Thursday, October 23, 2014

Oh, Baby, Baby!

Victoria with her Rempel toy lamb

Baby Dreams Velvet Skin

A few posts back I mentioned a "baby boom" coming to my store. Well, today I have two new additions to the baby dolls already listed. I finished restoring a Madame Alexander Victoria baby and an Ideal Baby Dreams Velvet Skin doll and got them listed last night. You can find them, and many other baby dolls, in my store:

Original pink tissue paper stuffed in Victoria's seat.

Victoria came in a lot of Madame Alexander dolls dating from the 1930s to the 1970s. All these were
complete to nearly so and none had been play dolls. Somewhere along the way they'd been stored improperly and so all unfortunately have fading and age spots or mildew and damp stains.

Victoria still retained her original pink tissue paper stuffed into the seat of her panties to keep them from getting crushed, but her coat, dress, and body were all stained. She has particular staining on one arm and her back and all over darkening which is more pronounced on the areas of her arms, legs, and torso near the edges of her clothing, so probably resulting from sun and air exposure. Victoria is a crying "mama" doll with a working cryer so I didn't dare wash her too vigorously. Instead I cleaned the stains with carpet spot cleaner and let her dry in the bright sun. The result is lightened but not eradicated stains. The only real remedy would be to sew a new body for the doll, but I don't want to do that to a completely original doll if I don't have to. I do have an older Alexander baby in my studio whose body is beyond repair, so I will be replacing that one's soon and will try to write a good tutorial showing how to replace a cloth body.

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The Alexander mark

Baby Victoria was made for several years in many versions. This one is 19 inches and comes wearing a taffeta dress with matching bloomers, coat, and bonnet. It looks like these were all originally pink, but the dress and coat are now faded to a beigey-pink color. I haven't seen this doll in this outfit before, so I'm not sure if she originally had shoes or booties but I assume she would have. One of my Madame Alexander books shows Victoria #5756 of 1977 wearing a similar but not identical outfit with booties.

Victoria's dress

The dress has age or mildew spotting.

Matching bloomers

A ding in the hair paint
As with Victoria's body, I cleaned her clothes and put them in the sun to dry. This faded the spots scattered all over but didn't totally remove them. The dress is the worst piece in the outfit, with all over brownish-yellow spotting from either age or mildew. The coat is missing two covered buttons. It's a shame because the outfit is beautifully made, with generous material, just like a real baby dress. I thought about picking the pieces apart to use as patterns for a new dress but decided after cleaning that the outfit still displays fairly well. If you want this to be a play doll then I would recommend newer, sturdier clothing.

Victoria's coat and bonnet

This baby doll has one of the most beautiful and realistic face sculpts I've ever seen. Her paint is gorgeous, too, with blushing even on her little ear lobes! The only flaw is a little ding in her hair paint. Victoria is a really wonderful, heavy baby doll, satisfyingly lifelike for young mothers to hold. I recently bought a lot of vintage baby toys, and I couldn't resist giving a little Rempel lamb to Victoria and a set of teething rings to my other baby doll.

Two buttons missing from the coat

The coat is tagged.

This next baby is dear to my heart. This is Ideal's Baby Dreams Velvet Skin. Ideal had been making a Baby Dreams doll, sometimes called "Dream Baby" for many decades starting, I believe, in the 1930s or 40s, when they decided to produce the doll with flocked "velvet" skin in 1975.

The new doll had a completely new sculpt, with a sweet, smiling face and chubby, lifelike arms and legs. She had silky blond rooted hair and bright topaz blue sleep eyes with extra long lashes and, at 19 inches, was a cuddly dumpling perfect for little girls to hold. My mother said she was the cutest doll she'd ever seen. I know all this because Baby Velvet was MY very first doll. I got her when I was only 1 and I was a devoted and loving little mother. I adored my baby. Then one day I went to get her and she was gone. She'd just completely disappeared! As it turned out, my baby's flocking was turning brown and flaking off and when I wasn't looking my mother threw her away. This incident might have dissolved into the mists of memory had it not occurred shortly before my father died suddenly in an accident. We left our house and moved from California to Ohio to live with my grandparents fairly soon afterward. To me it seemed as though my entire world had disappeared overnight, which of course it had. I had a recurring dream from that time until my mid-30s about this doll. I would leave her on the floor of our California foyer, which I can't recall when I'm awake but which appears in all its minute detail in the dream, and go to do something else. I can see her lying there on the floor in her pink bunting with its little peaked hood (OK, so I wasn't the best mother after all, perhaps). Then I return and she's gone and I spend the rest of the dream searching for her.

Well, a few years back I woke up from this dream and decided to find my baby doll. I had nothing to go on other than she wore a pink bunting and had flocked skin. I searched and searched the Internet and finally got her name. I decided I would purchase a new doll for my own daughter. HA! As it turns out, most Baby Dreams Velvet Skin dolls were thrown out when their flocking flaked off and Ideal didn't make them long, probably for the same reason. Naturally, my "baby" is now one of the rarest dolls. I tried and tried to buy one of these and would always get outbid. I've seen them sell without any clothing for $50, $60, $70... once I saw one still new in its box go for over $300! By the time I finally managed to acquire one my daughter didn't really care about baby dolls anymore. Just as well, since she can't play with it anyway. We keep our new Baby Velvet in a box and my daughter is allowed to take it out and hold it gently. Even with her present maturity, my daughter loves to cuddle this doll; it's just irresistible! I still haven't managed to find the little pink bunting she wore. I will probably have to make one.

Then one day, after all that searching, I bought a big lot of dolls and lo and behold, there was another Ideal Baby Dreams Velvet Skin! At least buying mine made my dreams stop!

Ideal Baby Dreams Velvet Skin

The girl who owned this doll had a less dramatic mother who very practically scrubbed the flocking off the legs and feet when it started to flake, so now the legs are just plastic. The doll's face and arms are very well-preserved, with only a tiny bit of darkening and flocking loss on the fingertips. The face has a few spots. I did clean the doll but couldn't remove the spots completely. She's in really good shape for this doll, though, and is a nice example of this version of Baby Dreams. Her hair is a little dry at the ends but I gave her a conditioning treatment that helped a lot.

Marked on her neck and tagged

Tagged with a second tush tag

I am including a copy of the original care brochure.

Flocking loss on the fingertips

The face is very good with only a few spots and no flocking loss.

This doll is also missing her original bunting, so I gave her a cute vintage factory made outfit. It isn't tagged. I found an adorable flocked dotted Swiss bonnet for her to wear. It's a little large, but I know for a fact that these oversized bonnets were very fashionable in the mid-1970s because I am about the same age as this doll and I'm always wearing some big bonnet like this in my baby pictures!

Baby is just as sweet as I remember. She has unusual sleep eyes that function when you lie her on her side rather than her back. My doll's work the same way. She really is about the cutest baby doll ever! I guess I have babies on the brain today. I found out this past weekend I have a new niece or nephew on the way. This will be #12 for me, only two of whom are nieces, so I'm hoping for a girl! Then on my walk today I watched a young hawk catch some little rodent. I couldn't see the poor prey but heard its piercing little shriek when it was caught, and then the dark rush of wings. On my next lap I saw the hawk itself and walked within a few feet of it on the bridge where it stopped to eat its meal. After that I noticed filaments gleaming in the sun over the road and watched them float away from a lamp post which, on further inspection I saw was festooned like a Maypole with spider silk threads. A nest of spiders hatched today and each was flying away from the lamp on its own shimmering line. It was a lovely reminder that new life is always beautiful.

This doll has unique sleep eyes that work when she lies on her side.

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