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:

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

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