I fixed it with epoxy.

Margaret after repairs

The band carpool sometimes proves useful, as I can shop on eBay while I'm sitting in the parking lot waiting for the boys and I snag some good deals. One was this exquisite Madame Alexander gown, tagged "Evening Star".

The Evening Star gown

This gown is from the 1990s and looks new.

Evidently, the Alexander company made porcelain reproductions of some of the 1940s and 50s dolls in the 1990s. This dress belonged to one of those Margaret dolls. It is a stunning column of pink satin with black lace and net overlay cascading down, lavishly encrusted with sequins, rhinestones, and beads. I bet there's a full yard of material just in this skirt! It's really amazing, and looks brand new. I ordered it hoping it would fit this Margaret and it does, just barely. It's very tight. Margaret must stand while wearing it because the skirt is too snug to allow her to sit. Back in my youth I had some dresses like this myself. The things we suffer for beauty!

My handmade "starlight" headpiece.

Margaret's dress and hairstyle reminded me of the golden age of cinema, the gorgeous gowns worn by Ginger Rogers and Greta Garbo. I decided to make a headdress in a similar style, with black organza ribbon and a silver and rhinestone ornament a bit like a star. Besides adding to the period feel, this serves to hide the remaining thin spots and breaks in Margaret's wig.

The re-styled wig
I had some vintage accessories in my stash, so I gave Margaret back-seam stockings, white satin panties, a "pearl" necklace, and side-Velcro black shoes. The shoes are a little clunky looking, but they were the best fitting I have. The panties have tiny red marks on the rear, but the stockings and necklace are perfect.

Margaret's undergarments

Unused vintage Madame curlers and comb

The Madame Alexander comb and curlers box came in a lot with a pair of majorette boots from the 1940s or 50s, probably originally belonging to Kathy or one of those characters. They are clearly unused, but the box has wear from age.

The Madame Alexander mark

I'm very proud of Margaret's restoration. I think she displays all the lavish glory of Madame Alexander's 1940s and 50s creations, widely regarded as the peak of Madame Alexander's efforts. Margaret's dark beauty and shimmering gown really do bring evening stars to mind. She looks absolutely glorious in my case, at least until she moves on to a new owner. You can find her and many other dolls in my store: http://stores.ebay.com/atelier-mandaline.

Margaret's lavish costume

Monday, November 25, 2013

Cissette On Tour

1950s Cissette ballerina
Several months back, during my ballerina blitz, I got this doll all restored and ready to go except for her shoes. Then I got a little burnt out on ballerinas and put her aside for a while. Now, though, all my ballerinas have traveled on to new homes so I decided to finish Cissette and list her.

Cissette, having her split repaired.
I originally planned to make a trunk set with the "On Tour" theme. This is something Madame Alexander used to do back in the 1950s and 60s at Christmas time. She would make big sets with a ballerina doll and lots of clothes and call it Cissette or whomever, "On Tour". They were often exclusive to the FAO Schwartz or Montgomery Ward catalogues. I've seen these sets with Cissy, Cissette, Elise, Lissy, Pamela (who first used the Lissy mold and then switched over to the "Louisa" or "Nancy Drew" mold used by the Wendy doll I have listed right now), and more. It's such a fun idea for a child, and it's a great deal of fun for me to amass all the outfits and accessories, not to mention find a suitable "trunk".

Cissette after repair
The result is quite expensive, though, given the high cost of the 50s dolls and clothing, and few adult collectors are able to justify the cost of buying all those clothes for a doll they will most likely display in one outfit only. Trunk sets do sell for me, but they often take a long time to move and I end up making less profit than if I sold each piece by itself. So, I decided to list Cissette alone as a ballerina and then finish and list the outfits I have for her separately. I have a few more Cissettes lying around my office, so I may indulge myself with a trunk set later on.

Dolls with bright face paint like this are called "high color".
Cissette came to me having been already "restored" in the past. Someone knitted her a pretty dress trimmed with pearls and glued matching pearls to her earlobes. I didn't try to remove these, as they don't look bad and trying to get them off would certainly damage the plastic doll head. Then the restorer styled Cissette's hair in pigtails with rhinestones sewn to the tops. I removed the rhinestones and styled her hair in its original set.
New stringing allows her to pose well.

Otherwise, Cissette needed a split repair, re-stringing, and a good cleaning. The only things I was unable to remove are a scratch on her belly, very slight, and a couple tiny red marks on top of her head.

Cissette has a couple tiny red marks on top of her head.

Cissette looks stage-ready now, and her tighter stringing allows her to pose many ways. Her knees bend well and her eyes function.

