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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