Monday, July 28, 2014

Something Blue Cissy

Beautiful Bride, Cissy

A couple weeks ago I won a box lot of 1950s dolls that included a Cissy doll. Cissy came with a wedding gown, but she needed some serious spa time before her big day. Cissy's original mommy was evidently a vicious little beast! Cissy's hair was ripped off, one finger was gnawed almost completely away, and she had hip splits.

Cissy was missing lots of hair.
This Cissy is an earlier doll, with a pale, porcelain finish complexion and un-pierced ears. I was sure I'd have to re-wig her, because half her hair was ripped off. I hate to do that because these dolls are more valuable with the most original features. However, I was able to style it and give it a new set in such a way that you can't really see the missing hair. I sewed the hair into place and hid the stitches with piled up curls. A tiny bit of her wig seam is still visible in front. Cissy had some cut hair besides the missing hair, but her tight curls blend in the shorter ends, and her veil and coronet of flowers help disguise any flaws even further.

The wig seam still shows slightly.

Cissy's veil and coronet hide any remaining flaws.
Cissy's eyes had yellowed from age and improper storage, she was missing some eyelashes, and she had a chunk of paint chipped off the end of her nose. I cleaned her eyes thoroughly and then I painted over the whites of her eyes with a thin coat of special glass paints in white.  These are used to paint faux stained glass decorations and are available at craft stores. This paint is transparent so it lightens the eyes without looking obvious. Cissy's irises are very green now, but the whites are lighter now. The rest of Cissy's face paint is original and impressive. She even retains her smoky eye shadow!

Cissy's eyes and nose before restoration.

I gave Cissy a partial lash replacement. This is noticeable if you look very closely, but otherwise it's not obvious. I repainted the end of her nose with oil-based paint and sealed it with matte varnish.

Cissy after eye and nose restoration.

Cissy nearly lost her fingertip in a terrible daiquiri mixing accident, but luckily she had a great plastic surgeon. Her finger was rebuilt with hard plastic epoxy and re-painted. The injury is still visible, but she holds her bouquet in that hand so it doesn't really show. Her thumb on that hand has a bite mark in it but it's not severe.

Cissy's rebuilt finger and "diamond" ring.
I repaired small splits mostly inside Cissy's hip sockets. One of her vinyl arms has some tearing inside the socket. I re-strung her head and arms with durable elastic and the arms are tight enough to hide the vinyl inside the body. I left Cissy's head a little loose to protect her seams, but it's tight enough to pose and to allow her sleep eyes to function. There are some lighter spots of paint on the backs of Cissy's legs, so I painted over them lightly and sealed them to help blend them in.

A repaired hip split, the only visible one.
Once Cissy was all cleaned up I focused on her outfit. Cissy came with a beautiful un-tagged brocade wedding gown. I'm not sure whether it's a factory dress or not. I think it could be seamstress made because it has lots of hand sewn work. It's just exquisitely sewn! The neckline is absolutely encrusted with tiny beads. I repaired a couple small holes in the lace puffed sleeves. Under the dress a pretty petticoat adds fullness. I gave Cissy a 1950s coronet of flowers by Madame Alexander. I attached new tulle to the headpiece. Then I gave Cissy a 1960s Alexander wedding bouquet and a vintage glass "pearl" choker. I made her an adjustable rhinestone ring.

Cissy in her vintage brocade gown.
I made Cissy some new shoes by adding new elastic and vintage flowers to vintage plastic bases. The flowers have glass bead centers in blue. I also made Cissy some garters using matching gold elastic with little blue ribbon and glass bead accents, Cissy's "something blue". One of the flowers in her bouquet is blue but it's so faded it's hard to see. I made Cissy a cute set of underpants, but they turned out super tight in the thighs and it's really hard to get them on and off. Sigh... I feel you, Sister! Cissy was supposed to have nylons but my machine kept eating them and when I finally got them finished one got runs all the way up the front, so I gave up on them and threw them out.

One of Cissy's knees is really stiff and hard to bend. I treated it with White Lithium Grease and it's working better now. There is some scraping inside the joints. I've treated all the joints with wax to help stop the scraping.

Cissy's all ready for the wedding now, and she's a beautiful bride! She turned out far better than I'd hoped in less time. I have another Cissy coming soon, and this one will be listed in my store, so please make sure to check:

Cissy bride

Cissy's marked on her head.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Sweet Caroline

Caroline's coat and hat
Caroline Kennedy was just such a cutie as a little girl, Neil Diamond wrote a song about her and Madame Alexander sculpted a doll in her image. In fact,  in 1961 the Alexander made this Caroline doll, a Jacqueline doll, and a John Jon doll who used the Caroline sculpt with short hair. Madame Alexander had a long tradition of making dolls in the image of royalty, such as Princess and then Queen Elizabeth, so why not America's "royal" first family? The company didn't have permission to make the dolls, however, and the Kennedys objected, so the Kennedy family dolls were produced for a very short time and are now extremely rare.