A while back I bought a mixed lot of doll clothes and housewares and found this ballerina outfit in it. It's tagged "Madame Alexander" but doesn't list the doll. The age appears to be 1950s or 60s based on the style of the floral trim.

A much larger doll had been squeezed into the dress, tearing its crotch seam. When I put the dress on Cissette I saw it's a bit large in the rear and thighs. I don't know if it originally belonged to Lissy or if the larger doll stretched it out. I repaired the seam and cleaned it with carpet cleaner.

The dress is loose in the thighs and may have been for Lissy.
I was unable to remove rust-red spots on one shoulder ruffle, so I sewed vintage-look florals over the spots to hide them.

Floral trim hides the red spots.
I found a vintage floral bouquet with another lot of doll stuff and sewed it to a doll bobby pin so you can use it as a hair ornament. Then I made ballet shoes from pink ribbon.

Her hair ornament is made from a vintage bouquet.
These are a little weird. Even though I used the same pattern one turned out larger than the other. Still, they stay on her feet, and if you don't study them too close they look like regular ballet shoes, so they are fine for display.

Handmade ballet shoes
All in all, I think this doll turned out very well. Her bright facial paint is lovely and her hair is shiny and pretty. She's sure to star in any collection. Please keep watching my store for the rest of her "on tour" clothes, coming soon: http://stores.ebay.com/atelier-mandaline.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Literary Ladies

I finally managed to make it back into my studio and get some work done. For those of you uninitiated, I've been sick for over a month now. Finally, however, thanks to my super-nutritious foods and guidance from a book I recently purchased, I am recovering, albeit slowly.

When we started the low-carb diet I decided to re-read my Atkins book, which I haven't read for years. I forgot Dr. Atkins cautioned against the use of antihistamines and cold medicines, among other drugs, as substances which prevent weight loss. That makes some sense, since I find it very hard to lose weight and I usually have to take a daily antihistamine. I had allergy shots for five years though, and still find it difficult to get completely off the meds, so how to survive without allergy medicine? I ordered Dr. Atkins' Vita-Nutrient Solution from eBay to see what he recommends and also got a great deal of advice on treating my recent illness with nutrition and supplements. Besides this book, I recommend Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions and her other books for wonderful advice on avoiding drugs and their side-effects while maintaining health naturally. Although I'm out of shape from lying around sick for so long I'm otherwise much better, something even a course of antibiotics didn't accomplish. In short summary, if you are fighting an illness, increase your intake of vitamins A, C, and D through food and supplements. I've been cooking and eating lots of ginger, coconut oil, homemade poultry bone broth, kelp, kale, seaweed, clementines (including the skin and seeds in smoothies), Brazil nuts, plain yogurt, and cod liver oil. I saw results within about two days of receiving my book and beginning this regimen.

Mary Anne as Anne Shirley
I started my series of literary characters and corresponding books with Anne of Green Gables. This was a favorite book of mine growing up, along with the rest of the series. I read and re-read them all until my copies all fell apart. Watching me work on the doll, my daughter expressed an interest in reading the stories, so I will have to buy new copies for her. This book, like all the Target books sold with school supplies in the fall, is a condensed copy adapted for young readers. I am not against these types of stories for children, because I know first-hand reading the adapted version often leads a child to seek out the unabridged book when old enough to read it.

I purchased the Mary-Anne face Madame Alexander "Lucinda" doll a while back for her outfit, which my Polly Pigtails doll is currently wearing. Mary Anne is an adorable face mold. She debuted in 1966, a curious time for Madame dolls. Though the faces are beautifully molded and painted and the clothes still exquisite, these 1960s dolls have bodies made of cheap, light hard plastic with the seams not even sanded down. I'm not sure what was going on at Madame Alexander back then. Unfortunately, this resulted in the dolls being worth much less than their clothing today.

For my purposes, however, these 60s and 70s dolls work well. They allow me to re-dress or re-style them into literary characters and then sell them cheaply enough for children to play with. They are still higher-quality than most dolls and toys marketed today and these are much more affordable than the dolls from the 1950s and earlier, so parents and grandparents can share a favorite character without worrying as much about the cost.

Lucinda's red hair made her a perfect Anne Shirley. I styled it in braids and dressed her in a vintage dress from my stash. The dress is exquisite, surprising as I think it's Mommy-made. It is sewn with a double-layer skirt and rows upon rows of tiny tucks, even in the sleeves. Tiny buttons provide the closures, and a rose-trimmed self-sash defines the waist. I gave Anne a pair of Elise satin panties from the same era, rather darkened from age, vintage Madame socks from another doll, vintage boots, and a new-old-stock hat. I chose the hat because it reminded me of the part of the book when Anne trims her sailor hat with wildflowers on the way to Sunday school. Anne's bangs want to stick up, so the hat helps keep them in place.

