Thursday, May 28, 2015

Stories of Annabelle

Kate Smith's Annabelle

Recently I acquired a Maggie-face Madame Alexander doll in pretty awful condition. Enough of her hair style was left intact to make me believe she was originally "Kate Smith's Annabelle" by Madame Alexander from 1952. Kate Smith, "The Songbird of the South", was a famous radio and television personality in the 1940s and 50s and, much like celebrities today, she dabbled in writing children's books. The Stories of Annabelle were originally written by Jane Gale and Kate Smith apparently re-wrote them under her own name.

Both versions of the Annabelle stories are hard to find now, so I'm not sure what they're about, but Madame Alexander's version of Annabelle was a typical early 1950's teen or pre-teen. The Madame doll wears a sweater emblazoned with her name in cursive embroidery over a rickrack-trimmed circle skirt and blouse with a Peter Pan collar and has either braids or hair pulled partly back from her face. All wig styles have bangs. The Annabelle doll was made in several sizes in 1952 only, so she's rare. If this doll wasn't Annabelle the only other options with this hair are most likely Meg from Little Women in 1948 or a ballerina. I decided, especially since Kate Smith lived right here in NC, and I think is buried in Raleigh, to make this doll Annabelle.

The doll before restoration

Annabelle needed lots of help when she arrived. Her wig was loose and had lots of hair loss and breakage. Her bangs had been cut. Her fingers had chew marks and she had brown paint or something on her forehead and hand and chips in her lip and nose paint.

I fixed her hair, which had enough original curl that all I had to do was clean and style it, not set it. I had to do a lot of work to save the wig because of all the hair loss but it turned out all right in the end.

I had a dilemma with the paint repair. I needed to sand down the chips and areas with brown paint, but I didn't want to remove the original painted lashes, eyebrows, eyeshadow, blush, and remaining lip paint. All were intact, which is unusual. I ended up carefully sanding the areas as lightly as possible and re-painting them. You can still see a difference in the paint texture of these areas of you look closely, but I was able to preserve the rest of the original face paint. There are still signs of age here and there, but overall Annabelle looks really good. Here eyes work perfectly, although one has a couple tiny scratches in the glass. This is only visible on very close inspection; I can't really get it to show up in photos.

I used essential oils to clean and remove odors from the doll.

I restrung Annabelle with elastic cord and discovered a new use for essential oils as I did so! The doll had no odor when intact but when I took her apart I could smell a very faint whiff of a bad smell starting. I swabbed the inside of each piece, including her head, with cotton swabs dipped in undiluted Young Living Thieves and Purification essential oils. This cleaned and disinfected the doll quickly and now there is no odor other than the clean scent of the oils. Thieves kills germs and Purification neutralizes odors, which is why it worked so well. It was much faster than the vinegar and sunshine method I usually use, probably because it's so hard for sun to reach inside the pieces! I'm happy to find a new method for repairing that issue!

The doll after restoration

There are still marks here and there.

The joints have paint rubs.

Paint helps conceal finger chews.

Last year I got a bunch of 1940's and 50's Madame Alexander tagged doll clothes in states of disrepair ranging from somewhat damaged to just tagged shreds of cloth. I decided this tagged knit bodysuit would be perfect for Annabelle. The sleeves were cut off, so I finished the armholes to make it sleeveless. The bodysuit has a little green spot on the bottom but it's hidden by the skirt.

The bodysuit before repair.

I finished the armholes to make it sleeveless.

The bodysuit is tagged.

It has a spot on the bottom.

Since the bodysuit lost its sleeves I decided to make Annabelle a wool jacket. I used a vintage moth-eaten sweater to make a pattern. I made it from cream wool felt and then hand-appliqu├ęd and beaded a cherry motif to match her skirt and scarf. The skirt and scarf were Mommy-made in the 1950s, I think, and are the same style as Annabelle's original outfit. Then I gave Annabelle a Madame Alexander stick pin from the 1990s, vintage socks, saddle shoes, and a Madame Alexander slip with crocheted trim. A giant hair ribbon completes the outfit and helps conceal the deficiencies of her wig.

I used this sweater to make a jacket pattern.

The Madame Alexander stick pin

Since I don't know exactly what Annabelle got up to in her stories I decided to give her a hobby. Annabelle loves to take pictures with her vintage plastic camera. This doesn't look brand new but it's the perfect size for Annabelle's little hands.

This unique doll and set are available only in my Atelier Mandaline store, so I do hope you'll check.

Annabelle holds a camera.

The slip is by Madame Alexander.
Annabelle can sit and stand alone.

I have to say, I'm happy Annabelle is finished. I had to go to the optometrist today, forced into action because I ran out of contacts and have been wearing glasses for two weeks. Having both braces and glasses is more demoralization than I can handle; it's like 7th grade all over again! 