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It's too bad, because the Caroline face and toddler body sculpt is just precious. She's a perfect play doll. She's sized just right for little hands, at 14 inches, and the soft vinyl is nice to hold. Her chubby frame is poseable and easy to dress. In that spirit, I put together an entire wardrobe for Caroline. I hope a new little mommy will enjoy dressing and loving her.

Caroline wears an untagged, factory-made sundress.

Caroline is a toddler-style, 14 inch doll.
This little Caroline comes with a summer sundress, a coordinating swing coat and poke hat, a very full day dress, panties, a flannel nightgown, and new unused vintage shoes. All these are at least 50 years old and show their age with spots here and there. I've repaired any holes or thin spots and cleaned everything.

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Caroline is marked in her back and neck.
Caroline's hair had some issues, and at first I worried it had been cut. After washing it, treating it for softness and shine, and giving it a new set, I don't think it was cut. I think the ends are dry and have some breakage. I've gotten it as soft and shiny as possible, and Caroline is still very cute.

This is a Madame Alexander dress, probably for a baby doll.

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The print has washed off the tag.
Caroline's cheek paint was rubbed off in spots, so I refreshed it with artists' acrylic paint and then sealed it with matte varnish. I use acrylic paint on vinyl dolls and oil paint on hard plastic dolls. Caroline is so adorable with her rosy cheeks and big dimples!

Caroline's nightie

The doll has refreshed cheek paint.
Besides Caroline, I finished an unusual Ginger doll today. Her face paint is very pale, but looks factory-painted, and her hair is extremely light blond. I've never seen a Ginger like this except in doll book photos. Ginger's hair looked fine, but I noticed when I washed it that it has a center stitched part, which is usually only found on wigs with braided pigtails. So, I'm not sure if the hair was cut or what. I styled it in Ginger's signature roll, and now it looks pretty. There is slight glue residue on on side of her face.

A Ginger doll
I've had a really productive weekend and have tons of stuff listed right now, including the dolls shown here, so please make sure to check my store:

This doll has unusual pale paint and hair.

My Margie

Margie by Belle
Yesterday I finished a doll I've been holding on to for a while. This is Margie by Belle Doll Company. Margie is such a successful copy of the later straight-arm Cissy doll she's often mistaken for Cissy. Margie came in a smaller 17-18 inch size with a Revlon style twist waist body, and that doll seems more common than this one. Margie is one of those cheaper copycat dolls produced in small numbers and sold in small local department stores and grocery stores. Now, more than 50 years later, she's actually much harder to find than Cissy. If she has her original clothing and hair set her value can approach $300. I've never even seen this doll for sale still mint in her box, so I can't guess what one such might command.

Margie, and many other lovely dolls, can be purchased in my store so please check:

Margie compared to the infused plastic Cissy

As I said, I got this doll a long, long time ago. Someone "restored" her in the 60s or 70s by oiling her eyes and stuffing her head with some kind of insulation made of ground up bits of cloth. As you can imagine, that created quite a mess. I cleaned the inside of her head and her eyes repeatedly, but one eye still sticks and both are slightly cloudy with bubbles of oil behind the irises. This problem is only evident on very close inspection.

Margie needed repair to quite a large hip split. This was one of my first epoxy repairs and it isn't as smooth as I would have liked. I gave her body a repaint because it was a totally different color than her face, to the extent that I wondered if the one-time restorer painted it in the past. The paint inside the knee joints was starting to scrape, so I waxed it with paste wax to stop the scraping.

This is one of my first epoxy repairs, and it isn't as skillful as I'd like.

Margie's soft vinyl face has a small scratch next to her nose and a spot of white in her cheek color. Her hair is gorgeous, though. Her walker works if you pull her head up so the bottom of her head sticks to the walker disk in her neck. This looks weird and sometimes causes her head to fall off, though, so I just leave it down like the "no neck" Cissy. I restrung her arms with durable elastic cord.

Once I had Margie all finished I told myself I needed to find clothes for her. The truth is, though, I had trouble letting go of her. I've sold plenty of outfits that would have been lovely on her. This Margie reminds me very much of my own Margie, my grandmother.

My Margie, my grandmother

My Margie, my father's mother, took me in hand after my father died. She always wanted a little girl, and she told me she felt I and my sisters were her compensation from God for the loss of her son. We'd been living in California when my father died. My mother was pregnant with my sister and I was three years old. We moved back to my maternal grandparents' home, which was in the same little lake town where my father's parents lived.