"Pinkie" as Wendy

When I finished Anne I moved on to another great childhood favorite, Peter Pan. The doll I used for Wendy is "Pinkie" from the Portrait Children series of the 1970s. I've seen this doll's face mold listed as "Louisa" as well as "Nancy Drew", so I'm not sure of the name. This is the 12-inch size doll which followed the discontinuation of "Lissy".

The doll before repair.

She's a very pretty doll, with big round gray eyes and very lovely dark hair. I thought her original dress looked like a nightgown, so I kept her in it, minus any other undergarments or shoes, since Wendy left from her nursery bed.

Another recent project: I re-designed my tag.
One sleeve had a mark on it so I made a tiny Tinkerbell from felt and pinned it over the spot. Wendy was unstrung when I got her, so I gave her new stringing, as tight as I dare with the old thin plastic.

Wendy's Tinkerbell doll

She is tight enough to hold a pose, but still loose enough to prevent cracks. You do have to balance her to stand alone.

Meg and the book.

Today I finished Meg from Little Women. Little Women is the reason I think condensed books are wonderful for children. When I was around 7 or 8 years old I received the wonderful gift of a set of condensed classics for children from my step-grandparents. My mother was disgusted at the time that they gave me adapted books, but looking back, the stories were Little Women, Moby Dick, David Copperfield, and so on, so it's certainly doubtful I'd have gotten much out of them trying to read the originals!

The doll before repair

Her rubber band rotted into her hair.
This was a huge set of about 20 small, like 4 inch square, thick paperbacks. They all stacked into a box and that, along with the child-friendly size, appealed to me. I read them all and went on to seek out and read the original versions of my favorites, which was pretty much every one. My absolute favorite, though, was Little Women.

Meg can sit and bend her knees.
At this time I was really into collecting Breyer's horses. I didn't just collect them, I played with them. My grandfather built me an enormous barn and my dad put in stalls for all the horses with little water troughs and gates and a hay loft and I played with my barn and horses all the time. I had been saving up for the Breyer's Morgan Horse for ages. It cost $12.99. My parents believed children should do chores as part of their responsibility to the family, not to make money, so we didn't get allowance and that amount of money wasn't easy for me to amass! Finally I had it all, though, and my mom took me to the mall. When I got there, however, I saw a huge, beautiful copy of Little Women. It was hardback and illustrated, and it was also $12.99. I stewed about it and finally chose Little Women. I read that book many times and loved it and I still have it. I never did save up enough to buy Morgan Horse, though!

Given my history with the adapted Little Women, I snatched this copy up as soon as I saw it. I've had it for a while, so I was very happy when Meg came along in a doll lot recently. I know everyone always says they liked Jo best, but Meg was always my favorite.

Meg is an Alexander-kins with jointed knees. I believe this set with the gingham dresses first debuted in the late 1950s, but the lavender-dressed Meg is from around 1960. Meg was dirty and unstrung, but otherwise in excellent condition. I re-strung her and cleaned her. Her hair was still in its original set, though the rubber band was rotten and stuck in her curls. I removed it and gave her a fabric softener treatment to clean and condition her hair and then replaced the old rubber band with a clear silicone band.

Meg's outfit has some faint spots and she lost the pantaloons and shoes she came wearing. Instead, she's been given orange-checked panties, rayon socks, and black side-button shoes which look like they originally belonged to a Ginny or similar doll. None of this shows much, though so I left her in her outfit.

Now Meg is sturdy enough for play and adorable for display. I hope she, and all my literary ladies, become play dolls again. Since they are lower-priced than most Madame Alexander dolls, I would love to see a girl allowed to act out a favorite new book with each doll.

A Vogue Ginny outfit from the 1950s.

Besides the doll and book sets, I was able to finish restoring a couple Ginny-type outfits I've had for a while. The black and pink outfit is tagged Vogue, so it was made for Ginny. It just needed very minor repairs, like new elastic in the bloomers and a new sleeve ribbon.

A pinafore, possibly by Madame Alexander.
The red felt dress or pinafore came with the flower applique pinned on. There were threads still attached that indicated it was sewn-on at some point, so I tacked it back on with thread. This piece has the Alexander-type snaps, but it isn't tagged. It does fit Alexander-kins perfectly. All these are available in my store: http://stores.ebay.com/atelier-mandaline.

I do hope you've enjoyed this very literary post and discovered new books for everyone in the family!