I hate getting my eyes dilated, so I put appointments off as long as possible. Despite my eyes being hazel, not the pale blue you'd expect with this issue, I have almost no pigment in my retina, evidently. New optometrists always comment on it, because they can see through layers of tissue not usually visible. My new doctor calls them "blond" eyes. Anyway, I have the eye type most sensitive to light and I have to wear sunglasses pretty much any time I go outside, almost as if I'm an albino person. This is probably useful to my Northern Norwegian relatives, but here in the sun-drenched South it's a real pain!

When my eyes are dilated it takes hours and hours for them to return to normal. Today they were dilated at 9:40 AM and my pupils were still enormous at 3 PM. Afterward I had a lot of errands to run with crazy ultra-vision, which always makes me feel kind of dizzy and sick. Now it's after 8 and my eyes still feel strange. I'm sitting by the pool writing this post while I wait for the kids to finish swim team practice and even the dim dusk is a little intense. Plus, my husband has been teasing me about having "special" eyes like that guy on the contacts commercial! Thankfully the ordeal is over for another year. Annabelle should be super-perfect, since every detail was extra visible as I worked!

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Monday, May 25, 2015

Crazy for Caroline

Caroline Kennedy of 1961

Today's Memorial Day Marathon of doll repair continues with sweet little Caroline Kennedy. I've only ever restored one other of these dolls. They are extremely rare because, in 1962, after Madame Alexander made portrait dolls of Jackie, Caroline, and John John (who was Caroline with a boy's hair cut) and sold them in 1961, the Kennedys objected and production of the dolls was halted. The sculpts were repurposed: John John was briefly used in a Tyrolean outfit, possibly as one of the boys for the large Sound of Music series sold exclusively by certain department stores; Jackie became the face of the Portrait series that used the straight arm Cissy body, replacing the Cissy doll entirely; and Caroline was sold as "Perky Joan" with a trousseau stored in a hat box exclusively by FAO Schwartz.

The doll had her original string from tags and accessories still attached.

The doll after cleaning

The Alexander marks on head and back
Caroline came to me in exceptional condition. She was dirty, but otherwise appeared pretty much unused. Her hair is perfect, in its original set with the hair ribbon pinned in place. Her hands still were tied with the string that once attached the wrist tag and accessory pack. The only flaw on the doll herself is some yellowish marking all over her groin and bottom, evidently transfer from apparel, and a couple brown marks on her lower legs. None of this is visible when she's clothed. Caroline had a rub on the paint of one cheek and I painted over it. Now you can't even tell it was there.

The doll has some marks I couldn't remove.

Since Caroline is just so darn cute I had to give her a few extras. I found a lot of awesome vintage rubber duckies from Bulgaria, manufactured when it was part of the U.S.S.R., so that seemed perfect for Caroline. She most likely wouldn't have owned the exact one during the cold war, but it has the authentic look for the period. It was decided: Caroline just had to have a rubber ducky for her bath!

I gave Caroline a vintage rubber ducky.

The duck was made in the former U.S.S.R.

After her bath Caroline is scrubbed clean and bundled in her cozy flannel pajamas. These are factory made from the same period but not tagged. The pants are a bit snug but do fit.

Caroline's pajamas

In the morning Caroline gets dressed up in her original outfit. This was made in 1962, just before the doll stopped production and thus is not tagged "Caroline" but just "Madame Alexander". I replaced the elastic on the panties and slip. The heels of the original flocked side-snap shoes are intact.

The dress clearly had sun exposure, because it faded from pink to beige, but otherwise it's in wonderful shape, with no holes or dark stains. There is a beautiful embroidered panel across the front and iridescent buttons down the back.

The dress is tagged.

The dress has an embroidered bodice.

Besides having such a cute face and cuddly, realistic toddler body sculpt, Caroline has incredibly beautiful eyes. I've never seen these eyes on any other Madame Alexander doll. They are blue with a metallic starburst around the pupil. In different lights the eyes change colors, appearing gray one minute and blue the next. The starburst changes in the light from gold to silver. They're just really cool! Her hair is really lovely, too; almost a metallic golden blond and made of thicker fibers than usual. This particular doll's hair is on wonderful shape as well, shiny and smooth. You can brush the ends around your fingers to curl them.

The doll has really neat eyes.
All in all, this is one of the rarest Madame Alexander dolls and, for Americans, one of the most culturally relevant. Madame Alexander was almost obsessed with English royalty and loved sculpting portrait dolls of Princess and then Queen Elizabeth and her family and associates, so it's no wonder she would want to sculpt Caroline. In the Kennedys' Camelot days she's about the closest we've ever had to a real princess here on this side of the pond. I've had Caroline for a while because I've had trouble letting go of her. I half want to keep her for my daughter's doll collection because I know by the time she's grown up this doll will have appreciated to an even higher value. My daughter has no idea who the Kennedys were, however, so the significance is lost on her at this point and we are pretty much out of room for dolls anyway. So, you can find Caroline and many other dolls in my Atelier Mandaline store.