My grandma Margie would pick me up and take me to her house and just keep me until my mother came to get me, often days or weeks later. Margie was a true lady, raised in gentle Georgia, and she taught me all I know of social graces. She would take me to eat in fine restaurants and at the country club from toddler-hood so I would know how to conduct myself in high society. Margie was tall, as I am, and when she saw me slouching and ashamed of my height she would pile books on my head and make me practice walking and sitting and standing and setting the table. From her I learned to move with grace no matter what the task.

My grandma Margie's house was always beautiful and ran like clockwork. She had a different task for each day: shopping on Monday, washing on Tuesday, ironing on Wednesday, etc. She never varied her routine and her house always looked perfect. When the mail arrived she would immediately sit down at her writing desk and sort it out, paying bills, writing replies to invitations, so it never piled up. Grandma was a great cook and made everything right down to mayonnaise and mustard from scratch. She got up at five every morning to make sure my grandfather had his breakfast before work and had a delicious supper laid out nearly every night, but she still found time to dress for dinner. By the time my grandfather arrived home from work the house was immaculate, his supper was on the table, and his wife was beautifully dressed with her hair and makeup perfect. I've never managed to live up to her standards as a housewife, I'm sorry to say. I keep trying, though!

Margie wears a factory dress not original to her.

The most important thing my Margie taught me was the art of keeping faith. When my father died my mother became very angry. She decided God didn't care for us anymore and stopped attending church. She sank into despair. My grandmother, though, who lost her own son, was able to rise above her grief a bit more. It did consume her, and I think it severely damaged her marriage. People would tell me often that I just never knew her because she changed so much after my father died. I saw something different, however. My grandfather was the choir director of their church for 40 years and Grandma ran the prayer chain. At the first sign of need she would open her little address book and start the prayer chain. She never lost her faith. She never stopped trying to see the purpose behind what had happened. She inspires me every day.

This little Margie doll has dark hair and big blue eyes, just like my Margie. My Margie was famous in town for her fashion sense, so I've tried to give this little Margie the fashion gene as well. I made her a fabulous hat, just like those my Margie always wore. It's been more than a bit hard to let her go, but she's not the real Margie, of course. The real Margie lives on inside me.

The dress has some dye transfer and age spotting.

The collar has dye transfer.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Luck and Voodoo

Charms for luck or control.
I've been thinking about rituals and traditions today. Yesterday I came across a lot of old dolls with some fetish dolls included. There was a voodoo doll with its pin and a Kitchen Witch, meant to bring good luck. I got the chicken "wish bone" from my own kitchen.

The vintage Kitchen Witch
I was surprised several years ago to hear Norwegians described as "superstitious". I didn't think of myself or my family that way. Looking back over the years, however, I realized we have our own rituals. My mother had a Kitchen Witch when I was small. We nearly always had chicken bones hanging from our kitchen cupboard handles. My mother would roast a chicken or make soup often and she would always wash the bone and hang it to dry until we were ready to make our wish. I do the same thing now. The children love the wish bones. To use one, each person grasps one end of a chicken's dried collar bone and pulls. When the bone breaks, the person who has the top joint attached to their side gets their wish.

A vintage voodoo doll with a pin.
We also always wished on the first star of the evening, and if one of our eyelashes fell out we would blow it away and make a wish. My grandfather never ate peas in his life, I don't think, without reciting the poem:

I eat my peas with honey.
I've done it all my life.
It makes the peas taste funny,
but it keeps them on my knife!

 That was meant to amuse, however, than to bring any sort of fortune to us. Speaking of food, we always eat our lucky foods each New Years' Day: sauerkraut and black-eyed peas. So, maybe we are rather superstitious as a culture!

Some rituals, unknown to us, contribute to our health. My mother and her mother before her, and as far as I know all the women of our family, have always taken very hot baths. Every other night at least I take my bath with Epsom salts added. My husband will ask, "Going to boil yourself?" when I head off to my bath. There is a reason for this tradition, it appears. In Scandinavia, and in Iceland in particular, people traditionally bathe in the natural hot springs for their health. As it turns out, these provide a host of trace minerals not easily obtained through the diet. Epsom salts deliver magnesium, a mineral most people lack in adequate amounts, through the epidermis. Magnesium is much better absorbed in this manner than through digestion. My theory is the heat somehow contributes to this process and that is the reason we ritualize our hot baths. My ancestors and I just re-created the practice here in our regular American bathtubs.

You can find these ritual dolls, though not the chicken bone, in my store:

A lot of vintage souvenir and voodoo dolls