Anniversary Cissy

Classic Cissy wearing outfit #2295

Cissy steps out in style for her anniversary party. She looks just like a princess, and her outfit is out of this world. Her satin gown has a silver lace overlay and the entire scalloped hem is trimmed with rhinestones. A tulle stole wraps around her shoulders and closes with a floral accent. Her petticoat is full enough to stand on its own and the hem is trimmed with blue beading lace threaded with a blue satin ribbon. Silver shoes and a rhinestone trimmed silver crown, rhinestone necklace, ring, and bracelet and a silver bag complete the look.

Cissy before restoration

Her fingertips have chews

Three Cissy dolls needing restoration.

However, if you'd seen Cissy just a few days ago you'd likely not recognize her. She needed eyelash replacement, stringing, split repair, wig maintenance, some paint touch-ups, and just a really good cleaning. I did all this for Cissy and she turned out really well.

My one goal this holiday weekend was to finish this doll. It turned out to be a challenge, because my husband's goal was to build a fire pit with a stone patio around it, a path, and to rebuild one end of our existing flagstone patio, which a previous owner inexplicably covered by a third with truckloads of dirt. We excavated each flagstone, moved the dirt from over them, carted 5.5 cubic yards of paver base and river rock from our driveway into the back yard, and built the firepit and patio. We nearly finished all that (we have one block that needs to be cut down to place in the fire ring) and I did get my doll done, so I'm sore and tired but victorious!

The doll after restoration

The Alexander mark
Cissy had scraping in her joints and even though I tried a couple types of paint and sealants, the paint starts scraping right away as soon as you move the legs or head. This is typical and not really very serious, since the scraping is covered by her clothes. You can position her head to hide the marks and the tulle stole attached to her dress helps conceal it further. The inside of the hips and one side of the neck had small splits I repaired. These repairs are visible if you look for them  but can also be hidden by positioning and clothing.

There is scraping in the joints' paint.

The hips have split repairs.

The neck had a tiny split that needed repair.

After split repair I cleaned and repaired Cissy's wig. I had to sew the hair back on the wig cap in spots and re-glue the wig around the hairline, but the golden blonde curls were still intact to the extent that I just finger curled them and arranged them and didn't have to do a new set. I replaced Cissy's eyelashes with long flutter lashes, intending to cut them short and straight as they originally would have been, but Cissy just looks so adorable with her long flirty lashes I couldn't bring myself to cut them. I decided I will cut them short at the request of the new owner but not before. I also traced over the original painted eyelashes and brows, which were very faint, refreshed the pale original blush, and sealed the remaining original eyeshadow to prevent it from rubbing off any further. Cissy retains her original hand and knee blush but it's pretty faint.

Cissy with new eyelashes and refreshed face paint.

I dressed Cissy in the Madame Alexander 65th Anniversary Portrait ensemble #2295. The same number was used in the 1960s or 70s for a Scarlett O'Hara portrait doll as well. This incredible ensemble hearkens back to Madame Alexander's golden age and has all the detail you'd expect from an original, mint Cissy outfit. Beatrice Alexander chose this outfit to clothe her own self-portrait anniversary doll in 1988. It's a true example of the time; I wore an nearly identical bridesmaid's dress in my older sister's wedding right around that year, but it could also have come straight out of the 1950s. The accessories are dazzling and perfect with the dress. In this blue gown with floor length satin streamers in back and her tall tiara Cissy reminds me of the Norwegian Crown Princess, Mette-Marit.

Cissy wears the complete ensemble with tags.

No detail was overlooked, from head to toe. The silver shoes are bow tie trimmed and have lucite heels. The lace panties are trimmed with a blue ribbon. Cissy wears full panty hose rather than stockings. These are in perfect shape. Cissy's fingers have some chews but they are on the tips and not terribly noticeable. Cissy has the original Madame Alexander tag and my own signed tag as well. I gave her a new hair net to keep her style in place.

Cissy's knees bend.

The dress is tagged. 

Silver shoes

The hem is trimmed with rhinestones all the way around.

A floral accent is sewn on the bodice.

The fingertips have chews.

I am including the original #2295 box, as well as the shipper and pink tissue. This makes the package extremely heavy: about 8 pounds, but I think it's worth the cost to have the box to store the doll.

The original box is included.

I hardly ever do this with new dolls, but I'm including Cissy in my Memorial Day sale, going on right now in Atelier Mandaline. The sale ends tomorrow, but it's a great opportunity to pick up an amazing Cissy at a discount, so I hope you'll check.

Cissy has long flutter lashes.